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Frederick Co. to hear repeal on English speaking ordinance | News

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Frederick Co. to hear repeal on English speaking ordinance

FREDERICK COUNTY, Md. (WUSA9) -- Frederick County Council members are expected to hear arguments Tuesday night on a bill that those trying to repeal it say sends a message of intolerance.

The public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Winchester Hall in Downtown Frederick. It is on a bill that has been introduced to repeal a current, three-year-old ordinance that establishes English as the main language in Frederick County.

Before the public hearing, Democratic Councilmembers M.C. Keegan-Ayer and Jessica Fitzwater spoke about their co-sponsored repeal bill. The two said what sparked this were complaints, especially from major biotech and life science employers in the area.

"…that it was becoming increasingly harder to attract businesses and employees when we have this perception that we're not welcoming," said Fitzwater.

"The impression was very much exclusivity and 'you're not welcome here.' And that's not what Frederick County is all about," added Keegan-Ayer.

The ordinance was enacted in 2012. Proponents like Republican Council member Billy Schreve said the bill was passed to save county money on translators and interpreters.

John Mathias is a County Attorney who said Tuesday, the current ordinance still provides the service.

"In fact there's 11 specific, or 11-exceptions to the law that allow the use of other languages for things as broad as trade and commerce," said Mathias.

The Ordinance also says, among other things, it helps "to unify the people of Frederick County."

That, however, was the source of debate Tuesday and is expected to be a source of debate at the public meeting.

Don Annonio is a street performer who recalled his ancestors coming from Italy.

"I would like to think that everyone, regardless of where they come from, or what language they speak is equally as welcome here," said Annonio.

"I think it's ridiculous, the legislation that we currently have. People that are here that don't speak English, I'm a language teacher, they want to learn English," said Mark Kavanaugh.

On the other side is the argument of preserving the American culture made.

"Yeah I think it should be the official language. I just think it's important that we all have a unified culture. It's important to preserve our heritage as much as we can while incorporating other cultures within what we are," said Jeff Cliber.

Dennis Han agrees with this, but to a certain extent.

"For me, I respect this country, it's given me an opportunity to grow up as a person … English is the main language, we have to respect that, but we have to welcome all languages," said Han.

The Frederick County Council is expected to vote on the repeal bill on August 18th.
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