Spanish Translation Program for Ventura Council Meetings

Spanish interpreters will begin translating Ventura City Council meetings this month.

The city council voted unanimously last week to approve the new six-month program that should help Spanish-speaking residents better understand the discussion among elected officials.

Kristian Nunez, policy advocate for the Central Coast Alliance Unified for a Sustainable Economy, or CAUSE, said the program will help Spanish speakers in places like the Westside or Montalvo who are being left out due to language issues.

He said big decisions on policies and voting matters take place at the meetings, which are usually held twice a month.

“Even if families or individuals don’t speak or make public comments, when they attend they should know and understand what is going on and what is being talked about in their respective communities,” Nunez said.

Ventura City Clerk Michael MacDonald said translation will begin at the Sept. 26 city council meeting.

The total cost of the program is $11,400 for 12 meetings, which will come from the City Clerk’s budget, MacDonald said.

The city hired All Languages ​​Interpreting & Translating Inc. to provide two interpreters, who would turn off every 30 minutes, along with headsets. Non-profit organizations, including the Westside Community Council and CAUSE, have provided interpretation services for town meetings in the past.

City council will evaluate the program after six months and discuss whether to make it permanent, the city clerk said.

The city can set up two WebEx channels with one in English and one translated into Spanish, MacDonald said. WebEx is a video conferencing system used to display online meetings.

“The benefit of this is that we would be able to record the meeting and post that recording in Spanish on our website so community members could go back and watch,” MacDonald said.

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A taping of the performers and corresponding Spanish channel may not begin until October, MacDonald said.

In April, board members asked staff to come back with information about a pilot program to provide bilateral Spanish-English interpretation at board meetings.

The town has many Spanish-speaking monolingual residents, MacDonald said, and some have requested interpretation services at previous council meetings when the services were offered.

The latest US Census data indicates that in Ventura, approximately 26% of people age 5 and older speak a language other than English at home. The city is 36.9% Latino.

Other towns in the region already offer translation services for Spanish speakers, MacDonald said.

Carpinteria and Oxnard have standing contracts for translation services at board meetings, regardless of need or prior request, he said.

Ventura County provides translation for Board of Supervisors meetings, but only upon request, he said.

Fillmore and Thousand Oaks offer translation services upon request. Fillmore hasn’t applied in over a year and Thousand Oaks hasn’t applied in 2022, according to the report. Port Hueneme and Santa Paula do not provide interpretation services.

The clerk was asked about the use of WebEx for translation services, but said the quality and consistency of the company’s services were lacking.

“It’s like using Google Translate,” MacDonald said.

Council member Mike Johnson said it was important to note how low the cost of approximately $12,000 was compared to the more than half a million spent on public outreach and community engagement.

“We all agree, I think, on the importance of this,” Johnson said.

Wes Woods II covers West County for the Ventura County Star. Contact him at [email protected], 805-437-0262 or @JournoWes.

Ryan H. Bowman