Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Supervisor Pushes County to Go Multi-Lingual

Caroline Gómez-Tom wants information and services presented in multiple languages.

By - Sep 17th, 2023 03:02 pm
Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

Supervisor Caroline Gómez-Tom has sponsored legislation that calls on the county to develop a strategy for making government information sharing multi-lingual, across the board.

Her legislation asks a handful of county departments to develop, “options to equip departments with the necessary resources/training to provide public information forms, websites, and other communications in Spanish, Hmong, and other relevant languages, upon request, to residents with Limited English Proficiency (LEP).”

“This is really equity in its full form,” Gómez-Tom told her colleagues on the board’s Finance Committee Thursday. “In terms of having the things you need to thrive; having information available and accessible to you so that you can understand things that are happening in our county.”

The committee unanimously recommended her resolution for approval by the full board.

The supervisor said that more than 11% of the county speaks Spanish and an even greater percentage speak a language other than English in the home. She noted that Spanish and Hmong are the second and third most spoken languages in the state.

Gómez-Tom is president of the City of Milwaukee Board of Health and a community healthcare navigator. She told the committee that real-time information in multiple languages was difficult to come by in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Those are people’s lives,” Gómez-Tom said. And it was concerning, she said, “to see it trickle down where the CDC wasn’t providing that information, then the state wasn’t providing that information, then the county wasn’t providing that information.”

Milwaukee’s Hispanic neighborhoods and residents were particularly hard hit at various points during the pandemic. Gómez-Tom said that it was often left to community organizations working “on the ground” to translate important information that was often changing quickly.

The supervisor said her legislation is aimed at improving access across county government to vital information and services. She noted that some departments already have multi-lingual options. “But I want us to be consistent,” she said. “I want us to be the model.”

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Categories: MKE County, Politics

One thought on “MKE County: Supervisor Pushes County to Go Multi-Lingual”

  1. mkwagner says:

    Gomez-Tom’s proposal connects to Milwaukee’s historical roots. Up until the US entered WWI, official business was conducted in German. The vast majority of Polish immigrants to Milwaukee were from German speaking areas.

    Contrary to what the right wing would have you believe, the ONLY language to have official approval was…..Spanish. The 1848 Treaty of Guadeloupe-Hildago specifically stated that Spanish be used in the ceded territories for official business. This demonstrates why we need to teach US History accurately.

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