Harrisonburg's Vice Mayor wants interpreters at Council meetings

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — During Tuesday night's Harrisonburg City Council meeting, Vice Mayor Sal Romero announced his plan to have interpreters at every council meeting.

"I think we have a lot of linguistic diversity in Harrisonburg," said Romero. "We need to be welcoming to anyone who wishes to participate in local government."

Romero said an interpreter will bridge the language gap in the community-- an issue he believes has led to a lack of Hispanic representation at council meetings.

"As a language learner myself, I understand what it is like to come into a setting where English is the language being spoken, and you don't speak that language," said Romero. "It can be intimidating and very unwelcoming."

Romero said there are over 60 languages in the Friendly City, but plans to begin with an interpreter for Spanish speakers, who make up around 20 percent of the population.

The Vice Mayor hopes to have this project completed fairly soon, and he said he is open to looking at all cost options.

"We could look at paying an hourly person, or creating a partnership with JMU's Department of Interpretations or even volunteers," Romero explains. "We can look at a multitude of options."