Evanston aldermen, hoping to make the city’s operations more inclusive, learned Monday night that providing translations of city documents into other languages could be very expensive.
Equity and Empowerment Coordinator Pat Efiom said at the Human Services Committee meeting that she’s been told it could cost $1,200 to get just three pages translated into Spanish. “So we need a policy about what do we want to translate,” Efiom said.
Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, suggested that rather than focusing primarily on translating written documents, it would be better to add staff members who could communicate directly with people using other languages.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the city previously had just one staff member who was tasked as part of her job to provide translation services for Spanish speakers who showed up at the Civic Center.
“But we need to have people in all parts of the organization to do that,” Bobkiewicz said.
“We want to be prepared to deal with everyone, that’s what we’re trying to do. But we need to balance the cost. Printed translation can be very expensive. It may make sense to have doing translations as a collateral duty for three or four different employees,” he said.
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, suggested the city get in touch with Rotary International, which, she said, has a translation department in its Evanston headquarters.
Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, said, referring to the overall equity and empowerment process, “I’m trying to remain hopeful, but I’m losing some hope. It looks good on paper, but people have a lot of frustrations.”
“I’m really concerned as we go into the budget season,” she added, about making equity efforts a priority in the face of possible layoffs.
She also claimed that the city’s two school districts are “light years ahead” of the city in implementing such policies.