Normally, we leave Nanny of the Month honors to Reason.com for scouring the country to find the most intrusive, ridiculous and unneeded intrusions into personal and/or business affairs be it at the federal, state or local level.
This month, however, we are taking the reins in recognizing the city of Monterey Park as Beers with Demo’s recipient as Nanny of the Month.
Years ago, we wrote a letter to the L.A. Times which was re-printed in their Op-Ed section later that week in which we derided the Times Opinion page for coming down in favor an area city’s efforts to require banks to provide bi-lingual signage.
Different decade, same issue:
From NBC4 Southern California:
The City Council in Monterey Park has unanimously voted to require businesses to put up bilingual signs, sparking controversy in a community that has a large Chinese-American population.
Under the rule, business owners must put at least one sign up that uses the “modern Latin alphabet,” since forcing stores to put up specifically English signs isn’t allowed, according to the council agenda.
Some residents don’t believe stores should be forced to put up signs.
“I think this should be (an) option,” said John Chen, a longtime resident of Monterey Park, citing freedom of speech.
Though the preliminary vote was unanimous, one council member is already reconsidering his vote.
“After speaking to the community and getting into it a little bit more, I’ve come to the realization that we really don’t any urgency (for this),” said Monterey Park City Councilman Hans Liang.
Monterey Park is 48 percent Chinese, according to the 2010 United States Census. Most of the businesses already have signs in both languages, according to Liang.
Reasons for enacting the rule include promoting economic development, public safety and facilitating public discussion, according to the agenda.
“Clear and simple signs are significant to the response times of both the police and fire departments,” the agenda read. “A distinguishable sign allows officers and firefighters to locate a business from a distance.”
Both the chief of police and the fire chief approved the city’s new regulation in the agenda.
The agenda also cited driver safety is another reason for the new law.
“Signs that are not distinguishable create unsafe road situations,” the agenda read. “Signs that clearly and quickly identify the type of business allow drivers to ignore secondary extraneous information.”
Before we dive into this, check out the faces and names of the council members of Monterey Park, here, who have decreed businesses carry Spanish language signage. Weird, huh?
First off, public safety angle does not make a lick of sense. How is forcing businesses to put up more signage going to be any less confusing to first responders. And can it be reasonably expected that the first responders be more proficient in English than Spanish or any other Asian language represented by the citizenry of Monterey Park? Sorry… the “public safety” angle is fast approaching the “it’s for the children” in terms of setting off our b.s. sensors.
The bottom line here is that we simply do not understand the logic of elected officials knowing what’s better for an individual small businesses’ health better than the owner of that small business. If the business owner implicitly or explicitly chooses to exclude a segment of that area’s populace in the choosing of the language of his signage, then we suspect he will be willing to face up to the economic impact of his choosing. He’ll figure it out… or he won’t – that should be his call for better or for worse. It's called the free market, gang - thou shalt be punished for crappy business decisions.
Down here in San Diego, the neighborhood of Clairemont Mesa is home to a large amount of Asian businesses many of which carry only Asian language signage. Yeah, it’s kind of a pain in the rear but we deal with it… or we don’t. Damned if some language barriers, however, are going to keep us away from some of that Korean Bar-B-Q they have up there.
As to the whole assimilation issue and a stronger community and more engaged citizenry through a common language concept, we’ll leave for another time.
Congratulations, Monterey Park, for winning Beers with Demo’s Nanny of the Month.