20 Jun 2011
By Hubert Tate
Several Spanish-language billboards on Highway 90 in Theodore are causing controversy.
Rita Perrine said she was driving South a few weeks ago and saw the sign but was confused.
"I can't read it. I have no idea what it says," said Perrine.
The billboard translates in English to read,"First-time home buyers. Yes, you can. Achieve your dream of homeownership."
The fine print said the sign was paid for by the Mobile County Commission with a grant from the U.S. department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
However, some people say there is no problem.
"With the many Spanish people over here, I guess they need to have signs. I'm neutral," said Mobile County resident Renea Ward.
There are billboards with the English translation on it, but the county said there wasn't enough room on the questionable billboard to put both English and Spanish versions.
Commissioners have received a lot complaints and said in the future, they will not buy a Spanish-only billboard to hopefully prevent any confusion.
"I don't care if it is in 10 languages as long as it is in English and as long as I understand what's up there," said Perrine.
Despite the concern and controversy, the county said it is in compliance with federal law.
The program targets first time home buyers, and it is available to all people - not just Spanish-speaking individuals.
The National HUD Office did release this statement:
"It is important that those with limited english proficiency be provided every opportunity under the law to understand their rights. On August 11, 2000, Executive Order 13166, "Improving Access to Services by Persons with Limited English Proficiency," was issued.
Executive Order 13166 requires federal agencies to assess and address the needs of otherwise eligible persons seeking access to federally conducted programs and activities who, due to LEP cannot fully and equally participate in or benefit from those programs and activities. It promotes a positive and cooperative understanding of the importance of language access to federally conducted and federally assisted programs. HUD wants to ensure that the programs and activities made possible through resources are made available to the LEP population and therefore, focus on providing equal opportunity to persons with LEP."