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Pittsfield City Council Addresses Inclusivity For Bilingual Residents
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
04:33PM / Wednesday, October 14, 2020
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield is taking action to make the city more inclusive to bilingual residents. 

The City Council on Tuesday voted to approve an ordinance rewarding bilingual employees and Mayor Linda Tyer said she would look into adding language options to other city communications as requested by petition.

The petition to the mayor was submitted by Ward 1 City Councilor Helen Moon and Ward 5 City Councilor Patrick Kavey requesting Spanish translation for all mailed city communications  and notices, and that information on the city's website was accepted

An estimated 7 percent of Pittsfield's population identify as Hispanic or Latinx and about 5 percent of the population use Spanish as their primary language.  

Moon expressed that this translation would "help our city move toward more inclusiveness in our communication."

Recently, Pittsfield's Information Technology Department added Google Translate to the city's website and the Police and Fire departments have prioritized having Spanish-speaking employees on their forces.  

Moon made a request that the CodeRed alert system and certified mail from the city also be translated to Spanish. Tyer responded that she hadn't thought about translating CodeRed and that a Spanish-speaking employee could provide assistance on this.

"We are certainly committed to continuing to expand the languages that we are offering both for things that we mail," Tyer said. "And if CodeRed doesn't have a feature that allows us to translate a message into Spanish, we do have a fluent Spanish speaker in the city's Office of Community Development who could provide a Spanish translation of CodeRed reporting. We could certainly explore that."

Tyer also said she would look into translating the mailings that come out for permitting issues, such as those sent to abutters of proposed development and construction projects.

A recommendation from the Ordinances and Rules Committee on adding a bilingual pay policy for city employees was approved unanimously.

On Aug. 4, Director of Personnel Michael Taylor submitted a request to amend City Code, Chapter 16 to include additional compensation for bilingual and biliterate City employees.  Taylor said that in serving a diverse population such as Pittsfield, it would be of benefit to provide quality service to constituency.

Taylor also spoke to the Ordinance and Rules subcommittee last week to introduce this request, which it unanimously approved and passed it to the full council.

Under this ordinance, bilingual and biliterate employees will be further compensated at the following rates: oral and reading/written fluence at $125 a month and both oral and written fluency, $175 a month.

In the request, Taylor wrote that the fluence policy would mean:

  • Valuing, encouraging, and supporting a diverse workforce
  • Continually improving individual and organizational effectiveness
  • Anticipating and meeting the changing needs of the workforce I employees
  • Championing career and professional growth
  • Creating and enhancing strategic partnerships and workplace culture

These pay incentives will be available to employees who hold positions that require a substantial amount of bilingual and/or biliterate translation in the essential duties of their position.

Proficiency in Spanish, Russian, French, Portuguese, and American Sign Language are included.

As a condition of receiving this pay, eligible employees will have to pass a verbal and/or written bilingual skills exam. It is only available to employees after one year of regular and continued employment and employees receiving bilingual pay are required to translate for non-bilingual employees.

This ordinance is set to take effect upon its acceptance.

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