If two counties constitute a movement, official English is on a roll in Idaho.
Adams County commissioners have passed a resolution nearly identical to one Kootenai County Commissioner Ron Rankin initially pitched here. The only significant difference: The Adams County measure claims having official English “keeps taxes at a reasonable level.”
“We did it to keep from having to print everything in 14 different languages,” said Ray Bennett, chairman of the Adams County commission.
These county fathers in west-central Idaho were not aware of the similar move in Kootenai County.
In fact, Bennett says he isn’t sure how the idea got started or which commissioner introduced the resolution, which was passed March 17. “It showed up and it seemed like a good idea, so we passed it,” he said.
Adams County, population 3,800, doesn’t have many non-white, non-English-speaking citizens, Bennett said. But he fears future problems that might affect taxes.
“I’m sure if we had a Mexican in jail, they would sue us for not having an interpreter on staff,” Bennett said.
Tying “reasonable” taxes to official English “is a very fraudulent argument,” said Eric Ward of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment.
Studies clearly show that most non-English-speaking people who come to this country make every attempt to learn the language.
“They also are taxpayers,” Ward said. “They also have the right to enjoy the services of that county.”
There are two basic reasons behind the official English and the English-only movements, Ward says.
One is a philosophical rationale that “speaking English bears a direct relationship to your patriotism,” he said.
The other holds that nationality, language and race all are connected. “Those who don’t speak English are dangerous, to be feared,” Ward said.
The latter, he suspects, is at play in Idaho.
Meanwhile, Rankin, who finally pushed a less comprehensive official English resolution in Kootenai County, acknowledges the Adams County version is almost a carbon copy of his first try here. But Rankin stripped the “keep taxes at a reasonable level” language out of his proposal.
“Who says taxes are reasonable now?” he said.