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Bolstered by Prop. 63 Vote, Foe of Non-English Signs Renews Attack

November 09, 1986|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

The overwhelming approval by voters last week of Proposition 63, which declares English the state's official language, has inspired Monterey Park Councilman Barry L. Hatch to renew his attack on business signs written in Chinese.

"We're going to return Monterey Park as an English-speaking city," Hatch vowed.

Hatch said he is uncertain how much support he can muster on the five-member City Council for a new sign ordinance, but he would like to see most Chinese business signs come down.

And, he said, he sees no reason for the city to continue translating stories in the city newsletter into Chinese.

Uncertainty About Measure

Hatch's remarks came amid uncertainty about how the English language measure will be implemented at either the state or local level.

Proposition 63 declares English the official state language, instructs the Legislature and state officials to "take all steps necessary" to see that the role of English is preserved and enhanced and establishes the right of residents and of people doing business in California to sue to enforce the measure's provisions.

Voters statewide passed the proposition by 73% to 27%. In the San Gabriel Valley, the measure was favored in every city except Irwindale.

The strongest support for the measure came from voters in Arcadia, Bradbury, Charter Oak, Covina, Glendora, Monrovia, San Dimas and Temple City, all approving it by a margin of at least 4 to 1.

The tiny city of Irwindale, which is 88% Latino, voted against the measure 92 to 86.

In Monterey Park, where making English the official language has been a topic of controversy for more than a year, voters endorsed the proposition, 56% to 44%.

Before the election, the Coalition for Harmony in Monterey Park sent 10,000 mailers to Monterey Park residents, attacking Proposition 63 with statements from local residents and state leaders labeling the measure racially divisive and intolerant of ethnic differences.

The coalition has called the measure an attack on immigrants. About 40% of Monterey Park's 60,000 residents are Asian and 37% are Latino.

Michael Eng, a coalition leader, said he thinks it is significant that Monterey Park, which has had so much experience with the English language issue, gave the measure less support than did other areas of the state.

He also said that many newcomers in Monterey Park are not registered to vote and that if the opinion of everyone, not just registered voters, was solicited, Monterey Park would reject official English.

"I don't think any clear mandate can be assumed from the vote in Monterey Park," Eng said.

'Move On to Other Things'

"I hope we can drop signs and English as an issue and move on to other things," he added.

But Hatch said he believes Proposition 63 will lead to a number of actions in Monterey Park and elsewhere in the state.

"We're going to do a lot of things," he said. Much of the effort, he said, will be aimed at reforming bilingual education programs in schools.

But, he said, none of the efforts would interfere with the health and safety of residents, dismissing the notion advanced by opponents of Proposition 63 that police departments might curtail their use of interpreters.

In fact, Hatch said, he supported a proposal before the Monterey Park City Council recently to spend $12,000 to print a traffic safety brochure in English and Chinese.

And the city has printed in both languages a brochure that offers advice on coping with an earthquake.

But Hatch said he sees no reason to translate the city newsletter into Chinese. Anything of importance to those who cannot read English will no doubt appear in the Chinese-language newspapers, he said.

'Foreign Nation'

Hatch said one major source of tension in Monterey Park is the appearance of Chinese characters on so many business signs.

"When people walk down the street, they feel like they're in a foreign nation," he said.

"I doubt if we can get all-English," Hatch said, but he said any business should confine its use of foreign languages to a "small neat sign at the bottom of the (store) window."

Mayor G. Monty Manibog said he doubts the city legally can go beyond the sign ordinance it adopted in March, which requires all businesses to have at least one sign in English describing the nature of the business being conducted, but does not forbid the use of other languages.

Constitutional Limits

Manibog, who is an attorney, said that he hopes Hatch, a teacher, will talk to a constitutional lawyer and realize that free-speech guarantees restricts the city's power to control signs.

What Hatch is talking about, he said, "simply cannot be done."

Manibog is one of three council members who voted last month to rescind a 4-month-old resolution that urged adoption of English as the nation's official language.

The resolution, which also called for tougher enforcement of immigration laws, was rescinded after 4,500 residents signed petitions against it.

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