Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater (D) is glad more than a dozen community members from the county’s immigrant population called in to support legislation that would give them more of a voice.
That legislation would set up a commission on immigrant affairs, have up to 17 members and be required to submit an annual report to the county executive and County Council outlining recommendations and data concerning immigrant needs and concerns about engagement with county government, delivering services, civil rights protections and economic and workforce development, among other requirements.
“I think it really shows ... the broad support for the bill but also the great diversity within the great immigrant population … and what they bring to our community,” Fitzwater said Wednesday about all the people who called in support.
An overwhelming number of public commenters were in support of the bill, including Elizabeth Chung, executive director of the Asian American Center of Frederick, Yewande A. Oladeinde, president of Nigerians in Frederick, and William Reid, a member of the county’s Democratic Central Committee
Others who testified were from several different immigrant groups, and some needed an interpreter to translate their messages into English. They highlighted multiple issues the commission could address, from more translation services in county government and the county’s school system, to better access to overall general services for the immigrant population.
Previously, Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) had questioned the timing of the commission, given County Executive Jan Gardner (D) had just hired Michael Hughes, the county’s chief equity and inclusion officer.
Mary Posey, a Myersville resident and close follower of county politics, agreed with that assessment in public comments Tuesday.
Fitzwater, however, believes the commission would not compete with Hughes and the corresponding Racial Equity and Inclusion Leadership team but rather complement those efforts.
“I feel confident that a majority of colleagues will see this as a win-win for the county … they heard very strong testimony from the community that there is strong support for this,” she said.
Hagen describes sign modification bill
The other bill during Tuesday’s hearing only had one person call in.
Councilman Kai Hagen (D) has drafted legislation to update the county’s sign ordinance in mixed-use developments and planned unit developments. The change would permit the county’s Planning Commission and County Council to to allow sign modifications in those zoning districts if they account for vehicle and pedestrian safety, reflect the commercial and local employment area of he community and reduce “visual clutter,” among other requirements.
Eric Soter, former director of the county’s Planning Division, had worked with Hagen and county staff on the bill, and he called in Tuesday to support it. Hagen, who first met Soter over a decade ago, was happy to work with him, given his historical knowledge of county planning issues.
“He knows Frederick County planning ... he’s been involved in and paid attention to every comprehensive planning process in the county for the last 20 years, just like I have,” Hagen said.