Frederick County government will no longer be required to conduct its official business in English, but many people on both sides of the language debate agree that won’t change much for local government.

The County Council voted Tuesday by a 4-3 margin to repeal a 2012 English ordinance. The former rule required the county to operate in the English language, except when required to provide interpretation by federal law or health and public safety interests.

The discussion before the vote intensified when Councilman Jerry Donald began peppering county attorney John Mathias with questions about the wording and purpose of the English ordinance as well as the numerous exemptions in the second half of the document.

Mathias said he did not appreciate being used as a “foil,” but he later noted that daily operations in the county were not affected by the English ordinance.

“I haven’t identified any changes that were made as a result of it,” Mathias said.

Much of the public debate has revolved around the symbolic impact of the English ordinance and what it means to the character of Frederick County.

Few county residents, 4 percent, have difficulty speaking English, according to 2013 U.S. Census Bureau data.

Councilman Kirby Delauter, who was on the previous board that approved the 2012 change, was in favor of keeping the ordinance because it established a sense of unity.

Delauter said there have to be set parameters.

“As a basic, common society, you have to have rules,” he said.

Councilman Billy Shreve, who also served on the previous Board of County Commissioners, similarly said it established a clear policy for county staff.

Council members Jessica Fitzwater and M.C. Keegan-Ayer, who proposed the repeal, have said it sends a message of intolerance to potential businesses and residents.

The practical purpose of having an official language seemed far less clear.

“I can’t figure out what this ordinance was supposed to do,” Donald said. “It is government overreach.”

Councilman Tony Chmelik moved to reject the repeal, proposing a compromise that would keep the ordinance in place while calling for council members to strike offensive parts of it. The council could collaborate with immigrant groups, he said.

The repeal bill proceeded to a vote when his motion failed to pass. Fitzwater, Keegan-Ayer, Donald, and council President Bud Otis voted for the repeal. Chmelik, Shreve and Delauter voted against it.

ProEnglish, an official English advocacy organization the Southern Poverty Law Center calls an anti-immigrant hate group, rallied in support of the English ordinance before Tuesday’s vote.

The organization sent messages by robocall, email, mail and social media that spread across the state, encouraging people to contact council members in support of English as an official language.

The ProEnglish website featured several “action alerts” urging supporters to contact Donald specifically.

His administrative assistant received about 200 messages Monday, Donald said, adding, “I’ve also gotten tons of emails. ... It’s like shoveling during a snowstorm.”

Joyce Baker, of Middletown, said she received a robocall asking her to contact Donald in support of English as the official language. When she did, the mailbox was full, and she was not able to leave a message.

Baker does not drive at night, she said when she contacted The Frederick News-Post early Tuesday, so she was not able to attend the vote. In a phone interview, she expressed frustration that she was not able to voice her support for the English ordinance.

Many of Donald’s calls, he said, came from outside Frederick County.

ProEnglish’s executive director, Robert Vandervoort, said Donald was singled out because of his district.

“We’re trying to find support for the bill,” he said, “and we know that Jerry Donald is in a conservative district, and we know that many voters in that district support official English.”

Frederick resident Fran Miller, who spoke with a group in French before and after the vote, said she was disappointed the English ordinance was repealed.

By not keeping the official language to just English, Miller was concerned it would open the door to requiring translation for any number of languages.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Miller said. “You’re opening a window, and it keeps expanding and expanding.”

When she came to America, she continued, she had to learn English.

Ray Garza, of the Frederick Immigration Coalition, a group advocating for immigrants’ rights, was happy to see the ordinance gone because of its ineffectiveness.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “The ordinance is not keeping people from coming here. They are coming here because of jobs. They need jobs, and they need to feed their families, so that doesn’t change anything at all.”

Follow Kelsi Loos on Twitter: @KelsiFNP.

(76) comments


Does anyone have an explanation as to why toady Mathias is still on the county payroll?


History of Frederick County, Maryland, Volume 1, by Thomas John Chew Williams (published in 1876):

"Frederick Town was laid out by an English gentleman, but its lots and rich farms immediately surrounding it were soon taken up by a host of honest, thrifty, laborious German immigrants, who had fled from the oppressive restrictions of their own fatherland to seek a refuge here for themselves and their families and whose names underwent many a distortion and mutilation at the hands of the English representatives of the Lord Proprietor, as they labored to write them down from sound upon the pages of our early records. The German language was spoken one hundred years ago (1776) more freely and frequently on the streets of Frederick than English. Two of their congregations had their services entirely in that language, the children were instructed in both languages in the schools; the style of houses and barns introduced was that of German rather than of English origin, and in various degrees of modification, had held its place here that strangers who have had the opportunity of European travel invariably notice how much Frederick resembles a Continental town.

But these emigrants brought with them more than their mother tongue and familiar forms of worship and architecture. They brought also German thrift, industry and honesty, with ardent love of home -- wherever it might be, whether native or adopted. They brought laborious habits, virtuous lives, truthful tongues, unflinching courage and an intense longing to do their duty to their families, the community and the State. Says a German traveler who visited this place May 6, 1747, of one of its congregations: 'It appears to me to be one of the purest in the whole country, and the one in which I have found the most traces of the true fear of God.' "


We are losing America to republican politicians that want to replace American workers with cheap labor.


Bill, Kirby and Tony dreaming about what could have been had Mrs. B been elected.[beam]


[thumbup] That was so close. Can you imagine how different things would be?!


Blaine Young's opinion......"The English-only measure was an attempt to draw a symbolic line in the sand against that change. "It sets the tone," then-County Commission President Blaine Young said at the time the ordinance was passed. He proclaimed that his intent was to make Frederick "the most unfriendly county in the state of Maryland to illegal aliens," a distinction he assured that Frederick would wear as "a badge of honor." What it accomplished, in the view of the News-Post's editorial board, was to reinforce an "outdated view of Frederick County as a racist, isolationist backwater full of corn stalk chewin', uneducated, rural hicks.".......nothing about saving money or encouraging assimilation into our culture.


I guess it was Chucks opinion too......Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins praised the language ordinance as “a new tool to discourage people who are here illegally from coming to Frederick County.”.........nothing here either about nobel reasons for implementing a English Only Ordinance. Show it for what it was. Good riddance!


Chuck recently said on NPR (Yes, he was interviewed on the local NPR station) that it was not about illegal immigrants; it is about all immigrants who do not speak English well.

Comment deleted.

“Never let them see you sweat.”

Comment deleted.

Don't have to move back, it's almost here.


I am so proud of Frederick County government!


First, Jerry Donald's district is conservative, but that does not make us racists. Some are, most aren't. I am very pleased with Jerry, I am in District 1, I will work hard to get him re-elected. I don't care what Kirby says or Matthias acting like the back end of a donkey.

Bud Otis is simply not a liberal, no one should accuse him of that, nor is repealing the English ordinance be considered liberal or conservative, it does cause a lot of hatred from the racists, who want English only, in spite of state laws. If Bud should run again or run for Congress, most of us will consider him, we most likely would not consider Kirby, Billy or Tony. Kirby will probably win anyway because of his district, why he wants it or thinks it is worthwhile, now that he can no longer bid County projects, I do not know. He doesn't need the $22,500.

The English ordinance did not save money, it was a waste, not necessary. Causing hate for no good reason is just not good politics.

We do have work to do to make our schools the best possible, we do need to make sure the teachers are paid competitive wages - which the BOCC refused to accept as they attempted to destroy public schools. We have about the best in Middletown and want to keep it that way. People buy homes after looking at the schools and having a good school makes a world of difference.




Good point, Flamingo! That certainly works in theory.

There are two problems though. First, maybe Tony only considers his constituents to be those that agree with him. And second, he could easily flip his stance from "listening to constituents" to "making the tough choices."

Doing the work of the people can be so perplexing!


Tim, your first post suggested what you'll do in the "mean time" (two words) while you deal with liberals trying to transform our country (BTW, it is OUR country, not just yours, right?). Well, I respectfully observe that your "mean time" seems to be all the time.

Perhaps in the meantime (one word), you might consider learning a few words of another language so you'll be able to help those struggling to find their way in our community. That would be a truly welcoming gesture, unlike the kind of "welcoming gesture" that some proponents of the English Only ordinance seem to think is beneficial.


Thanks, I guess I need to slow down when typing to make sure I review everything for correctness. Yes, it is OUR Country for those who are legal and abide by the laws of this great country. I do not mind helping those who are here legally in our great country; I do not help criminals keep breaking the law as a sign of a welcoming gesture. Again I do believe the ordinance was wrong from the beginning, but it is equally wrong to waste time and $$$ repealing it for those who are illegal and are sensitive.


"I do not help criminals keep breaking the law as a sign of a welcoming gesture.".......How do illegal employers fit into your complaint? They are more guilty than the immigrants as they are cheating our Government out of taxes.


Slowly we are correcting all the bad decisions made by the Blaine gang. Got rid of Blaine's girl friend and now his English ordinance. Obviously, Kirby, Billy and Tony never learn.


Ray Garza advocating rights for immigrants ... well if they are citizens they already have rights and if they are illegal they have no rights until they report themselves for violating the law for being here illegally then let the process determine if they have grounds for rights.


You do understand, don't you, that there is a huge class of people between Citizens and "illegal aliens". Legal immigrants that are not yet citizens; where do they fit within your scheme? Perhaps they are asylum seekers and perfectly legal but don't speak much english nor have much money.


For those who are between legal immigrants that are on approved Work visas or others who have been granted protection from our government are afforded certain protections under the law; I am focused on those that are illegal and are not known nor should be given any status of legit because they are here illegally from the start. They knowingly broke the law entering our country and thus are "Illegal". Like my ancestors who awaited their official paperwork to become legal learned the language as best they could and made sure their children got educated and learned the language. No excuses.


Councilmember Chemlik kept repeating that his reasoning for not repealing English Only was because he was listening to his constituents and that the majority of his district did not want the ordinance repealed. Well...........I hope he takes the same approach when the MTC issue comes again before this board for vote on September 1st. I KNOW the majority of his constituents are flatly opposed to the MTC development! Stay tuned.


Councilman Chmelik talks a whole lot because he is smart enough that on some level he realizes that what he is doing is wrong, and he is trying fruitlessly to talk his way into making what is wrong sound right. Every time he opens his mouth. Town hall meetings, county council meetings. He's trying to drown us in words to distract us from logical reasoning. And possibly fool himself along the way.


Shreve and Delauter should step aside. Filling those 2 empty seats with illegal immigrants should put Fred. Co. in a positive spotlight. LOL


District 5 Councilman Kirby Delauter, “As a basic, common society, you have to have rules." Except when those rules prevent Delauater from personally profiting from his position as an elected official.

What a hypocrite.

Delauter, Shreve and developer darling Chmelik are trying very hard to maintain Blaine Young's abuse of Frederick County.


BUT, their seats on the County Council are worth MILLIONS of dollars. So, what they are being paid by the County and the level of influence they can sell on the open market is just chump change to what DEVELOPMENT interest have paid to keep them in office. Hasn't it been made abundantly clear by Delauter, Shreve and Chmelik they have more at risk than just the stipend Frederick County pays them?

Does anyone think or believe Blaine Young has given up on his political aspirations? Wasn't Chmelik put into office for a reason that intends only to repeat what Blaine and his gang put into place over 4 years ago? Otherwise, why is Chmelik so determined to act out his part/role of playing councilman and so adamant in bringing the MTC project to fruition?

We can HOPE all we want but has Chmelik, Delauter or Shreve given any sign they'er are willing to change from what we know them to be?


Mathias seemed awfully defensive, don't-ya think? Seems he doesn't like being called and answering for decisions he had a hand in. Isn't it time for him to "retire"????


[thumbup]Indeed! Mathias has served the interests of the private sector (developers, Aurora Holdings, ProEnglish lobbyists, etc.)--against the wishes of the citizens--long enough. It's time THEY paid him and not US!


This is an emotional fringe issue and I think it was a divisive waste of time to take it up. There are so many more real issues to deal with. It should have been left alone.

The ordinance itself did not read of anything prejudicial to me. The issue was more of a repeal of the circumstance behind its initial adoption. I agree it was meant by Blaine to make a political statement, and given how aweful his BoCC was, I understand why people would want to undo it. But that's not reason enough to dredge it up and make it an issue. By just about everyone's acknowledgement the ordinance was impotent, and it didn't infringe on anyone's rights. There was just no reason to stir up a hornet nest of animosity, other than maybe to assuage some people's conscience. Also, didn't Jan support something similar in 2008?

I also never bought in to the prevailing arguments on either side. It didn't save any meaningful money, and it wasn't scaring away business. If a major employer had come forward and said we're not coming to Ferderick because you prefer to speak English, I would think twice about having them as a business partner. Besides, none did, and I can't imagine any would, it's just not that important to most people. That entire argument was just hyperbole.

I fear this may lead to Spanish interpreters at council hearings, etc., whether they're needed or not. And given how hyper PC things have become, some groups may see this as an opportunity to ask for additional services beyond what we provided before the ordinance or what we are legally required to provide. Then it could cost us money.

Sometimes you just need to let sleeping dogs lay (or whatever platitude works).


Jan was the lone Democrat on the BoCC back in 2008. She crafted a "resolution," which was acceptable to the Republicans and, particularly Lennie Thompson, who had proposed an "ordinance" which would have stood in violation of federal and state laws. (As County Attorney Mathias stated again, last night: A "resolution" reflects only the opinion of the body, while an "ordinance" is the law.)

In effect, Jan managed to placate the majority while, most importantly, forfending the inevitable lawsuits, which would have resulted from this patently illegal ordinance.

BTW: Blaine's 2012 "English Only" ordinance repealed the BoCC's 2008 resolution. Like you, I hope that the Arlington, Virginia, ProEnglish lobbyists, who started all of this, will NOW leave us alone. [smile]


Wonder if this means hiring a lot of new school teachers to teach the different languages that would be needed to meet this change???????? Two council members are school teachers??? This is interesting to see how this plays out.


Does make one wonder how well educated and how well these teachers perform at educating our children? I am sure James Harrison would agree that in our education system there is no place for "participation awards and trophies" but yet we see every day how some of these teachers and education administrators are just "participants" and not winners.


What are you trying to say? Can you spell it out in lay language instead of tip-toeing around the issue of teachers being capable of elected leaders and not just pawns and puppets for your amusement?


It's my understanding that the school system already copes using translators as needed for parent conferences and professionals and volunteers within the ELL program for language-challenged children.
Daresay nothing changes in the schools.




I do not want the government making laws that are not necessary or wasting time repealing a law that really is not blocking any immigrant from becoming an American Citizen (legally). We never had to ever really decide on an official language because most immigrants wanted to learn our language of "English" and adapt to our culture and we never told immigrants to lose their heritage but to embrace it within their homes and lives so not to lose it. As a Slovak American, I cherish my ancestry but first and foremost I am an American and proud of it. As my grandparents did they learned English and quickly adapted to life in the USA and we kept our heritage at the same time. Asking immigrants to learn our language is not some government mandate but a way to making sure we keep our culture intact.

Yes, Trump is polling quite well because he has hit a sore spot subject about illegal immigration and is pulling voters from both parties to his campaign. However, in the long run as we nearer the election I am sure he will fade because does he really have plans that are acceptable by the voters? The USA is not ready for a hard line socialist like Sanders or O'Malley nor a constant liar in Clinton and there are many GOP candidates that are cluttering the field like Bush, Huckabee, Santorum, Christie to name a few that need to go home.

Once again liberals miss the point about wasting time repealing something that is quite harmless and if employees of the county do not know how to apply the law - well train them or find other employees. Our council members are not ready for prime time leadership when dealing with real pressing issues of the county's economic world - but why get into that discussion when liberals cannot understand this simple discussion.


Just checking. What difference have you made to this discussion other than your anecdotal family history and decidedly biased disposition on your postured positioned version of politics across the Nation? aren't you as much about the Republican ideology as the cuurent 18 Republican's running for office?

So, aren't you as much about wasting our time with your perceptions of what governance should be, in your minds eye, while your leadership can't even make up their minds what leadership is about?

Ask yourself why Delauter, Shreve and Chmelik fought so hard to keep THEIR English only ordinance in play, just as you are trying so hard to marginalize County governance.

When you refer to CULTURES, which ones have you EXCLUDED for the sake of your cookie cutter legislation? So, why not tell us which Republican is going to be nominated to run for POTUS in your OPINION? Or, is that a secret you're keeping to yourself.


Tim Gaydos:

If you're upset with "the liberals" on the council for wasting taxpayer's time repealing and ordinance, then by the same token the previous republican-led BoCC wasted our money passing a meaningless ordinance.

Further to your point about improving FCPS, HUNDREDS of people spoke to the REPUBLICAN-led BoCC pleading for more funding for county students. The conservative republicans did nothing to help. Even telling the school system they should "go play the lottery if you want more money."

Tell me, how will electing conservatives/republicans help improve the quality of life for school students? This group has a poor track record in this case.


First I do not agree with all the actions of the previously leadership and was quite happy to see some changes with this council structure. Yes, the law should have not been passed in the first place, but we could say the same about Obamacare and how it is now implemented. However, repealing something that does not have any impact is a waste of time and $$$ when the council should be working hard to find ways to tighten the budget and find a way to fund education. As far as education and budgets, problem I have seen and continue to see in MD overall is that we spend tax payers $$$ on illegal immigrants when that $$$ could be spent on our children in the education system that many say is underfunded. If you take out the illegal children from our system and their parents etc... and stop funding them with education $$$, medical $$$, and other benefits regardless how they got here illegally more $$$ would be spent on legal residents. For those that say illegals do not tap into our benefits are living in a cave somewhere and need to get out more. Also, when more than half of the education budget is being spent on salaries and benefits well time to negotiate a different way of life as was the case in Wisconsin. It is not that teachers do not deserve a fair salary and benefit package, but then it is time to start measuring each teacher's performance and get away from this across the board salary increase to make the unions happy.

As far as a bad track record for the education system especially when looking at MD as a whole - liberals have run this state for decades and have really done terrible things regarding education etc. You can throw $$$$ at a problem but unless you budget wisely you just come back asking for more $$$$ when you could not do it right the first time.


You bash teachers and the liberal education system stating they have done terrible things regarding education. Is this solely based on your very evident dislike of anything that doesn't match your world view? Much that has impacted education in the past decade + resulted from the Republican led legislation at the federal level that took testing to its current level. This was done by people who have no background in education and have a bias, like you appear to, against educators.

Maryland has been in the top 3 for much of the last decade in terms of educational ranking, In fact, they have only fallen from number 1 to 3 due to a change in the criteria. I think that is a pretty good track record.


What utter nonsense - first maybe it is time for MD to take responsibility for why we went from #1 to # 3 in education ranking. 2nd, testing was mandated as a way to measure success and would agree especially when looking at this new education system put in place by the democrats that is not yielding the fruits that were promised. Nothing surprising there as with most of the socialist programs. World view really how about an American view rather than this global bull crap that liberals want to push. The world revolves around the USA and how we lead and do things. Leading from behind has been bad for us and our children and is truly reflected in our education system today. I do not bash all teachers just the non-performers of which we have too many and like federal and state government workers cannot get rid of for bad performance without all kinds of paperwork and delays in removing non-performers.


I did not know we are #3. That is awesome. Was same criteria used when we were #1?


You are wrong - testing was mandated by politicians and non-classroom educators because they have no understanding of what it is to be an educator and were looking for a simple way to quantify educational success. Children have many more needs that teachers strive to meet - most of which are more important than performance on some one size fits all test. Sure, tests can be useful but they do not reflect a teacher's success at reaching children - it is also tough to standardize a measure that compares all kids or all socio-economic background to one standard.

As for the change in ranking from 1 to 3, it is because "Maryland fell from its perch as the No. 1 state in public education on Thursday, but the shove came from a change in the ranking criteria, not from any slide in performance. " This is according to a Baltimore Sun article.

Your anger and obtuseness is showing.


When I first heard about these incredibly high rankings ~10 years ago, I did a bit of research. I have no reason to think that things are different now.

The rankings come from an education advocacy group headquartered in Bethesda, MD. The ranking system derived from one initially developed for the Washington Post to assess schools within their sphere of influence. So, having spent years gearing their systems to receive improved ratings from the WP, schools in and near the NCR had a leg up on the competition in the national rating scheme. For example, there was (and continues to be) an increased emphasis on AP classes. But it's likely that the rest of the country is catching up.

Many of the ranking criteria were rather obscure and didn't clearly correspond to improved student performance. Others (e.g., $$$ allocated to schools) were clearly within the ability of jurisdictions to "improve".

Finally, I did some checking of ACT/SAT performance. On the SAT, Maryland did not rise to the top when scores were compared with other states having similar participation rates. And when I took the average ACT composite score of the relatively small contingent of Marylanders who took the test and compared it to the average scores of states that required every student to take the test (Minnesota and Illinois, by my memory), I did not see the score differential one would expect.

I ended up concluding that MD schools were overrated --- at least 10 years ago they were.


I believe a racist liberal is running away the GOP POTUS nomination.


Come on timothygaydos (sucking on gov.)

Why do you want government to tell you what to speak and how to speak?


Well it is time to consider who we want to run against these liberals in the next election cycle for their seats, in the mean time we deal with how liberals want to transform our country and culture into something that fits those who do not want to transform into our culture. If you come to the USA legally or illegally, then learn the language and adapt why come to the USA if you do not follow our ways of life.

These liberals on the council including Otis; they rather spend valuable time repealing a law that really doesn't stop immigrants of any status from thriving in our county. Why not work on something that has more value to the tax payers and just maybe improving the quality of life for our folks especially the education system that we keep hearing about that is under-funded...


what a pack of lies.[thumbdown][thumbdown]


Is there a way conservatives can think outside of the box and not assume everything is about undocumented workers? This ordinance effected filling business papers as well. NOTHING to do with someone not speaking English but someone doing business with non-US corporations. Xenophobes stop trying to pass laws that adversely effect US businesses.


whats your way of life?from what i see in your comment its hatefull,and evil.go back to listening to rush and the rest of the rightwing hate machine


I had not let my council rep know how I felt on way or the other - after receiving a robo call in favor of keeping English I emailed everyone in favor of REPEAL. Well done County Council .


how do we start a recall vote on Bud Otis ?


we DON'T bud a breath of fresh air,not a fool like the rest of the gopers


Good luck with that--you must be one of those angry white-people correct?[wink]


you can bet he is


The more we watch these meetings
the more we like Bud


The State of Maryland does not allow for the recall of state or local officials. The peoples' right to recall officials is denied by the Maryland General Assembly, whose members would be subject to it, if they were to approve such a law. I contacted our two state Senators about the matter, prior to the last election. One of them answered me, rather inelegantly, to the effect that the right to recall was unworkable and, somehow, detrimental to the good and proper functioning of government at all levels! The other Senator didn't respond. [sad]


The Frederick County charter does not include a petition for recall. There is a replacement provision for illegal activities. See Section 2 - 208.

But you would be wasting your time on a recall petition, if it was allowed, most of us are quite content with Bud.


The negative fallout for Frederick County from this decision will be as massive as the consequences of allowing same sex marriage.


...and new state gun controls.


Sanity, logic and inclusivenes prevail. Way to go county council.


I'm born and raised in a small town in Appalachia where we have zero illegals and no one speaks english.

Comment deleted.

Well that was rude. If it was meant to be funny, it wasn't.

Comment deleted.
Comment deleted.



Nobody is perfect. You would be welcome in our neighborhood at Mill Island. English or not.


FV, what are you calling English? Living in northern New York, I can assure you, there are different versions. Ever hear of a hot'un? How about us'uns? Or arthur ritis?


Could someone tell me what evidence those who support an English only ordinance has that those coming to America, and Frederick specifically, don't want to learn English? I'm referring to Miller's comments.


What difference does it make?


Councilman Kirby Delauter, who was on the previous board that approved the 2012 change, was in favor of keeping the ordinance because it established a sense of unity.,,,,,,Unity of angry white what Kirby really wanted to say.

Not sure who the ordinance is supposed to unite, unless it is angry white people, it did seem to unite them real well.


[thumbup] That was my reaction too. Kirby, please expound if we misundertood.


I'm not sure how one would measure "a sense of unity" but if there is a way, I'd be interested in seeing it. My anecdotal sense is that FredCo did not display an increase in unity between 2012 and now. I wonder if Kirby thinks otherwise.


Yes, what bothers me is it makes all white people look bad and we aren't.


Good job County Council! Maybe both sides agree that not much will change, but what has changed is the appearance that Frederick County Government is run by mean-spirited xenophobes.

Anyone that claims that the English only ordinance was about saving money on ink and translators, has unfortunately bought into the conservative media smoke screen designed to obfuscate the fact that they don't like Hispanics.







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