Hayward Councilmember Francisco Zermeno
serving as an impromptu translator at Tuesday
night’s council meeting.

Translation: Hayward does not offer Spanish translation at its city council meetings

Hayward’s diversity is boosted in part by the largest Latino population in the East Bay–by some estimates, including up to 40 percent of the city. Yet, Spanish-speaking residents upset with Hayward city government or even in the mood to praise them, will find it does not provide translation services at city council meetings.

The gap in services was highlighted during Tuesday night’s council meeting after more than dozen residents approached the lectern to speak during public comment. When it was communicated that several in the group only spoke Spanish, it was learned a translator was not available.

“We’re part of the community, too,” said Hayward resident Araceli Orozco. Mayor Barbara Halliday quickly responded, “Of course you are.”

Nevertheless, a translator not only in Spanish, but any other language is not readily available at every council meeting. On occasion, Spanish-speaking residents, especially addressing the council within a group, have provided translation on their own.

Hayward City Manager Kelly McAdoo said, “Usually we get a request in advance if someone needs the service.”

To alleviate the problem Tuesday night, Councilmember Francisco Zermeño volunteered to translate the concerns of several speakers voicing concern over rising rents, low wages and the city spike in homicides.

The optics of Zermeño, through his translations, voicing words of despair and displacement, appeared jarring. Especially, on other occasions, when it appeared as if Zermeño, like a puppet voicing a ventriloquists words, was casting aspersions against the city council.

Signaling out not only Zermeño, but other Latino American Hayward councilmembers, such as Mark Salinas and Elisa Marquez, one speaker castigated the trio. “You are Latino and you should support the Latino community.”