GovernmentThe Examiner

Mount Kisco Weighs Certified Translator for Meetings

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The Mount Kisco Village Board is exploring whether to retain a certified translator to provide audio of its meetings in Spanish or continue using a bilingual village employee to deliver the service.

Last week board members discussed those choices and also mentioned possibly a streaming service through YouTube so closed captions could be translated into Spanish.

Mayor Gina Picinich said the village has been using Lizette Hernandez, the assistant to Village Manager Ed Brancati, who was hired off Westchester County’s civil service list and is classified as bilingual by the county.

Village officials must now weigh whether to obtain a certified translator, but last week it was unclear how much extra that might cost. There are about 24 meetings a year, with some running in excess of three hours.

“If we want to talk about translation at a different level like in the courts, that comes at an additional cost, so we have to determine what we want to do,” Picinich said.

Trustee Karine Patiño said she wanted to investigate a certified translator because that is a different role than what Hernandez may have been hired to serve.

“As a Latina and as a Spanish speaker, I’ve been placed into that situation, and it’s a little bit personal for me in the sense that I hope in my role, wherever I am, is not seen in addition to my role as lawyer or whatever, where I can be considered a translator because somebody else went to school for that and their career goals are defined to accomplish that,” Patiño said.

With most of Mount Kisco’s Spanish speaking population from Central America, there are also different dialects and cultural differences that a professional translator would be aware of than simply being fluent in the language, she added.

Trustee Anne Bianchi agreed that there is a need for a certified translator, which she described as “critical.”
Mount Kisco is officially 42 percent Hispanic, according to the 2020 census, and there is a likelihood the percentage may be higher than that.

Picinich said the Bedford School District uses closed captioning on the rebroadcast of its Board of Education meetings online but does not provide translation live. She was unable to find any Westchester municipalities that bring live Spanish translation to its meetings, although Picinich said she would be happy for Mount Kisco to be the first.

Patiño said that she was speaking with someone from California who mentioned that their home community has had live translation of municipal meetings for years.

Given the village’s demographics, it would be beneficial for Mount Kisco to consider the same.

“It’s about equity and once everybody can feel that they’re heard and everybody can understand, then things move better in the community and I just think it’s a benefit to everybody,” Patiño said. “So I do think it’s very urgent, but I also want to understand the financial implications because I know that our community is very interested in that as well.”

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