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Polk County makes English its official language

Richard Kremer

Wisconsin Public Radio

Polk County has passed a resolution making English its official language, becoming the 13th county in Wisconsin to do so.

The Polk County resolution directs all county offices to only use English for all official audio, video, printed materials, and signs.

Supervisor Rick Scoglio said he pieced his resolution together from websites of other county and local governments. He said being able to communicate effectively with government is the responsibility of the individual and having the government print documents in multiple languages puts a burden on taxpayers.

“There’s an extra cost involved there of introducing a second language to everything that is printed or taped or presented,” said Scoglio.

Scoglio said that there aren’t any significant minority groups in Polk County. According to the latest census, 97 percent of the population is white: “My idea is we bring it up now before any other group comes in and says we need to start catering to them,” said Scoglio.

Polk County Board Chair William Johnson voted against the resolution. He said it’s likely it can’t be enforced on programs receiving federal or state funding; also, he’s not sure the county has ever had to print anything in a second language.

“I really haven’t come up with a situation or am aware of a situation currently where there’s going to be a lot of cost savings to the county,” said Johnson.

Johnson says he sees this as more of a symbolic move by supervisors than anything: “I kind of look at it like, this is what democracy smells like sometimes.”

The resolution passed on a 13-9 vote.