PARIS – A proposal to make Paris the first town in the state with English as its official language fell short Monday.

Selectmen unanimously voted against sending an ordinance that would have all town business conducted in the English to the policy and procedures committee.

Resident Greg Harris proposed the ordinance along with a sex offender ordinance at the March 9 selectmen’s meeting. The board tabled a decision on the English language ordinance then until it could review it.

Under the ordinance, the town would not be required to provide translations of town business into other languages unless mandated to do so by state or federal law. The ordinance provided exemptions to allow use of other languages to promote commerce and tourism or for public safety.

Harris said the proposal was part of a grassroots effort to make English the official national language, and that he got the ordinance off an Internet site containing a model for it.

The board’s decision was preceded by several comments from people at the meeting.

“There seems to be a bit of subtext here as well that seems unfriendly,” Anne Stanley said.

Jack Richardson said he did not believe the state was having any problem with costs incurred by providing translations of official business.

Harris said he did not find any such problems in Maine, but believed there might be more of a language issue in the future. He said the ordinance did not intend to discourage the use of other languages outside of official business.

“I’ve got no hidden agenda,” he said. “I get along with everyone. I don’t care where someone is from.”

Chairman Raymond Glover said Bill Livingood, director of legal services for the Maine Municipal Association, advised that such an ordinance would be controversial and subject to litigation. Glover said an official English ordinance was “too strong an approach.”

“I’m just not someone who wants to set precedent, and that’s what this would do,” he said.

In opposing any advance of the ordinance, Selectman David Ivey said many of his daughter’s friends at college were international students and also noted a lack of precedent in Maine.

“I don’t believe Paris, Maine, needs to have this as a flagship for this movement,” he said.

“Paris doesn’t have anything to gain. It doesn’t have anything to lose,” said Selectman David Ivey. “It’s a dead article.”



Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.