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English-only Proposal Divides Los Angeles Suburb

November 14, 1985 GMT

MONTEREY PARK, Calif. (AP) _ Residents of this heavily Asian Los Angeles suburb may get to vote next spring on whether to make English the city’s official language.

Petitions for a ballot measure to make it the official language were submitted to the city council Tuesday. At the same meeting, the council voted for a ballot measure that would have the opposite effect - it calls for a ″multi-ethnic and multicultural heritage″ for the city.

″Monterey Park is turning into another Chinatown,″ complained photographer Frank Arcuri, who spearheaded the English-only drive.


″The opposition tries to make us into something racist. It isn’t. It’s language,″ he said.

But Michael Eng, a spokesman for the Coalition for Harmony in Monterey Park, said, ″If we want a civil war, the likes of which no one has ever seen, which pits neighbor against neighbor, citizen against immigrant and race against race ... vote for English only.″ The coalition pushed the ballot measure calling for a multicultural city.

City officials estimate 40 percent of Monterey Park’s 60,000 residents are Asian, while 37 percent are Hispanic and 22 percent non-Hispanic white.

The city clerk must verify the 3,500 signatures Arcuri’s group gathered before his proposal can be put on the ballot, City Manager Lloyd DeLlamas said.

The alternate proposal, because it was approved by the council in a 4-1 vote, will automatically be on the ballot, officials said. The election will be held next April.

The Coalition for Harmony fears Arcuri’s resolution will lead to cuts in city services to residents who don’t speak English, Eng said.

Arcuri said his resolution makes a ″symbolic policy statement that this is America″ but does not spell out any specific recommendations.

″We would like to start a dialogue, but a lot of the new people don’t want that dialogue,″ Arcuri said. ″They think Chinese is a superior language and they want to set up a new China.″

Signs on many stores and restaurants here are in Chinese. A recent ordinance that required businesses to be identified in English was too weak to be effective, Arcuri said.

″They said to require the signs to be in English was unconstitutional,″ Arcuri said. ″So they went for a soft law that said the minimum requirement was that the street address be in English.″