City Of Burien Says: "Aquí Se Habla Español" 3by Ralph Nichols

Aquí se habla español.

Translation: “Spanish spoken here.”

And these words could be a message from the City of Burien to the members of its growing Spanish-speaking community.

That’s because Burien recently added a Spanish-language phone line for people who call city hall (the direct # is 206-436-5556).

Here’s an audio sample of it (click the “Play” button below):


“If it’s well publicized, I think it will prove to be very useful and be well received by Latino residents,” says Spanish translator Kenneth Barger – the “voice” of the Spanish line.

This line can help bring members of the Latino community into the “mainstream” of the larger local community, Barger says, especially “if it is part of a broader effort, as is the case with the translated documents available in Burien, the [city’s] new radio station with Spanish material, and the bilingual newsletter.

“Of particular importance is the practical information for emergencies, crime prevention, and so forth” that the line offers Spanish-speaking residents, “because a community is only safe when all of its members are safe.

The Spanish line is available both to people who call the city’s 24/7 information line (206-241-4647, or directly at 206-436-5556) and press “2” at the prompt, and those who call city hall during business hours and request certain information in Spanish.

The line’s five Spanish-language information categories are:

  1. Business licenses
  2. Permits
  3. Reduced cable television rates
  4. How to file a citizen-action reques
  5. Community information, which includes:
    1. Emergency preparedness
    2. Free Burien shuttle
    3. English-Spanish conversational group
    4. Crime prevention Block Watch
    5. Citizenship/naturalization preparedness
    6. Pets

Carolyn Towle, a city accountant who also manages its communications systems, said the idea for a Spanish line originated with the city’s Communications Committee.

Last spring, says Towle, she was approached by members of the city’s Communication’s Committee, who suggested that answers in Spanish be provided for commonly asked questions received at the front desk.

At that time, she had to say no. The city’s existing communications technology could not support the system they wanted for it. But upgrades made as part of the move into the new Burien City Hall/Library building last June made it possible.

“I went back after the move and said, ‘OK, we’ve got the technology now and I’d like to move forward with it,’” Towle says. Next, “I want to the gals at the front desk and they put together a two-page list, a script, of the frequently asked questions” they wanted answered in Spanish.

They then talked with Steve Botkin, a public relations consultant for the city, who provided ideas for the Spanish line including incorporating it with Burien’s public radio station (540 AM).

“This line is for information only,” Towle notes. “There is no voice mail for callers to leave messages for city staff.”

Barger adds, “This part of the county has an even greater Latino population than elsewhere in the state, so if anyone is going to offer such a service, it’s great that it’s here. This sort of welcoming gesture makes people feel more a part of the community, which makes the whole community stronger.”