Only English speakers allowed at a public comment session by the Arizona Corporation Commission
By: Liliana Soto
PHOENIX — When you pay your electricity bill, no one questions whether you speak English or Spanish, but CHISPA Arizona says language matters if you want to voice your concerns over a possible rate increase by the Arizona Public Service Company (APS).
“I paid $800 last month in payments, and now I have a new bill of $600 for this month,” explained Maria Isabel Olvera in an interview with the ABC15 Investigators.
Olvera is a single mom and shares her home with her daughter and three grandchildren.
These last couple of months have been rough for this single mom, Olvera says, she was without a job for a while and just recently started working again at a laundromat where she makes about $400 a week.
Olvera says she was really concerned when she realized she needed two of her paychecks to pay her electricity bill which is half of her monthly income.
Silenced by a language barrier
She says she felt some relief when she learned about the Arizona Corporation Commission hosting public comment sessions to make the community’s voice heard about a possible rate increase by APS.
“They told me that they didn’t speak Spanish that they were going to call me back. I felt bad, how is that possible? only because I speak Spanish,” expressed Olvera.
“This is outrageous, we live in Arizona where at least 30% of folks speak only Spanish who also pay APS’s bills, who also elect the ACC commissioners,” stated Vianney Olivarria, Communications Director for CHISPA Arizona.
According to the most recent report by the Census Bureau, 20% of adults 18 and over speak Spanish at home in Arizona.
Olivarria says it is unacceptable to not have these types of public meetings accessible to all members of the community, regardless of language.
“It was just unjust and painful to hear because there was no way to even step up; they didn’t even allow folks to translate for them.”
CHISPA Arizona sent a letter to the Arizona Corporation Commission yesterday requesting translation services at all future hearings.
“CHISPA Arizona works to build Latino political power for a cleaner Arizona. Their voices were silenced and it was really frustrating and painful seeing these discriminatory actions,” expressed Olivarria.
Meanwhile, Olvera only hopes she doesn’t have to wait until the next meeting on September 25 to raise her concerns.
She says she is still waiting on the phone call the Arizona Corporation Commission promised her.
The ABC15 Investigators reached out to the Arizona Corporation Commission. A spokesperson released the following statement:
“The AZCC is making arrangements to have Spanish translators for all future APS public comment sessions.”