Businesswoman Debra Ann Peterson, the broker-owner of Realty World Town & Country, last week urged the Hesperia City Council to look into ways to control billboard advertising in foreign languages.


A Wells Fargo sign on Main Street written in Spanish prompted her suggestion, which she made during the council's public commentary period.


"I believe in freedom of speech. I believe we all have the right to say what we want. But I also believe we're in the United States of America and our main language should be English," Peterson said.


Peterson believes — and she's certainly not alone — that ignoring the issue could lead to a proliferation of foreign language billboards that would forever change the face of Hesperia. She cited Garden Grove as an example of a city that has had to deal with a foreign language billboard issue.


Certainly Garden Grove, which has had a tremendous influx of Asians over the past few decades, isn't the only one that has faced cultural change and accompanying signage. Numerous other communities, especially cities in the San Gabriel Valley, have had an increasing number of residents of Asian heritage. Along with the influx has come business signs and billboards in languages other than English.


"We need to do something for this before we start having one in Vietnamese, one billboard in Chinese, one in Spanish," Peterson said.


It's easy to dismiss Peterson's sentiment as politically incorrect. But it takes a lot of guts for someone to stand up in public and express their concerns for their community. Those who have not yet seen how foreign language signs and billboards can transform a town into something completely different may not be sympathetic to her cause. But I, for one, have seen one town in particular, the city of Alhambra, be changed immensely by foreign language signage. And, yes, it is very disconcerting.


But how does a city deal with it? Well, it's tricky.


Certainly I should have the right to open a business of any reasonable name. For instance, I should be allowed to start Pedro Dia's Taqueria. (Actually, I'd love to do that someday.) And I would probably have accompanying Spanish-language signage. At my fantasy taco shop we'd have burritos, tacos and enchiladas, all Spanish language words.


The issue seems to be when a business — or in the case of the very large Wells Fargo company — communicates sentences of information in a foreign language.


ˇComa en Pedro's Taqueria y usted encontrará el mejor tacos dondequiera de Hesperia!


While the above sentence may make sense to those who speak Spanish, it seems very exclusive to those who don't. If foreign language billboards pop up everywhere an increasing number of native Californians will feel like strangers in their own town.


America is a melting pot. That's part of what makes America the great country it is. But there are certain things we must all believe in order for it to work. While English isn't our official language, it certainly is the one most of us speak. Demanding that our citizenry understand the basics of English — such as reciting the "Pledge of Allegiance" — isn't too much to ask. Is it?


It's not wrong to start a discussion of the issue. But let's be careful where we go with it. While our country's founding fathers probably couldn't have imagined the tremendous influx of people from all over the globe, let's make sure we go in a direction they would have endorsed centuries ago.


ˇViva America!