Voters side with two mayors, new Council to defeat English Only
An English Only proposal was defeated Thursday night in Nashville after over 40,000 voters stood up in opposition to the measure. The rejection aligns Nashville’s voters with the current Metro Council, current Mayor Karl Dean, and Dean’s predecessor Bill Purcell.
Former Mayor Bill Purcell vetoed a similar measure when it came across his desk in 2007; current Mayor Karl Dean has vigorously opposed this year’s version; and the current Metro Council passed a resolution by a 3-1 margin urging Nashville voters not to sign the petition putting the measure on the ballot in the first place.
English Only was defeated tonight by a margin of 57-43%. Amendment #2 failed by an even larger margin. An unprecedented, citywide coalition formed in opposition to both measures.
Filed under About Nashville for All of Us, Action, Amendment #2, Faith, Freedom, Hospitality, Litigation, Safety, Stewardship, Terminology, Testimonials, The importance of learning English, Who brought this to Nashville?
Image by Alexandre Duret-Lutz. Licensed via Creative Commons.
Even with approximately 70 posts to date, this blog has not reproduced all of the written opposition to English Only in Nashville, nor could it ever. Because today is the day of the special election and the last day to vote, however, the best we can do with the “waiting list” of those comments, letters, columns, blog posts, other statements of support, and news that have so far gone unpublished here is to link to as much of them as we can in list form below.
Our apologies to those whose public statements and endorsements have not been included here – and there are many of you. We know that everyone who has spoken out against the charter amendments in any context is a part of this effort.
Thank you! Continue reading
Filed under About Nashville for All of Us, Action, Faith, Freedom, Hospitality, Litigation, Safety, Stewardship, Terminology, Testimonials, The importance of learning English, Who brought this to Nashville?
Laura Creekmore asks in this post about the logic of adopting a charter provision that could be unraveled by its exceptions:
I love the last sentence: Nothing shall be interpreted to conflict with federal or state law. Well, it does conflict… Can I start by saying that a charter amendment that has to contradict itself to comply with federal or state law is, on its face, a bad idea?
I’m assuming that if this amendment passes, the Metro Council will pass requisite “health and safety” provisions as indicated. So that cops and Metro General Hospital employees will still be able to speak to people in Spanish or any other language they see fit. Isn’t that crazy, though? We have to pass legislation to allow cops to speak to people in their own language? So that your doctor can talk to you about your medical history? When we have to make exceptions to our new charter amendment to protect public health and safety, it’s a bad idea.
Rodney Beard of Living Word Community Church speaks out against English Only in this post on Faith Leaders for All of Us:
I love Nashville! I also understand the frustration surrounding local immigration issues and have even shared some popular sentiments a time or two. But I cannot, in good conscience, support the English Only initiative.
Wouldn’t the money we spend fighting this be better spent by providing more English as Second Language classes in our schools, churches and community centers?
Conservative Vanderbilt journalist and former editor of the Vanderbilt Hustler Mike Warren writes on Vandy Right that he would otherwise be sympathetic to the idea of English-oriented legislation, but Nashville’s version is too shoddy:
The verdict? I hate to say no to an initiative I morally agree with, but the shoddiness of the language (no pun intended) in the actual referendum means the folks in support should go back to drawing board.
Conservative attorney Nathan Moore reports here that cutting anything more than $495 of Metro government’s $110,000 annual bill for telephonic language assistance would cause Metro to lose $250 million of federal money:
As Councilman Crafton agreed at the debate on Tuesday, Metro spends $110,000.00 per year on our AT&T translation service. When Metro needs translation, they dial into this service, and the government is charged a per minute rate for its use (as in, there are not armies of interpreters in various languages sitting around in Metro government drawing salary – physical interpreters are largely only found in the Health Department and the courts).
Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (along with Executive Order 13166) determines that any local government department receiving federal funds must provide its services in multiple languages, because the law says we cannot disciminate against individuals based on national origin.
Here is the useage breakdown of Metro’s interpretation services (these numbers were provided to me by the mayor’s office)
Police / Sheriff 33.13%
Juvenile / Courts 7.95%
Metro Water 6.62%
General Hospital/Bordeaux 9.43%
Nashville Career Advis. 0.71%
All of the above departments receive Title VI funds. The total is 99.55%. It appears I was more than generous with my previous estimate of 97%. This means that the passage of English Only could only affect 0.045% of the money spent, which means that Metro would save $495 per year. Or, we could just give back $250 million in federal funds each year.
Director Francie Hunt
“From my personal experience, immigrants are more than willing to learn more languages and are eager for assimilation. It’s a process and no law can speed that up.”
The Nashville chapter of Stand for Children has voted to oppose English Only, and Director Francie Hunt issued this statement to the Tennessean. Here are excerpts:
Our chapter felt strongly that it was harmful to children and to our community to pass a law that restricts communication. In a world rife with conflict, limiting our means to connect, collaborate and protect each other is a terrible example for our young people and with dangerous consequences.
At family gatherings, I long to understand my mother’s tongue just as my mother once longed for me to assimilate into American culture when she first arrived. Passing punitive legislation will not make Nashville more “comfortable” with non-English speakers and it won’t inspire immigrants to learn English any more than the motivation it took to get here in the first place. From my personal experience, immigrants are more than willing to learn more languages and are eager for assimilation. It’s a process and no law can speed that up.
Proscribing the Nashville Metro government to English only in all of its official communications is a questionable initiative from a governance standpoint. The vague verbiage of the amendment gives the impression that it is intended to be applied as broadly as possible regarding government communication — the specifics of its application to policy are unclear.
The Nashville City Paper editorial board states here that the most glaring flaw of the proposed English Only amendment is its inexact wording, which makes it unpredictable:
Yet, there are even more basic reasons to be against the English Only initiative. It is a poorly proposed law because it is terribly inexact. Put simply, Metro government leaders from the police to the water department have no idea how this law would impact the services they provide because of the measure’s incredibly vague wording.
There is a veritable minefield of unintended consequences from this proposed law.
There are many reasons to vote against English Only. Perhaps the best one is that as laws go, this one is poorly thought out and the potential result is something no one can predict or know.
Councilman Jim Hodge
Councilman Jim Hodge sent out an e-mail urging a vote against both amendments in the upcoming special election. Michael Cass of the Tennessean has the full story here. Here is an excerpt:
The second charter amendment will, I fear, result in yearly special elections like this one in January, which is costing us about $300,000. Since we already have elections every two years, I can not justify such extra expenses in good conscience. It appears to me to be a bad and expensive policy, which is contrary to good government operations.
Soo Yang expresses concern here that English Only would have an adverse effect on Metro government:
Even those who support the English-Only measure admit the demands for government services in foreign languages are increasing. Rather than working to meet the demand, however, those who support the amendment irrationally claim the increase in demand for services in foreign languages is wrong and dangerous. By demonizing and working against these demographic trends, the pro-amendment campaign is making the city government less efficient and less competent in resolving critical issues such as illegal immigration.
“The threat of another language eventually taking control is just silly.”
Sarah Moore disputes in this post that there is any threat to the English language that would be addressed by English Only. Here are excerpts:
Of course, English should be the language in which government and business is done in Nashville. And, guess what? It is! The threat of another language eventually taking control is just silly. Every immigrant who comes to our great city desiring a better life wants to learn English.
I want my children to grow up in a thriving metropolitan area that embraces all cultures and peoples. I also want them to read their ballots in English the first time they go to vote and be able to speak up in Metro Council meetings that are conducted in English. If English Only fails, as it should, my children will be fine on all counts.
Katherine Coble explains her opposition to English Only in this post. Here is an excerpt:
I don’t quite get this tea party version of America some people have, where we have to have dress codes and codes of conduct that limit the individuality and freedom of citizens. I don’t get this version of America where some people think the things they like and enjoy should become codified while the things other people like and enjoy should become illegal. “America” doesn’t mean “I should get to boss you around because I was here first/have more money.” “America” means that you get to enjoy the pursuit of happiness through most means.
Hat tip: Kleinheider
In this YouTube video published on the home page of Nashville for All of Us, a number of Nashvillians say why they are voting against English Only, including Mayor Karl Dean, Bishop David Choby, Anastasia Brown, Tom Oreck, Rev. Sonnye Dixon, and Buck Dozier.
Alan Valentine, President/CEO of the Nashville Symphony, urged board members to vote against both charter amendments, citing a threat to the Symphony itself. Michael Cass of the Tennessean has the whole story here. This is an excerpt:
“Amendment Two: This would make it much easier to make changes to the Metro Charter (like English Only) by drastically lowering the number of signatures required to bring such amendments onto a ballot. This would make our city’s governing charter subject to special interests, and this could be done as often as once a year. This amendment would reduce the effectiveness of our Metro Government and weaken our stable business environment. And, BTW, the City of Nashville is **required** by the terms of the City Charter to provide annual financial support to the Nashville Symphony (yes, we are mentioned by name in the Charter); if this measure succeeds, you can be sure that some group of people who do not value our city’s cultural institutions will seek to remove that requirement from the Charter, not long after this measure passes.
The Nashville City Paper asked Metro departments how they would be affected by English Only, and no one knew what would happen to their (sometimes prize-winning) secondary-language communications. Here is an excerpt:
Voters unsure of how they will vote on the English Only referendum at the Jan. 22 special election might be interested to find out that Metro departments don’t know how the charter amendment proposal would tangibly change the way they do business.
From Metro Water to Public Works to Metro Nashville Public Schools, department after department has told The City Paper that the English Only proposal is too vaguely worded to predict its effect.
Even the leader of Nashville English First, the group pushing the charter amendment, said there could be unintended consequences if the proposal passes on Jan. 22.
Police runs a program called El Protector, which uses Spanish-speaking officers to do proactive outreach and education on key issues like how to access emergency services. El Protector also educates the Nashville immigrant community on drunk driving and domestic violence laws.
El Protector has become successful enough that it will be recognized as an exemplary program by the Vera Institute of Justice at the beginning of the year, according to Aaron.
It’s against that backdrop that Police are left wondering whether El Protector would violate the Metro Charter if English Only were to pass.
The full story is here.
Former mayoral candidate David Briley stressed the importance of opposing English Only in an e-mail to his supporters, reproduced here by Michael Cass of the Tennessean. This is an excerpt:
I have not written you since the 2007 election but I am writing now to ask you to get involved in an issue that is important to me and our City. I am asking you to Vote Against the English Only ballot referendum that will be held on January 22. Personally, I oppose English Only for many reasons…
Evans Donnell has called English Only a “black eye” for Nashville:
[I]t will be costly to taxpayers (it already is if you consider spending six figures for a special election) and it will be a business and tourism “black eye” for Nashville.
The full post is here.
Hat tip: Kleinheider
Mayor Karl Dean
Mayor Karl Dean is “strongly against” both charter amendments. The Tennessean‘s Michael Cass has the whole story here. Here are excerpts:
I am strongly against these charter amendments and I want you to join me in voting against English Only and Amendment No. 2.
First, let me explain what the English Only amendment is not. It is not a vote on immigration reform and it is not a harmless message to office holders. The proposed charter amendment will have absolutely no effect upon efforts to curtail illegal immigration or to reform current national policy. Rather than permitting voters to send a message to the government, the referendum alters our charter in a way that will create legal, political, social and even moral consequences for years to come.
To me, it is the antithesis of hospitality and an unnecessary drain on taxpayer resources. The issue is divisive and will distract us from doing those things that will help us realize our potential as not just a great American city, but a great international city.
Charles W. Bone
“You can’t imagine how many CEOs I’ve spoken with who say they would have chosen to relocate to another city had this proposal been enacted when they came to Nashville.”
On behalf of Nashville law firm Bone McAllester Norton PLLC, Charles W. Bone issued this statement in opposition to English Only:
Our attorneys have decided that our firm should be on record to oppose the English Only charter amendment that is on the ballot in Davidson County in January. As such, we are the first law firm to publicly denounce the English Only measure, which makes me very proud.
Nashville is a world-class city that speaks many languages. We are a center of learning, government, religion, business and entertainment. English Only hurts Nashville’s values of stewardship, safety, tolerance and hospitality, not to mention our economy. You can’t imagine how many CEOs I’ve spoken with who say they would have chosen to relocate to another city had this proposal been enacted when they came to Nashville. Continue reading
Rabbi Shana Goldstein Mackler
Standing up against English Only, Rabbi Shana Goldstein Mackler of The Temple invokes Yom Kippur and “the opportunity to acknowledge a wrong and to do something about it:”
One of the most beautiful reasons I am proud to make my home here in Nashville was that this is a City of Refuge, a place where immigrants come for safety, freedom from persecution and degradation, and for a chance at a better life. We all know people who have been welcomed by this city, who have been sponsored and cared for by our citizens and our community. Still, despite the fact that research on immigration into Nashville shows immigrants wanting to learn English, wanting to acculturate, wanting to become citizens, fears and stereotypes of foreigners abound.
This fear has enabled and engendered a piece of legislation that flies in the face of who we are as Jews, as Americans, and as citizens of Nashville: the English-Only initiative that is on the special ballot calling for a vote this month. Continue reading
Photo Credit: Gwendolen Cates
Irish-born Nashville singer Maura O’Connell will canvass door-to-door against English Only, reports Beverly Keel of the Tennessean.
O’Connell told Keel:
I don’t know that there was such a difficult time given to those people years ago as it is now. The younger generation will always learn English and assimilate.
Read the Tennesseean story here.
O’Connell’s singing career spans a dozen albums and includes appearances with artists such as Dolly Parton, Van Morrison, and Rosanne Cash.
O’Connell was also cast by Martin Scorsese in his 19th century epic The Gangs of New York. She played the role of an immigrant street singer.
My name is Helia, and I work for the Tennessee Foreign Language Instititute (TFLI). I started teaching languages in 1992 – first teaching my native language German at Berlitz and later teaching as a private tutor, which was more fun and more profitable.
I started working for the TFLI in 1997 and I have taught German (and later ESL) ever since. It was not until I took the TESL course in 2001, however, that I wholeheartedly started to enjoy teaching. The TESL training replaced my ‘pick-and-choose’ approaches with a solid foundation to foster learning success. I have since developed several Professional Development Courses for ESL and foreign language teachers based on the principles of TESL.
As a long time ESL instructor, teacher trainer, and court interpreter, I have met and continue to meet countless amazing people who do their best to learn English while working several low-paying jobs and facing tremendous odds. Continue reading
Coalition for Education about Immigration
The Nashville-based Coalition for Education about Immigration (CEI) has launched its web site at http://educationaboutimmigration.com/
CEI explains its origins here:
In 2006 anti-immigration rhetoric was intensifying in the Nashville community. Myths and misconceptions about immigrants and immigration along with corresponding vitriolic conversations seemed to be proliferating on national and local radio talk shows. An idea that originated in the Community Relations Committee (CRC) of the Jewish Federation in 2006 expanded to a series of exploratory meetings with immigrant advocates, including members of Conexión Americas and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). Discussions that ensued led to the formation of the Coalition for Education about Immigration (CEI). From the onset, the founding members of CEI believe that when provided with accurate information, the Nashville community will draw reasonable, educated conclusions of their own. What began with a concern of a half dozen community members grew, in a short time, to a grassroots membership of nearly 300 individuals and more than a dozen loosely affiliated organizations.
CEI has also published this PDF with background information on English Only.
In this post opposing English Only, local radio host Mary Mancini of Liberadio cites statistics showing English usage among Latinos:
Research indicates that 98% of Latinos think it is “essential” that their children learn English. In fact, 80% of foreign-born children from Mexico learn English “well” or “very well,” and 92 percent of second-generation Latinos are fully fluent in English. By the third generation, only 28% of Latinos are still proficient in Spanish. (Migration Policy Institute).
The full post is here.
National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators
The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) and the Tennessee Association of Professional Interpreters and Translators (TAPIT) sent a letter to Mayor Karl Dean in which they strongly oppose English Only. Here are excerpts:
We strongly oppose the Nashville charter amendment because it is a dangerous and misguided initiative. Proposals of this type can, and have created severe and confusing barriers, not only for limited-English proficient (LEP) individuals, but also for government officials, resulting in denial of equal access, equal protection, and basic human rights.
We in NAJIT and TAPIT work daily with speakers of other languages, and we know that most of them have a strong and sincere desire to communicate in English. They do not willfully avoid speaking English out of stubbornness or spite; they recognize the value of being able to converse with the broader society in its own language. If this initiative passed, Nashville will be the only major city in our country to have an English-only law. It is unfortunate that those pushing for this divisive ballot measure have not focused their energies on the creation of better facilities and opportunities for learning English.
Conservative husband-and-wife bloggers Nathan and Sarah Moore are writing that English Only is unconservative:
Ah yes, half a million dollars to potentially pass a nonsensical law. Why don’t we pass a referendum against quartering troops in peace time, or one that declares slavery illegal. Maybe even get so bold as to lobby that half a million dollars be spent on classes teaching English to immigrants.
Why should the taxpayers of Nashville pay $300,000 for a special election on January 22 simply to send a message to immigrants letting them know that they are not welcome here? That’s great for business and our place in the global economy!! Of course immigrants should learn English. Integration into our English-language society is best for everyone involved. But, why should we purposefully make the process difficult for them, especially when English is safely written into state law as our language?
Come on, conservatives! Let’s send a message that we really are opposed to government waste, both in terms of money and unnecessary laws. Vote against English Only next month. It will be a step in the right direction that we desperately need.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean
From the Tennessean:
Nashville business leaders should take up the fight against a proposed city charter amendment that would declare English the official language of the city and ban the city government from providing services in any other language, Mayor Karl Dean told Chamber of Commerce members Tuesday.
Speaking at a gathering of members of the chamber’s Partnership 2010 economic-development initiative, Dean said that requiring the city to stick to English in all of its dealings would “negatively impact” efforts to lure foreign companies to the city.
“I’m opposed [to the amendment],” the mayor said. “It is the antithesis of hospitality and a drain on our resources.”
Read more here.
From a letter to the editor of the Tennessean:
I find it a little hard to imagine that Tennessee has become so homogenized it wants to spend the money to have an “English only” ballot. It seem a sharp contrast to the foundation and makeup that comprises our country. I really don’t think that Emma Lazarus omitted in her poem engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free” (but let them only speak and read English).
Read more here.
The Executive Committee of the League for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing/Ear Foundation has joined Nashville for All of Us. The committee issued this statement:
As the leadership of an organization that works closely with hundreds of men, women, and children who interact through interpreters, we oppose the characterization of interpreting services as a burden and would not want to see Nashville become a community in which diverse methods of communication are viewed with suspicion.
Phil Michal Thomas recently appeared in the “Tennessee Voices” section of the Tennessean and had this to say about English Only:
Nashville’s economy has grown, with several foreign-owned businesses opening offices…. If this charter amendment is passed, not only will it be unlawful to transact official business in a foreign language, it may also jeopardize the existence of the larger employers.
Has Davidson County considered the legal ramifications of passing this “English-only” initiative in regard to Title VI or Title VII? Can we afford losing a vast amount of federal funding due to being in clear violation of the federal statutes? The election is already costing taxpayers at least $300,000.
Read the entire piece here.