‘English First’ movement reflects poorly on city

Monday, June 16, 2008 at 3:03am

The debate last year in the Metro Council as to whether or not Nashville should make English the official language of Metro government was an ugly chapter in this city’s history. Unfortunately, it is being repeated.

In a June 6 article, our newspaper revealed that Councilman Eric Crafton is bringing back his “English First” initiative for Metro government. A similar one died at the hands of a mayoral veto last year under Mayor Bill Purcell after passing the Council. This time Mayor Karl Dean will not have that option. Crafton is bypassing the Council and taking the issue directly to voters via a petition drive to get the measure on the ballot in the fall as a public referendum.

Should Crafton’s petition drive make it to a referendum, the forces of common sense and tolerance need to rise up in this city to stop it at the polls.

For clarity, here is what the petition and the proposed change to the Metro charter states:

"English is the official language of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. Official actions (those which bind or commit the government) shall be taken only in the English language, and all official government communications and publications shall be published only in English. No person shall have a right to government services in any other language. All meetings of the Metro Council, Boards, and Commissions of the Metropolitan Government shall be conducted in English. Nothing in this measure shall be interpreted to conflict with federal or state law."

We cannot in good conscience say limiting Metro government to the use of English in all of its official communications is a good idea from a governance standpoint. The amorphous nature of the amendment and its lack of specificity appears designed to cast the net as broadly as possible when it come to rooting out government communication in anything other than English. Where will it begin and end as a matter of public policy?

For instance, is a lawful order from a law enforcement officer not considered an official communication of government? In fact, this measure has a great potential to handicap crucial services like police, emergency and social services and the courts. Bilingualism by government workers and translation services are something that help ensure the health, safety and welfare of all Metro residents by making key services realistically available to all. Possibly doing away with this is a dangerous boondoggle waiting to happen.

Some have argued that in most instances Metro already communicates with the public in English, and this charter change would simply state that residents do not have a “right” to communication in different languages. It is less a matter of government practice and precedent and much more about the image this city wants to present to the rest of the country about our views as community concerning people of different cultures and nationalities.

Though not spoken of openly by proponents of this ballot measure, it appears simply because of their numbers in the city to be aimed directly at the large, Spanish-speaking Hispanic immigrant population here. It also appears the anger over illegal immigration in this community — some of it justified — is fueling this movement.

Yet, Crafton’s proposed law appears poised to also disenfranchise legal, law-abiding immigrants still perhaps learning the language. Though designed to force assimilation, this proposed “English First” law holds the same ghastly potential that Jim Crow laws accomplished in the first half of the last century, separating a class of people from the rest of society.

It also sends a message that those new to America and searching for this country’s promise of freedom and hope are not welcome in Nashville. As the sons and daughters of immigrants, it is a hypocritical message to send.

Thinking, intelligent people in this community need to stand up and reject this petition and a subsequent ballot measure if the petition succeeds. From the city’s most outspoken liberals to our rock-ribbed members of the party of Lincoln, the reasons to oppose it are plain. It is bad public policy and a poor statement on our community.

Filed under: City Voices
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By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

It would not have attracted attention and reached critical mass had not Bede$en,Persell and Slurpass made us a santuary city/state createing a magnate for the illegal invasion.They ignored the will of the people now the people are fighting/speaking back the only way they can.It is and has cost us a lot of money and problems that wasn't necessary because of their total disregard of the law. It is/was not up to them to decide which Federal law should be enforced and which should not be.

By: NashvilleNeighbor on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Would Adolph Crafton please crawl back to his hole?

By: 2476 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I am like the other 82% of Americans that say if they want to be a part of this country, do it legally and learn to speak our language. Otherwise go back home where you belong, you were not invited.

By: global_citizen on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I got a little blue postcard in the mail asking me to sign a petition urging the legislature to pass this bill. It cited an unattributed statistic that said 83% of Tennesseans agree with the purpose of this bill. Call me skeptical. Where does this 83% come from? And as with any statistics, its meaningless unless you know how the survey questions were crafted. I think it's laughable to suggest 83% of Tennesseans agree with Eric Crafton, on this or any other issue.

By: Evilbear on 12/31/69 at 6:00

How was this handled during the immigration waves of the early 20th century?

By: pjsteelman on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Evilbear, it was handled then, the same way that it should be handled, now. Immigrants learned the proper language. That means our grandparents or greatgrandparents or however far back our families go learned to fit in. Bilingualism only divides communities. Go out into the streets, your grocery store, your post office. When you can not understand what someone else is saying, you eventually give up and walk away.Our country is a great melting pot. All for one, not a divided ruckus where we sometimes tend to distrust someone we can not understand.We have peoples of many different languages coming into this country everyday, for the english speaking people to be expected to learn ALL of those languages is a farce. One language, one people. Make it english.PJ

By: indianajohnston on 12/31/69 at 6:00

"It also sends a message that those new to America and searching for this country’s promise of freedom and hope are not welcome in Nashville. As the sons and daughters of immigrants, it is a hypocritical message to send."It doesn't send that message at all. When people come to this country, they know that Americans speak English. Why should it NOT be declared our official language?! If you go to Spain, you expect to have to know some Spanish... Yes? If you go to Italy, you expect to have to know some Italian... Yes? If you go to France you expect to have to know some French... Yes? Although you hope that they understand some English so that you can get by if you can't find the translation. However, it doesn't mean people will stop learning other languages. All it means is that the city doesn't have to print everything in multiple languages and the schools aren't required to teach courses in Spanish. It may still choose to do so, but it doesn't have to. This is Nashville. We speak English here, not Espanol! This is not an immigration issue either. As long as the hispanics are a minority, English should be DECLARED ths official language. I can't even believe that this is up for debate. GET OVER IT and quite trying to be so politically correct. Its sickening!

By: pam harrison on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Does Crafton really believe that people move to this country and refuse to speak English? Has he worked for or financially supported programs to teach immigrants English? Why doesn't he call it what it is, his attempt to pander to persons who want the Mexican immigrants out of Nashville? We have a large immigrant population here, they speak a myriad of languages and unfortunately we do not provide the means necessary for them to learn American (we obviously don't really know what English is but do speak a slang of the real English language). We can move from north to south and not understand the slang that permeates our language. Crafton is a fool and those who wish to follow his obviously uneducated path are also fools.

By: Dragon on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Now that I see the exact wording of the proposed change, I would vote against it.The key word is ONLY. I would be fine to say English is the official and required language, but other languages should be a voluntary option for some government/citizen communication. Keep the sentence that says "No person shall have a right to government services in any other language" but recognize that some publications would be more effective in other languages.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Pam you can call them "a large immigrant population

By: girliegirl on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Right now, there's a college student living in Flagstaff, Wing Dong Di, a chemistry student at NAU, who speaks English. Oh, my gosh, I forgot to say he's from CHINA! Yes, China. He's an exchange student, and he can actually speak our language. Duh.... There are tens of thousands or more Asians in the U.S. who are Chinese/Japanese/Korean-speaking only, but are trying to learn our language. You certainly can't be insuating that your police officers will ALL have to be fluent in Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Somali, etc.... just to "communicate" with "accuse" perps, can you? Tell ya what.... when you come to this site and can demonstrate that you are fluent in EVERY language, then the 83% of us will reconsider Crafton's petition. Put up or shut up.

By: Evilbear on 12/31/69 at 6:00

pam harrison, I believe Mr. Crafton's brother in law is a Mexican immigrant. Maybe someone else on line can verify this.

By: slacker on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Seems to me this would encourage immigrants to learn English.As far as sending a message to those new to America, that they are not wanted here. That's just a silly goofy statement.The immigrants legal or otherwise, started coming to Nashville, when Opryland imported them in to work at their facility, and put them up in a motel on Murfreesboro rd. That probably started the Hispanic migration to this city.I doubt that they were having conversations, regarding English.If this saves the taxpayer's money, I'm all for it.

By: lewis7412 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Communications is the key to establishing relationships. If there is no desire to learn the English language, there is apparently no desire to become a part of the culture or to establish the basis of communications that makes us a UNITED country. There are around 50 different languages spoken in the middle Tennessee area which would create an impossible scenario if our government had to provide services in an equal manner to all. If I were to have neighbors on each side of me that spoke different languages and if I were to learn the different languages of my neighbors, that would still leave my neighbors unable to communicate with each other which leaves them disenfranchised with each other. It is more compassionate to want everyone on an equal basis of communications to ensure relationships can be established.

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Wow, there's a Chinese person in Arizona who can speak English? I never knew....Girlie, are you sure you aren't Marsha Blackburn?NashVille will have to be renamed NashTown if this passes. Crafton es un tonto. Or as Wing Dong Di might say, Crafton chi sha gua.

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

id, you can look to Gaylord as a source of our large Hispanic population. When they purchased a motel on Murfreesboro Road years ago it was almost impossible to find good Mexican food here.

By: ACitizen on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I belive Crafton is wasting my tax dollars, given that this issue is already addressed by state statute.This petition is mean-spirited and petty, and I will not support it.

By: girliegirl on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The Chineses exchange student comment was phrased in the most tongue-in-cheek synical way possible on my part........ Stop insinuating that immigrants are too stupid to learn English.

By: Funditto on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Hispanics work, they go to church and if we had enough available, they would attend ESL classes. If they are here illegally, it's because we hire them. Blame should lie with those greedy folks that do and perhaps they should be held accountable. Crafton is in the construction business so you know that will never happen!

By: irishchick on 12/31/69 at 6:00

My opinion comes from being a second generation American. My family immigrated from Ireland and were treated poorly when they got here.The Irish, Polish and Italians have gone through the same kind of poor treatment when they got to America as the Hispanic population are going through now. Mr.Craftons petty petition is shameful and reflects poorly on him and the people who keep him on the council. come on people get your act together and vote him out!

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The issue IMO is not who they are but the fact that they broke into this country illegally and our politicians are ok with the unlimited horde that is invadeing.A country without borders is not a country in control of its own destiny.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

BTW IC we didn't accept Polish or Italian language as an equal to our language either, and they are not treated as badley as some were in our past. There are no signs posted "Hispanics need not apply" In fact they are favored over American workers and given Government assistance rather then religious or peer assistance. This isn't orderly immigration it is an invasion with no limits and no minimum requirements.Would anyone in their right mind accept the estimated 100,000 MS-13 members here?

By: JeffF on 12/31/69 at 6:00

This is one of the moments I am most proud of living here. You see I do not let naysayers get me down. There is not one person here who thinks that this will not pass when put to a vote. The multiculturalists can only insult and belittle and huff and puff. They are on the losing team and it drives them crazy.God bless Nashville for trying to remaine Nashville in the face of all the weird "sensitive" people. Go smoke hemp if you disagree.Maybe we should adopt the other international versions of cultural "acceptance"? No that won't work since they do not accept what Nashvillian's are being forced to choke down.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

You must be one of those "compassionate Conservatives" I hear so much about. lol

By: JeffF on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I am, thanks. I am compassionately encouraging my brothers and sisters to lift themselves up from their squalor and escape the bonds of their former languages and cultures, just as two hundred years of immigrants have done before them. We will help by not institutionalizing a failing language system that seeks to imprison them in continual poverty. It is the least we can do to help the poor folks held hostage by the armies of the well-meaning.God Bless America.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

What a crock of sh!t...lol

By: producer2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I am so happy I came to see who was posting and what they had to say on this subject. In doing so I found what I had suspected in some. They are biggoted, redneck racists who do not deserve the time of day. They have shown there true colors....

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Ignorance breeds fear. Fear breeds stupid legislation.

By: JeffF on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Speaking of stupid legislation, would you be for this law if it required our uninvited guest to pay hotel/motel tax while they were here Producer? Taxing people excessively is the single best way to get more people to come to Nashville is it not?

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

OMG I can’t understand a word this idiot is saying, CAN WE PLEASE GET SOME LEGISLATION TO PROTECT US FROM THE STUPID IDIOTS????

By: producer2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

It's hard as they crawl out from under their rocks to post every day. I think they are probably at the library using free internet! It must be the only thing they have to do with themselves. Not many of them made any real sense on a subject....

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 6:00

This is one damn good editorial: thoughtful, intelligent, and mostly well-written. The few points that I would add to it would be that the restrictive clauses don't help Metro governance in the least—as the editorial says, but could say more amply—, that they could easily be overturned in court, and that the last sentence of the bill admits the bill’s futility as an addition to our legal codes & tacitly admits that it is merely Eric Crafton’s political bluster.Bear, then, as now, immigrants learned English, w/ younger generations learning it faster than the older generation, and then, as now, there was plenty of bigotry on the part of native-born Americans against the immigrants.Pj is incorrect. Bilingualism doesn’t divide at all. This has been a polyglot land for 10,000 years.Johnston, if you go to Spain, you will find thousands of Spaniards who speak some English. Using you own example, YOU should learn some Spanish. As for people in Nashville speaking English, I am afraid that you are sadly mistaken. Listen to the conversations at any meat-&-three: it’s barely English, but what is sad is that those folks, like Eric Crafton, have no second language.Well said, Pam. You, too, Irish.Girlie, police aren't required to learn Chinese now. Not passing this silly "English ONLY" law won't change that. Don’t worry.Lewis, all immigrants learn some English & want to learn English. Thus, we shouldn’t reveal our bigotry against them by passing meaningless & expensive “English ONLY” laws.“The bonds of their former languages”, Jeff? How is Spanish bondage? I must admit, reading your remarks, I second Diafante’s opinion of them.

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Crafton is an idiot (as I have said in other languages) and this bill is idiotic. I applaud Clint's editorial but wish he'd give Eric a little less press recognition. Crafton feeds on attention like green algae feeds on a pond full of oxygen.

By: Anna3 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Dear liberals...Where's the morality in offering "the farm" to the illegal immigrants when so many lawful immigrants have worked so hard legally, often for decades to obtain citizenship? Amnesty is not a moral option for me. As for English First...I'll vote for it because all one needs to do is look at our history so we are not doomed to repeat the failures of others... The immigrants of the past that passed through Ellis Island all were generally committed to becoming US Citizens and accomplished it through assimilation into our culture. These immigrants of the past were committed first to becoming Americans and relgated their seperate nationalities to being their "heritage" not their hyphenated..."Name the country... hyphen - American" label. The way assimilation took place historically is through our common language...English. Today, is a different story...today's immigrants celebrate their indepenence from America tucked into their myopic enclaves around our city all while savaging those in their own communities who disagree with them and their "Motherland First" demands. These same foreign nationalists take all the bounty America has to offer, work against our values of freedom and liberty by supressing those in their own community as if part of a third world country, frequently break our laws, and hold our culture in disdain. The leadership of the immigrant communities have not demonstrated any real interest in assimilation and sometimes work toward our destruction as evidenced by the "Reconquista" movement from Mexico...which is designed to take Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Southern California back as territories of Mexico. Where does it stop? How are we able to determine the level of commitment to assimilate into and raise up our culture? Between the Black Seperatist movement, The Reconquista's, the socialists, and the "hate America First" liberals.... there seems to be so many bent on the destruction of the values that made America great...As Gov. Richard Lamm once said... great countries such as ours are not usually beaten...they commit "suicide". I'll be voting for the "English First" measure because it is a very low expectation on our part of those who want to reap America's bounty and requires them to show some committment to our culture. My family once proved it can be done...so can others. PS - Can liberals reply intellectually without throwing the race card, the intolerance label, or the hate card? We shall soon see. Make your case.

By: kevin47881 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I have already completed and mailed in my blue card. Thanks for taking the lead Eric!