Councilman Eric Crafton has decided to start a drive to amend the Metro Charter and make English the official language of Nashville. He needs to get just over 10,000 signatures by August in order to put the measure on the November ballot. Here's the text:
Crafton’s charter amendment proposal says, “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.”
As the City Paper points out, former Mayor Bill Purcell vetoed Crafton's attempt to do the same thing by ordinance because it could violate state and federal law. If it would, indeed, violate state and federal law, how exactly does Crafton's charter amendment have any guts left in it? He seems to acknowledge as much with the last sentence of the text.
Here's a challenge to our local media. Please, let's have more than man-on-the-street quotations of people's feelings about immigrants. I hope that as the coverage of Crafton's effort unfolds we'll be reading information about what is really happening on the ground. The coverage should address issues like access to health services, help for crime victims, translators in the public defender's office, and food inspection for restaurants. Do we really want people who don't speak English finding more reasons to avoid dealing with government, especially when it comes to issues of public health and public safety?
For opponents, snarky comments about Crafton's motives will be tempting, almost too tempting to avoid. But if you oppose this amendment, then knock it relentlessly on the dangers it poses.
Since the proposal is a ballot measure, I assume that religious communities can take a side and get involved. Perhaps they can help keep the moral aspect of the debate in the public view and minimize the nastiness that a campaign like this is bound to bring.