Main | Friday, January 23, 2009

"English First" Defeated In Nashville

Yesterday voters in Nashville defeated an "English First" referendum which would have made English the mandatory language for all city business.
Nashville voters rejected a proposal to make English the mandatory language for all government business, easing fears that the measure could damage the city's reputation and cost agencies millions in federal funding. With 100 percent of precincts reporting early Friday morning, unofficial results showed the "English First" proposal losing with about 57 percent of voters against it and 43 percent in favor. Proponents said using one language would have united the city and saved money.

The city would have become the nation's largest to pass such a measure. Similar measures have passed elsewhere, though business leaders, academics, the city's mayor and Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen opposed the "English First" proposal, which the governor has previously called "mean-spirited." "The results of this special election reaffirms Nashville's identity as a welcoming and friendly city, and our ability to come together as a community," Mayor Karl Dean said in a news release. The referendum's leader, city Councilman Eric Crafton, had promoted it as a way to unite Nashville and prevent the kind of extensive translation services — and the associated expenses — provided by cities like New York or Los Angeles. He has pushed for English only since 2006 and got the issue before voters through a petition drive.
One of the referendum's backers appeared on CNN this morning to complain that immigrants should not be allowed to live an "English-optional" life in the United States. It's unlikely the referendum would have survived a court challenge as many federal funds are tied to free translation services for immigrants.

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