Friday, January 23, 2009


"English Only" Goes Down to Defeat in Nashville

The "English Only" amendment - which, from my understanding, would have required that all government business in Nashville be conducted in the English language - went down to defeat in a special election yesterday.

Admittedly, I haven't been following this debate much, save the 10,000 posts over at Kleinheider's blog. I don't feel especially strong on the issue only because I'm not sure if legislation is the best way to have people speak in one language without erasing Title VI (which I might be in favor of). I experience communication difficulties every day with clients who do not speak English. I see the courts constantly having to scramble for interpreters, who end up getting paid more than the attorneys in the case. Just Thursday, I represented a native of the Sudan who only spoke Dinka. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a translator that speaks Dinka? I do. And it's not cheap for the State, I can tell you that.

The curious parts of this debate for me have been the posts of my friend Nathan Moore. Nathan has posted that conservatives could not support the "English Only" amendment. I have read his posts against the amendment, basically stating that this is bad politics for conservatives and won't save Nashville much money. That's all well and good, but what Nathan has failed to do in his various posts is explain how his position of opposition is conservative in nature. I can see the political arguments, but if this saves money for governments that are already suffering economically, how can it not be a fiscally conservative policy?

I ask only because I do not know. If the money is a wash (which I tend to doubt), then perhaps "English Only" is a politically neutral policy, neither conservative nor liberal in nature.

Would someone like to explain this to a guy who doesn't think he has a stake in the controversy (given that I don't live in Nashville and can't see this happening in Knox County, where we're too busy perfecting Republican-on-Republican crime)?

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Hey Rob,
At best, due to Title VI, 0.50% of translation expenses could have been cut in Metro - this would result in total cuts of less than $500 / year. And, as you know, we will never be able to do anything about translation in the courts.

In short, we have to work with the landscape we've got. Title VI will never be modified, much less appealed, and the local taxpayers do deserve to get as much of their federal tax money back as possible.

Add to that the official language in Tennessee is already English, this amendment would have no effect whatsoever. At its core, conservatism reviles superfluous legislation. The English Only amendment is as superfluous as they come.

That's the nutshell for a Friday morning (before putting on the suit).

Hope all is well,
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