Thursday, January 15, 2009

Are There Answers In The Money?

Well this isn’t exactly a surprise:
Nashville voters may have to wait until after the Jan. 22 English Only special election to find out how the Nashville English First group has funded its controversial referendum campaign.

Leaders with the English Only referendum movement to make English the official language of Metro government would not say if they intended to file the group’s financial disclosure statement by today’s deadline when reached by the The City Paper this week.

In fact, according to Davidson County Election Commission employees, a representative from Nashville English First inquired about what the penalty would be if the committee missed the filing deadline.

Gee, I wonder what they’re hiding? Something so distasteful that they’re afraid financial disclosure would hurt support for their measure, perhaps? Funding from one of the many anti-immigrant hate groups, perhaps?

Or a certain political party, maybe?

It would be irresponsible not to speculate. After all, we already know English Only received $20,000 and legal assistance from one-man nativist machine John Tanton, a noted bigot and anti-Catholic who once warned that high Latino birth rates meant they would soon outbreed whites, causing all sorts of other horrors.

So what is Crafton's group afraid of? What are they hiding? It’s got to be really, really bad or they wouldn’t take the risk of looking like they’re hiding something. Which is how they look right now. But we won’t know ... until it’s too late.

Here’s something I don’t hear mentioned much in the English Only debate: Where is this rash of council meetings, commission meetings, board memos, etc. that are taking place in a foreign language? Near as I can tell the only time a foreign language was spoken at Metro Council it was Crafton himself speaking in Japanese in his now-famous fear-mongering stunt. I’ve been to plenty of council meetings, planning commission meetings, zoning hearings, etc. English has always been spoken every time.

To the best of my knowledge, federal law already requires that translators be provided for emergency services and in court, something very easily accommodated through the miracle of private enterprise via a company like Language Line Services.

Critics have said the entire savings per year to Metro would be $3,100, and yet we’re paying ten times that amount on the special election. This just doesn’t add up.

I’m just not seeing the urgency. This was a tough sell for Crafton from the get-go, and I’m just really puzzled as to why he decided to put this forward and put his reputation on the line to begin with. None of it makes sense, and I wonder if the financial disclosure wouldn’t clear some of this mystery up.

The only town I’ve been able to find where Spanish is used in official business is tiny El Cenizo, Texas, on the Texas-Mexico border. CNN’s Ed Lavandera visited a couple of years ago and learned most residents are bi-lingual, but Spanish is their first language. So council meeting agendas are offered in both English and Spanish, and the meetings are conducted in Spanish. The result has been increased community participation by town citizens and an improved quality of life in El Cenizo:

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Reyes says this was nothing more than a dusty border outpost until 1999, but, now, with the city and its people speaking the same language, streets are paved. There's a police force and a fire station.

REYES: Well, there's like good, positive things happening. And you get to that with the support and the collaboration of the residents that reside in this..


LAVANDERA (on camera): And do you think that happened because city business here is conducted in Spanish?

REYES: That's right. You know, we speak their language.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Most of El Cenizo's residents are Mexican-Americans here legally. Reyes says, since city council meetings are conducted in Spanish, more people participate.

(on camera): What do you say to those people who say, you know, by God, this is the United States; you need to speak English?


JUAN ALEJANDRO, EL CENIZO, TEXAS, POLICE CHIEF: And, if people get upset by it, then so be it. So be it. Get upset, because you're not here. You're not in this situation, and you're not helping us.

LAVANDERA: People here like to joke that the official language should be Spanglish, a little bit of both languages, so everyone can understand.

I’m sure this just horrifies the Eric Craftons of the world but here’s a heads-up: Nashville is not El Cenizo, Texas, nor is it Oakland, California. What do we care how they do things elsewhere? We’re not them. We’re not a border town populated predominantly by Mexican immigrants, or a city populated by Chinese immigrants. There just isn’t a big problem here.

Why’d you do it, Eric? Why?