I decided to attend today’s debate over English First Only. It was held in a very prestigious law office 27 floors above downtown Nashville. As I exited the elevator I turned left and saw two carefully coiffed women receptionists seated at a curved desk in the middle of a cavernous lobby. I approached them to ask about getting my parking validated, which, believe it or not, required a hushed conversation and a phone call to determine if I indeed qualified for this particular perk. I did not. I was then directed toward a large conference room where the “debate” was to take place. I took a seat at an empty table far enough away from the bulk of the attendees, yet close enough to be able to hear all that was said. As luck would have it, I ended up sharing my table with Nathan and Sarah Moore, Tom Lawless, and a large young Republican guy who wolfed down his pork chops and veggies and heavily buttered rolls in less time than it takes me to light a cigarette. Impressive. Abbie Bartlett would have remarked “I’d love to watch him eat a pie.” *
Ok, so a fellow named Tim Skow was obviously in charge of this group, and he came to the table to make us aware of the fact that “the press was there, but he didn’t know how they found out about it.” I lost about a quart of blood biting down on my English-only speaking tongue, so I didn’t out Nathan Moore as the one that issued The Press Release. As it turned out, I didn’t have to…Nathan immediately copped to it anyway. Mr. Skow then spent quite a bit of time explaining that one of the partners in the law firm hosting the meeting would get the first question during the Q&A portion. I believe he did this at each table. He did it again, and again, and, well, again, until I wanted to stand up and shout that we were all well aware of the fact that Mr. X had the biggest dick in the room. If I am ever in need of major sucking up to…I’ve found my guy.
Oh, all right, the “debate.”
The first speaker was Jim Roberts, who is the attorney fighting on behalf of billable hours Eric Crafton’s amendment. He immediately explained that opponents to the proposed amendment were guilty of some terrible dishonesty, and that we should all remember that when hearing arguments against the amendment. His participation was to insure two things: One, that the dishonest Government’s process for putting forth Charter Amendments would change, making it harder to hold special elections, and two, that all dishonest Govt’s meetings, agreements, contracts, etc would be conducted in English. His commitment to those two things is such that he is performing every bit of this legal work pro bono. **
Next came John Crisp. Wow. Right off the bat, in a bit of irony too obvious for me to make up, said “E Pluribus Unum.” “That which unites Americans.” I swear to my God, this was his rationale for the Amendment, though, he said he got behind it after learning through the TV news that elderly citizens couldn’t get ambulances, yet Metro has the money to spend on interpreters. He then tossed out an insult toward the Nashville Peace & Justice Center (which I believe, may be required at these meetings) and then wondered aloud why Nashville didn’t “accept foreign currency or adopt Sharia law.” ( I so wanted to laugh heartily at this, but was afraid I would spray some of the blood coming from my ears all over my table-mates, and that seemed like bad form.) There were some smart people in attendance, don’t get me wrong, but this guy makes Terry Frank sound measured and credible.
Next came Nathan Moore. Nathan and his wife Sarah wound up on my reader by accident long ago (I inherited all of Music City Blogger’s feeds) but I left them on in the interest of opposition research. I find him too smart to be putting forth as many disingenuous arguments as he does, and I disagree with almost everything he writes, but the truth of the matter is that today, he was the only speaker there that offered up a reasonable argument. Really, I’d love to see some Republican, any Republican, just come out and say this whole mess is the result of a craven political strategy designed to propel Crafton to higher office on the backs of those people who can’t vote. Absent that, I’ll take his argument that this is just a bad bill. Redundant, legally problematic, and expensive. By his math, once you factor in the Title 6 requirements for interpreters, the Metro Govt will save roughly $3100 a year with this amendment, at a cost to bring it to the voters that will take close to a century to repay. Another important point he brought forth was that NO OTHER MAJOR CITY has passed an amendment like this one. The reason? Its bad for a city’s reputation in the world, and will ultimately dissuade potential businesses from considering Nashville when shopping for a place to relocate. This was supported by a member of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce who got shouted down pretty quickly. Nathan was about the lone sane voice in the room, but was hopelessly out-gunned.
Eric Crafton was the last speaker. He said he got the idea for this after watching a news broadcast that mentioned the fact that a few members of California’s legislature do not speak English. Terrified that Nashville might one day have that same “problem”, he sprung into action, essentially to insure that all Board, Commission, and Council meetings be conducted in English. When pressed to answer if anyone, at any time, had offered up a bill in any other language in any other meeting, he actually told a story about him doing so (in Japanese). He was proving a point, he said. I sat there wondering why anyone who wanted a bill passed might do that, since, you know, no one could understand it, and would likely vote against it on those grounds alone…But after imploring the group to be pro-active about saving Nashville from “exotic languages”, he got to the core issue, at least in my mind. See, in the bill, there is a line that states rather clearly, that No Person Shall Have The Right To Govt Services in any other language than English. No one can “demand” that they be accommodated in their native tongue. If, he went on, Metro decided to do so, they still could, but he was protecting Metro from anyone demanding it. Again, as Moore pointed out, Federal law already pretty much demands it if your Dept accepts Federal money, and so roughly 97% of the various departments within the State would have to provide services anyway.
Interestingly, a young self described Conservative golf pro in attendance told me he came to be convinced either way, and that he felt unconvinced either way after the meeting. He is leaning against it, though, because he feels it is just a “big payday for the lawyers.”
Hes right. Its also a desperate attempt by the old guard to cling to power in a rapidly changing world. Its a obvious move by a term-limited politician to climb to the next rung on the backs of people he thinks can’t vote. (Though turn-out by registered- to -vote immigrants may be a nasty surprise for him)
The best thing I heard all day: An older guy sitting next to me told me that long ago, smack on the border of Davidson and Robertson Counties, was an old T.B. Sanitarium in which some enterprising person set up a casino. Apparently, when the Constable from Davidson County would raid the place, they just slid the tables over to the Robertson County side, and, vice versa when the Robertson County Constable conducted raids. That just made my day.
Also, they had the best damn chocolate chip cookies on the planet. I ate two of them.
* I have no idea, though, what that means, but it seems vaguely sexual and I still laugh when I see that episode.
** Ok, I made that part up.