Nashville, TN Opposing a English-only Charter Amendment
Status: Adopted on 8/7/08
Vote: In Favor - 25 Opposed - 8 Abstain - 2 Absent - 5
RESOLUTION NO. RS2008-402
A resolution requesting the citizens of Nashville and Davidson County not to sign the English-only Charter amendment petition cards and not to support it if placed on the ballot.
WHEREAS, a petition drive is currently underway to place a proposed amendment to the Metropolitan Charter on the November 2008 ballot to designate English as the official language of the Metropolitan Government and to require that government services and official communications be provided only in English; and
WHEREAS, in February 2007, former Mayor Bill Purcell vetoed Substitute Ordinance No. BL2006-1185, which would have declared English as the official language of the Metropolitan Government, and would have required that all government communications, publications and telephone answering systems be in English, except when required by federal law or when necessary to protect or promote public health, safety or welfare; and
WHEREAS, in his veto message to the Council dated February 12, 2007, Mayor Purcell referenced an opinion of the Metropolitan Department of Law that Ordinance No. BL2006-1185 was unconstitutional; and
WHEREAS, unlike the language contained in Substitute Ordinance No. BL2006-1185, the proposed ballot language contains no exception for public health, safety or welfare, which makes the ballot measure more likely to be found by the courts to be unconstitutional; and
WHEREAS, English is the common and unifying language of the United States of America, and is already the official and legal language of Tennessee; and
WHEREAS, English acquisition among new immigrants and refugees is a critical factor in their ability to obtain gainful employment, participate fully in the community, integrate successfully into American society, and qualify for United States citizenship; and
WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County conducted an Immigrant Community Assessment in 2003 (contract #14830) "to gauge the adjustment of immigrants in the Nashville-Davidson county area," finding that roughly one-third of Nashville's foreign-born residents are "linguistically isolated," and making several recommendations to improve integration, which included:
- 1. "Increasing English-language instructional opportunities that are offered during non-working hours."
- 2. "Offering more English-language instruction at proficiency levels higher than the elementary level."
- 3. "Increasing the supply of bilingual emergency-service receptionists and providers".;
WHEREAS, an "English Only" Charter amendment would further reduce government services for limited English proficient (LEP) individuals, with a potentially detrimental impact on those who are already linguistically isolated; and
WHEREAS, in addition, such a Charter amendment sends a message to prospective individuals and organizations seeking to locate in Nashville that we do not value diversity in our community; and
WHEREAS, defending a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the English Only Charter amendment would cost the taxpayers of Davidson County hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time when Metropolitan Government employees are being laid off and services are being reduced due to the substantial strain on government resources; and
WHEREAS, it is in the best interest of the taxpayers of the Metropolitan Government that this proposed Charter amendment not be placed on the November ballot.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY:
Section 1. That the Metropolitan County Council hereby goes on record as requesting the citizens of Nashville and Davidson County not to sign the English-only Charter amendment petition cards, nor support the measure at the November 2008 election in the event it appears on the ballot.
Section 2. This Resolution shall take effect from and after its adoption, the welfare of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County requiring it.