In what could be a landmark event — and a constitutional test — some voters in Tennessee will go to the polls to decide if county government can institute English-only policies. And business leaders there are against the proposal. The vote is scheduled to take place January 22, when residents cast ballots on a referendum mandating that Davidson County employees and officials would have to use only English when communicating with one another and the public. Some officials say they’ll carve out exceptions for emergency situations, such as those involving police, fire or medical personnel. The city of Nashville is within county boundaries.
In an interesting twist, business leaders and Nashville’s mayor have come out strongly against the proposal, for at least two reasons:
- The county in recent years has managed to convince some foreign-owned companies such as Nissan to move in and hire residents. Business leaders fear that foreign owners will take the vote as a sign that they’re not welcome.
- The county also has a fair number of low-wage jobs that have been filled by legal immigrants who lack English proficiency. The mayor and employers are concerned that immigrants will work elsewhere if forced to communicate solely in English.
The Nashville Metro Council passed a version of an English-only bill in 2007, but the mayor vetoed it — leading to a drive to put the matter to a public vote.
Here are two local views on the measure, one for and one against.
What do you think? Take our poll at the right and let us know.