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English Only



By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising

July 2, 2008


Supporters of a Metro Charter amendment making English the official language of the City of Nashville may be closer than they (or anyone else) may think to qualifying their proposal to be on the November ballot.

It takes the signatures of 10% of the registered voters, based on the last general election, to put the amendment up for a vote. Today, if the petitions were submitted, that number would be just over 10,000 based on last year's mayoral race. But next month, after the August 7 election, that number is likely to be significantly lower.

Part of the August ballot includes general elections for the Assessor of Property, two judicial seats and five of the nine Metro school board seats.  A couple of the School Board races will generate some turnout (in their parts of town) but none of the other races will attract many voters because they are unopposed contests.

So you can probably expect an overall turnout of something like 50,000 to maybe 60,000 voters (or even less) and that means those pushing the English-only amendment may be very close to already having the signatures they need to put them over the top. Leaders of the petition drive have already said they thought they had about half of what they needed. But that was based on 10,000-plus number. So they were planning more direct mail efforts to get the signatures they need. Now, they can likely save some postage and the heat will be on the "good government" and other groups in town to rally together to try and beat this English-only effort. Right now, that looks pretty hard to do, especially with the huge voter turnout expected at the polls in November with the presidential race on the ballot.

Everyone knows I think the English-only proposal is a mean-spirited and likely illegal proposal. It will force this city in defending numerous lawsuits and hurt Nashville's image as a friendly community that's a good place for everyone (regardless of what language they speak) to live and visit. I also think it's time to change the law that allows just a few thousand voters to impose "government by referendum." I am not saying get rid of the right to change the Metro Charter by petition. I am saying make the amount of signatures required more consistent (and higher). Perhaps it ought to always be 10% of voters who cast ballots in the last presidential race. That's always a high number and allows only the most important matters (as shown by the number of signatures on a petition) to be voted on, not just whatever hot-button issue or publicity stunt some elected official or community group is all stirred up about.

NewsChannel 5 thanks Pat Nolan for providing this column every week. Mr. Nolan's commentary reflects his own opinions, not those of the NewsChannel 5 Network.  Comments about Capitol View should be sent to Pat Nolan directly via email at pat.nolan@dvl.com .

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