Monday, November 20, 2006

Nashville Chamber: latest voice questioning Metro Council's international bans

City's reputation at risk

The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce has joined the chorus of voices questioning the wisdom of three bans that are currently pending before the Metro Council - a language ban, a landlord ban, and an employer ban - all relating to internationals living in Nashville (column published by The Tennessean here). The three pieces of legislation are up for a vote Tuesday night. The three bans are the latest in a series of legislative proposals from the Council that would have an adverse effect on internationals. The previous bans considered by the Council were a sidewalk ban and a taco ban.

Michael A. Carter, vice chairman of small business for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, is quoted as saying that the new bans "will damage Nashville's international reputation as an open, inclusive and increasingly diverse community." Carter further points out that "[t]he Nashville region is increasingly competing for economic recruitment in the international arena, and, collectively, the proposed ordinances send a negative and unwelcoming message to relocating companies, particularly international companies that employ large numbers of foreign-born populations."

A lot of newsprint has been spent on the language ban. Various letter writers expressed their opposition to the language ban in this article and also in this article. Yuri Cunza, president of the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (not the same as the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce), penned this column opposing the language ban. An editorial earlier this year in support of language respect was written by Virginia Scott and is here. Translation for internationals in transition has been applauded by both the Nashville City Paper and The Tennessean. (The Tennessean's editorial on the wisdom of the landlord ban is here.)

English-learning is thriving in Tennessee, as are efforts to reach out to non-English speakers, as indicated by this article in September 2006 about Volunteer State Community College's efforts to assist non-English speakers with their transitions; this article in September 2006 about the Marshall County Library's refusal to impose a language ban on its collection; this report in June 2006 about Nashville public schools' success in converting English learners to English-speakers; this story in May 2006 about legal rights forums directed at Spanish-speaking immigrants, sponsored by the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Tennessee Human Rights Commission; this story in March 2006 about Metro Schools Director Pedro Garcia's reaching out in Spanish to Hispanic parents; this article in December 2005 about the efforts of Middle Tennessee YMCA and Girl Scout programs to integrate Hispanic and bilingual students; this story in October 2005 about Senator Lamar Alexander's proposal to offer a $500 credit and other incentives for prospective citizens to learn English;
the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary's discipline of a Middle Tennessee judge in September 2005 for improperly conditioning a mother's custory rights on her ability to speak English (story here); this story in July 2005 about Metro Police's use of volunteer interpreters; and this story in June 2005 about Cracker Barrel's English-learning programs for employees.

More background on the status of the language ban is available in this previous article on the Hispanic Nashville Notebook.

Nashville ranks 47th nationwide in linguistic diversity (story here).

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