July 2019 Newsletter

We trust that you are enjoying your summer. Unfortunately, there is a lot more heating us up than the weather. Here are some July events to consider attending as well as some other musings regarding issues we are closely watching from your NJSJ Roundtable Steering Committee.

UPCOMING EVENTS

At-Large Candidate Forum: On Wed., July 10, from 6-8 p.m. (doors open at 5:30) the League of Women Voters and the Lipscomb College of Leadership and Public Service are hosting a Metro Council-at-Large candidates forum in the Paul Rogers Room in Lipscomb’s Ezell Center. Following brief opening statements there will be an opportunity to meet and speak with each candidate in a “speed dating” format. The Davidson County Election Commission will also demonstrate the new voting machines to be used in the August 1 election. You can register for this event here.

Mayoral Forum: On Sun., July 14, NOAH (Nashville Organized for Action and Hope) will hold a Mayoral Forum from 3-5 p.m. at The Greater Bethel AME Church (1300 South Street). We suggest you arrive early to park and register. Candidates will be asked to answer questions about and commit to working on NOAH’s central issues: affordable housing, education, and economic equity and jobs.

YWCA Stand Against Racism Lunch and Learn: On Thurs., July 11, the YWCA is kicking off its summer Stand Against Racism Lunch & Learn programming with an opportunity to learn how race impacts health, wellness, and the access to healthcare for people of color and marginalized communities. Speakers will include representatives from the TN Justice Center, Nashville Cares, the Lentz Public Health Department, and Meharry Medical College. This event will be held at the YWCA (1608 Woodmont Blvd) from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. RSVP here.

TIRRC Votes: On Wed., July 17, TIRRC VOTES will hold an Election Campaign gathering at Acme Feed and Seed (101 Broadway) from 5:30-7:30 p.m. for Metro candidates supportive of our immigration community. TIRRC VOTES is a new organization that works to strengthen and expand the influence of our immigrant and refugee communities and advocate for equitable and inclusive public policy. RSVP for this event to Leah@TIRRCVotes.org. This will be an opportunity for you to learn more about the TIRRC Votes campaign to elect progressive, pro-immigrant candidates.

Walk The Talk On Voting Rights: On Wed., July 17, at 7 p.m., The Temple is hosting a panel on voting rights moderated by the Tennessean’s David Plazas. Speakers will include Steve Dickerson, TN State Senator: Tricia Hertzfeld, Davidson County Elections Commissioner; Debby Gould, President of Nashville’s League of Women Voters; and Tequila Johnson, The Equity Alliance. This promises to be an illuminating conversation on the protections, suppression and restoration of voting rights.


MUSINGS FROM THE ROUNDTABLE STEERING COMMITTEE

Another Election Day

As hard as it is to believe, we will soon be back in the voting booth. Early Voting begins on Fri., July 12, at the Howard Office Building (700 2nd Ave. S) and at all Early Voting sites on July 19. We will be voting for Mayor, Vice Mayor, At-Large District and District Councilmembers. This is an extremely important election, as those we select for office will all be elected for four-year terms.

Nashville is at an important juncture. Our current and seemingly unabated rise is exciting and contagious. Testament to our growing vitality is the healthy tourism business, an influx of new corporate headquarters, a skyline filled with cranes, seemingly endless announcements of new projects and an influx of new residents. Beneath this glow, however, remain the nagging economic uncertainty and growing concerns of working families, many bordering on or in poverty, who struggle to afford living in our city. Coupled with this uncertainty are significant problems including a distressed city budget, increased income disparity, the need for affordable housing, improving our public schools, addressing our transportation woes, safety in our community and more. We need to elect candidates skilled to take on these problems and guide our city in the vision we have for it. Please be sure to vote … and encourage others to do the same.

For a more intimate look at candidates for Mayor and at At-Large Council seats, check David Plazas excellent interviews with each.

Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Rears Its Head.

Vitriolic messages were recently sent to Zulfat Suara, a candidate for Metro-Council-At-Large accusing her of bringing Sharia Law to our city, threatening her personally and telling her Muslims were not welcome in Nashville. In a published letter to the Editor of the Tennessean, Roundtable Co-chairs, on behalf of our organization, expressed our dismay.

Once again, the ugliness of intolerance has reared its head with vitriolic messaging being sent to Council-At-Large candidate Zulfat Suara. On behalf of The Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable we condemn those who have recently communicated their disdain in the most inappropriate language for a candidate who has chosen to run for elected office because she is a Muslim woman. We have not witnessed such unwelcome and misguided commentary since the Metro Council considered “English Only” legislation a decade ago. It is something we had hoped never to witness again in this community. Zulfat Suara is a highly qualified, highly educated, and socially committed candidate for public office. If elected we have confidence that she would serve all of Nashville with great distinction. While many of the voices of prejudice are coming from outside of Nashville, they are echoed by far too many who live here. These voices have no place in the election landscape of a democratic society. 
– Avi Poster and Irwin Venick, Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable

Situation at our Borders

The Administration has declared war on undocumented immigrants entering our country or residing here. Those entering, including those seeking asylum, are being detained under deplorable conditions. Those living here are being threatened with roundups and deportation, and extremely heavy fines for not leaving. The Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable will continue to denounce the inhumane conditions at immigration detention centers and border holding facilities along the Southern border, which, according to the American Bar Association, violate federal law and “common decency.” We will continue to urge the federal government to end the detention of vulnerable immigrants, end the “zero tolerance” family separation policy and the denial of due process to those in custody seeking our protection. We call for the release of those who pose no risk to the community and the improvement of detention conditions.

Asylum

Asylum is a legal protection granted to people fleeing persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. An asylum seeker is someone who has applied for protection, but has not yet received any legal recognition or status. We recommend viewing an excellent HIAS video explaining the American Asylum system. The right to seek asylum is guaranteed under U.S. and international law. However, the issue has become highly politicized in recent years and today asylum seekers who present themselves at a port of entry may be detained or turned away.

Census Question

The Supreme Court said “No”. The 2020 Census is being printed without it. And yet President Trump is insisting his Administration will find a way to ask on the census, for the first time in decades: Are you a citizen? Why this citizenship question is a big deal: Because it could scare off some in immigrant communities from participating in the census. Immigrant communities tend to be in cities in Democratic areas. So when politicians redraw electoral maps based on this new census data, those populations could be undercounted and thus underrepresented in state legislatures and in Congress. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 split decision that while the Administration has broad authority to ask what it wants on the census, it didn’t have a solid reason for asking this. The Administration is working hard to sidestep this decision to include a citizenship question, even considering an Executive Order to make it happen. We will monitor this closely and let you know if there are any action steps to take.

Human Needs

The Jewish Federations of North America joined 256 organizations representing millions nationwide in urging Congress to lift budget caps so that we do not turn our backs on providing vital services to our most vulnerable. The groups, representing faith organizations, human service providers, and those concerned about needs including health care, housing, nutrition, environmental safety, education, child care and more, called upon Congress to set domestic and international spending for FY 2020 at levels no less than the House totals. The House agreed on a FY 2020 cap for appropriations of $631 billion for programs other than Defense, and placed additional funds for programs including the 2020 Census outside the budget cap. “Unless Congress and the President agree to change the law by lifting rigid limits on spending, critical needs for housing, education, child care and public health and safety will face cuts we can ill afford,” said Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs. “The House has set spending levels that allow for more children, workers, families and seniors to get the help they need and to prevent painful steps backward. The Senate should agree on no less, and President Trump should sign such legislation without delay.” If current budget law is not changed, domestic programs will face cuts of about 10 percent in the fiscal year that begins October 1.

Block Grants

Despite vocal opposition from many individuals and organizations, including our Roundtable, Tennessee lawmakers passed legislation this year which could make Tennessee the first state to transform its Medicaid program to a block grant system. Proponents argue that doing so gives states more control over their health programs. Unfortunately, this legislation will be devastating for Tennessee’s already struggling rural hospitals and could further damage Nashville’s health care industry if other states follow suit. The bill passed largely along party lines by a vote of 26 to 6 the Senate, and a vote of 63 to 19 in the House.


And for a bit of good news, a hearty mazel tov goes out to the American Women’s Soccer team that won this year’s World Cup!