Mayor Karl Dean has a message for state lawmakers: Don’t do anything on immigration that could make Nashville look like an unfriendly place.
During a speech to the Rotary Club of Nashville on Monday, Dean highlighted Arizona’s controversial new immigration law, which he said has hurt tourism there. The law seeks to identify and deport illegal immigrants.
According to Dean, a new report suggests Arizona has already suffered more than $250 million in economic losses as a result of the new law, which he said is largely because of a boycott from the convention and tourism industry.
“I’m not here to tell state senators and representatives what to do,” Dean said. “But, I’m asking them, as mayor of Nashville, not to do anything that would put our city and our state at a competitive disadvantage.
“Being a diverse city — a city that is perceived as a friendly, welcoming place — is key to business recruitment,” Dean added. “Our hospitality industry and [the] success of our colleges and universities depend upon it. We need to be serious right now about jobs, prosperity and education. We can’t do that and tie our hands by creating a global reputation as an unwelcoming, unfriendly state.”
Dean, who said he believes Gov.-elect Bill Haslam has “great potential,” referenced the new $585 million Music City Center convention facility set to open south of Broadway in February 2013.
“This is not about politics,” he said. “It’s not about parties. It’s about what’s doing right and what’s in the best interest of our city’s economy.”
When asked after the speech if he is telling state lawmakers not to adopt a law similar to Arizona’s, Dean stopped short of saying that’s his intent.
“I’m just asking them that when they’re having these discussions — if they have these discussions — that they seek the opinion and bear in mind what needs to be done to protect the economy of specifically Nashville, Tenn., and I think also the rest of the state,” Dean responded.