Bud Norris' Language Barrier

Why Mount Vernon's mayor has a problem with Spanish.

Mount Vernon Mayor Bud Norris says that the reason he opposes a liquor license for a new downtown restaurant called Calle Tacos Tequila is because the location has a long history of crime. But police records, Norris' very public stance against the Spanish language, and a political donation from a potential competitor suggest el jefe is actually just looking out for numero uno. The original story was broken by the Skagit Valley Herald last Wednesday, reporting that local Latinos were up in arms over Norris' seeming opposition to all things Hispanic. Before he wrote a letter to the Washington State Liquor Control Board siding against Calle, whose owners, two brothers, had hoped to open in September, Norris wrote a strikingly similar note last November against another restaurant proposed by a Hispanic couple. This despite the mayor's approval of a liquor license for a new Asian eatery—one just a block away from Calle's intended location. What's more, in the past year Norris has come out against Mount Vernon's use of the Spanish language for any city services, and said he wants English declared the town's "official language," which is, officially, a stupidly redundant non-issue. In his quest to ensure local citizens never confuse Mount Vernon with Monterrey, Norris forced the city library to take down a sign that said "biblioteca" because he said it would mean that other signs would need Spanish translations as well. He also may have ordered (he claims not to remember) the city's automatic telephone system to drop any Spanish translations. As for the future taco restaurant's alleged crime problem, that too appears to be a load of mierda. Defending his stance to the Herald, Norris said that "too many 911 calls have been made from that location." Yet the Mount Vernon Police Department's own data says differently, while also implicating one of Norris' biggest donors. Since 2000, police have responded to 16 calls at 517 S. First St., Calle's proposed location. Conversely, police have responded to 471 incidents at Draft Pic's, the apparently brawly sports bar that happens to be directly across the street. Asked about the difference between his earlier claims and the conflicting information from police, Norris pulled out a tape measure. "Draft Pic's is in a much larger building," he said, employing the rarely used "square footage" defense to explain why the bar seems to have the cops on speed dial. What Norris failed to mention, however, is that Lawrence and Lance Pirkle, Draft Pic's owners, were some of his top contributors in 2007, the most recent time he ran for office. According to campaign contributions analyzed by Seattle Weekly, Lawrence Pirkle gave Norris $500, while Lance pitched in a C-note. Those amounts may not seem overwhelming, but in the world of small-town mayoral races, they can go a long way. And if that $600 donation keeps a certain kind of competitor out of Draft Pic's hair, it will have gone a very long way for the Pirkles. As for Norris, neither he nor his benefactors returned our calls. So for the moment we'll just have to assume they've got sin comentarios.

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