Sunday, October 21, 2007
Hispanic group pulls conference from KC.
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—A national Hispanic civil rights organization said Saturday it is pulling its 2009 convention from Kansas City because a member of a group opposed to illegal immigration was appointed to the city's park board.
The National Council of La Raza said its board came to the decision unanimously after being unable to reach an agreement with Mayor Mark Funkhouser over his appointment in June of Frances Semler, a member of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps.
"Our decision is a clear expression of support for Kansas City's Hispanic community," said board chairwoman Monica Lozano. "An active member of the Minutemen should not be an official representative for a city that purports to believe in diversity."
La Raza officials consider the Minutemen—known for posting sometimes-armed patrols on the Mexican border and picketing construction sites where illegal immigrants may be working—hostile to Hispanics. The Arizona-based organization maintains it simply wants U.S. immigration policies enforced.
Funkhouser, who has stood by Semler throughout the controversy, said Saturday he was disappointed with La Raza's decision.
"We worked awfully hard to try to work out a compromise so they would come," he said in a statement.
Losing the 2009 convention is expected to cost the Kansas City economy an estimated $5 million to $7 million in revenue. It will also be costly for La Raza, which must pay area hotels $75,000 for not
filling reserved blocks of hotel rooms.
Funkhouser met Friday with local Hispanic leaders and a federal mediator to try to resolve the issue. Funkhouser and Rita Valenciano, of the Coalition of Hispanic Organizations, said both sides had agreed not to discuss the session or La Raza's decision.
Officials of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had also threatened to cancel their 2010 convention planned for Kansas City. Doing so would cost the city an estimated $9 million in lost sales.
NAACP officials said they would consider La Raza's decision in their own deliberations.