La Raza Threatens To Cancel Convention In KC, Cites Controversial Park Board Appointee

DeAnn Smith, Kansas City Star, August 30, 2007

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The head of the National Council of La Raza said Thursday that the organization is already looking at several other cities because of the appointment of Frances Semler.

Meanwhile, Kansas City officials have heard that the NAACP might be reconsidering its 2010 convention here, although no one on Thursday said they had heard directly from the national organization.

Losing the two national conventions would cost the local economy $15 million plus the incalculable hit the city’s image would take, said officials, who added that they are working hard to prevent it.

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Semler is a member of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps and has taken a strong stance against illegal immigration and has suggested a moratorium on legal immigration.

[Janet] Murguía [head of the Washington-based La Raza] said she told Funkhouser in a telephone conversation last week that the conference all but certainly will go elsewhere if Semler doesn’t step down.

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La Raza would have to pay the city as much as $70,000 for failing to meet its hotel-room guarantee if it pulled out of Kansas City prematurely, she said.

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Murguía said concerns by local affiliates and a July 16 article in the Wall Street Journal on Semler’s appointment fueled the reconsideration decision. She said she has been in discussions with national NAACP leaders and she said they have the same concerns.

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La Raza fills more than 5,000 hotel rooms for its annual conventions and the economic benefit of recent conventions has ranged from $5 million to $7 million, said Murguía, a native of Kansas City, Kan.

Rick Hughes, head of the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association, said a meeting Thursday with Murguía went well and he is hopeful that La Raza’s concerns about Kansas City can be addressed. He said he has not heard from anyone with the NAACP about its concerns.

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City Council members said they have not heard directly from the national NAACP but understood from local members that the NAACP concerns are partly due to the Semler appointment. Other concerns, they understand, are that no minority-owned businesses have been signed up for the city-backed downtown entertainment district and that Funkhouser has tapped few minorities to key positions.

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