NAACP: No plans to relocate 2010 convention away from Kansas City

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Though NAACP members were critical of Frances Semler's appointment to the city's park board, the group still plans to hold its convention in Kansas City three years from now.

Mayor Mark Funkhouser's June appointment of Semler, a member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, to the park board drew criticism from both the National Council of La Raza and the NAACP. On Saturday, La Raza announced it is pulling its 2009 convention from Kansas City.

But the NAACP so far has kept its convention plans for Kansas City intact.

"It is our intent to come to Kansas City in 2010, pending a site visit," said Anita Russell, president of the group's Kansas City branch, who attended a meeting Friday with the NAACP's Convention Planning Committee.

Richard McIntire, a national NAACP spokesman, said the decision about the 2010 convention is not final.

La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy organization, had urged Funkhouser to remove Semler from the board or have her step down because of her affiliation with the Minuteman group, which opposes illegal immigration. Last week, La Raza said it would still hold its conference in Kansas City if Semler would at least cut ties to the Minuteman group.

Funkhouser and Semler rejected both requests, with Semler saying her political views have nothing to do with her service on the board.

Minuteman members have been known to post armed patrols on the Mexican border and picket construction sites where illegal immigrants may be working.

The Arizona-based organization maintains it simply wants U.S. immigration policies enforced.

Funkhouser has stood by Semler throughout the controversy. Spokesman Kendrick Blackwood said Monday that Funkhouser is "anxious to do what he can to ensure that the NAACP feels welcome." He said Funkhouser is committed to diversity, noting he also appointed two black members and one Hispanic member to the park board.

"We greatly appreciate the local NAACP leadership for staying committed to seeing the convention come to Kansas City," Blackwood said. "And the mayor does look forward to that site visit and does plan to use it to showcase our city."

Semler said it was "wonderful" that the NAACP was not pulling out of Kansas City.

"I am sure they will be welcome here," she said, while declining to comment more broadly on the controversy.

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