Friday, June 15, 2007

9. Here goes a slippery slope...

This just in from the Kansas City Star 6/15/07 Pg. A-1:

"The Kansas City Council registered its disapproval Thursday with Frances Semler’s controversial appointment to the parks board, but Mayor Mark Funkhouser is not backing down. In a highly unusual move, the council voted 9-3 to urge Semler to resign, or if she refuses to do so within a week, to ask the mayor to recommend her removal. She has been the target of criticism because of her involvement with the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a group that opposes illegal immigration but that some view as a violent vigilante hate group.
The council resolution was a symbolic rebuke of one of Funkhouser’s first major acts as mayor, but it is not binding. A parks board commissioner can only be removed by the council upon the mayor’s recommendation.
Funkhouser said he would listen carefully to the divergent views on Semler “and do what my judgment tells me to do.”
Earlier, Funkhouser acknowledged that Semler offered to resign, but he rejected her offer.
“I told her to hang in there,” Funkhouser said, amid a growing clamor to drop her.
Semler said Thursday she was disappointed by the council’s action and was frustrated by the controversy.
“My main focus is the inner city. This is summer, and we need to give kids something to do,” Semler said. “I don’t want to be divisive. I want this to go away.”
Semler’s appointment to the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners has caused outrage within the Hispanic, black and Jewish communities because of her membership in the Minuteman group...."

Of course, this was ALL over the conservative radio talk shows here in town, basically bashing those protesting the appointment and calling it no big deal. Besides, why should anyone have a problem with a public official being part of a group that advocates enforcement of our immigration laws? I could have called in, but instead I e-mailed the following response:

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently published a list of what it determined to be 144 "nativist extremist" organizations across 39 states, meaning groups that target individual immigrants rather than immigration policies. For the state of Kansas, it lists three (3) such groups:

1. Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, Emporia
2. Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, Kansas City
3. Minuteman Civil Defesne Corps, Wichita


There can be many good faith disagreements over what the best immigration policy should be. However, groups like the Minutemen are not mainstream civic organizations. These groups are trying to justify policy that is bad for all Americans by attacking and villifying a group of 12 million people, even though most haven't even met or spoken to any of them. The appointment of a member of the Minuteman is troubling, as it reflects a move to gradually get members of hate and extremist groups into civic positions of power. The KCMO Park Board may not be much of a position of power, but one has to wonder: What exactly is it that Mark Funkhouser is defending here? Would it be different if the appointee were a member of a more recognized hate group, such as the Aryan Nation, but was otherwise "competent?" What about a member of an anti-Semitic group who is otherwise nice around everybody else? What about a member of a group that supports Hamas or Hezbollah?

This is not an issue of free speech or free association. This is a democracy and we elect officials who sometimes appoint other officials. The electorate gets to voice its opinion over the appointments made by elected officials. Mayor Funkhouser simply needs to clarify whether this appointment reflects his beliefs or just a lapse in judgment.

Those of us who find the establishment of such a group in our city appalling certainly have the right to express how unacceptable we find having such a person in public office. And if we don't take a stand, we've seen where this leads.