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.


At 9:12 PM, Blogger Danifesto said...

Wait. So now you have TWO blogs? I don't get that at all! Anyway your response was a good one. Probably wouldn't make good radio or even entertaining radio which they're all about anyway!

At 8:41 PM, Blogger Abogado David said...

Update for whomever still cares about this post:

Both National Council of La Raza and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) have since cancelled their conventions scheduled to be held in Kansas City, which will cost the local economy several million dollars in lost tourism revenue. Funkhouser still refused to budge on Semler, though, and subsequently made a few other missteps which hacked off the African American community too. This all culminated at a City Council meeting where, when the public had a chance for comment, the Funk was treated to a two hour dressing down by scores of community leaders and activists, one after the other. The upside to all of this is that his missteps have had the effect of uniting the African American and Latino communities which were previously somewhat divided.

Since then, however, Semler went ahead and resigned anyway after the Mayor was quoted as saying that in part, he needed her on the Park Board to maintain support from the Northland (an area north of downtown and the Missouri River which is predominantly white, but still within the city limits of KCMO). For this supposed "betrayal," Semler resigned via a public letter to the media, which included a tirade on the "organized invasion" of illegal immigrants. She now says she will dedicate herself to the efforts of the Minutemen.

A few weeks after that, the Minutemen had their first regional conference here in Kansas City, Kansas, supposedly as an act of solidarity for Semler. Their initial meeting was protested by a march of over 300 people. So much for Semler's desire not to be devisive.


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