Lawrence city commissioners will be asked to decide tonight whether Lawrence's upcoming 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day event is worthy of a larger city contribution.
At their 6:35 p.m. meeting, commissioners will be asked to more than triple their monetary support for the event. The city provided $1,400 in 2004 but is being asked to contribute $5,000 for next year's event, which is planned for Jan. 17.
The Rev. William Dulin, president of the Ecumenical Fellowship, which organizes the event, said the fact the celebration was in its 20th year prompted the group to try to boost its stature, which requires an increase in funding.
"We're trying to bring in some very high-quality speakers and that always costs money, and it seems to be costing more money all the time," Dulin said. "We're trying to keep the celebration of a quality the community will be proud of."
Dulin said the group had tentatively secured Terrence Roberts, one of nine black students who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., in 1957, to be keynote speaker.
Dulin said the group also would have a speaker for a Jan. 15 banquet. Dulin said the $5,000 was needed now to help pay speakers' fees that are due immediately. Dulin declined to disclose how much the speakers would be paid.
Mayor Mike Rundle said he supported the request.
"One of our goals is community-building, and this is an annual landmark event in Lawrence," Rundle said.
The Rev. Paul Winn Jr., another member of the Ecumenical Fellowship, said he hoped city commissioners would understand the event's importance.
"It has been a real blessing and an asset to the community," Winn said. "And with this being the 20th year, we want it to be an extra-nice celebration. We're just trying to make this one our best year yet."