Kansas City, Mo. The nation's largest Hispanic civil rights organization is warning it may move its 2009 convention from Kansas City because of a controversial city park board member.
The National Council of La Raza is already looking at other cities after the appointment of Frances Semler, an anti-illegal immigration activist, said Janet MurguÃ-a, La Raza's president.
City councilmembers have also heard concerns from members of the NAACP, which is expected to hold its 2010 convention in Kansas City. The city hasn't heard directly from officials of the national organization.
Losing two national conventions could hurt the city's image and cost the local economy about $15 million, city officials said.
"Hopefully we can work it out," said City Councilwoman Melba Curls.
Mayor Mark Funkhouser appointed Semler to the Parks and Recreation Board of Commissioners in June, causing a stir in the local Hispanic community. Semler is a member of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps and has taken a strong stance against illegal immigration and suggested a moratorium on legal immigration.
MurguÃ-a told Funkhouser in a telephone conversation last week that the conference will be held elsewhere if Semler doesn't step down.
"It is very troubling that we would be in a position to reconsider but in fact we are," MurguÃ-a said during a trip to Kansas City.
To make the move, La Raza would have to pay the city as much as $70,000 for failing to meet its hotel-room guarantee, she said.
MurguÃ-a said she has been in discussions with leaders from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who she says have the same concerns.
The six-day NAACP convention would bring more than 10,000 people with an expected economic impact of $9 million.
La Raza fills more than 5,000 hotel rooms for its annual conventions with the economic benefit of recent conventions ranging from $5 million to $7 million, said MurguÃ-a, a native of Kansas City, Kan.
This year's convention in Miami attracted 2008 presidential hopefuls New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama as well as the Rev. Al Sharpton and Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott to speak.
Rick Hughes, head of the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association, said a meeting Thursday with MurguÃ-a went well and he is hopeful that La Raza's concerns about Kansas City can be addressed.
"We still have it (La Raza convention) very much in our pocket and we all want to work toward a good, amicable solution," he said. "These are two critically important groups and we want to keep them on the ground with us."