A major convention is coming to Kansas City in 2015. This comes after the organization made national headlines for pulling a convention to protest a mayoral appointment.
Mayor Sly James met with officials with the National Council of La Raza on Monday to announce their annual National Latino Family Expo location would be held in Kansas City.
A new mayor meant a second chance for Kansas City after the National Council of La Raza pulled its annual conference from the Heartland six years ago.
Janet Murguía, president and chief executive officer of La Raza, says the Latin advocacy organization is ready to move forward in a positive light by bringing the national conference to Kansas City.
In 2007, La Raza yanked its 2009 conference from Kansas City because of anti-immigration sentiment from some political leaders at the time. This was after then-Mayor Mark Funkhouser appointed a woman that Latinos believed was racist and supported the Minuteman organization. Despite an unprecedented move by the council urging Frances Semler to resign and Funkhouser to remove her, the mayor repeatedly refused calls to do so.
Semler denied the allegations and said she was not racist, but she later quit the Kansas City Parks Board after a disagreement with Funkhouser.
The conference is expected to bring in tens of thousands of Hispanic businesses, educators and advocates in a three-day expo.
John Fierro, president of the Mattie Rhodes Center, said he hopes the conference will be an economic boom for Kansas City and an opportunity to showcase Kansas City to thousands.
Fierro was president of the parks board when the Semler controversy broke, and some Hispanic leaders felt he didn't push Funkhouser hard enough to remove Semler. Fierro appeared with Funkhouser at a news conference to say he had spoken with Semler and supported working with her.
The brouhaha made national headlines and put Kansas City and its then-mayor in the spotlight.
Monday was about moving forward, Fierro and others said.
"We have a lot of work to focus on from education to cultivating business," he said. "We don't have time to look back."
Murguía, a native of Kansas City, KS, concurred.
"As far as I am concerned, we have moved on," she said. "This issue is a blip on the radar and we want to make sure we're going to showcase all the positive elements of what I know to be true of our hometown region here in Kansas City."
The conference is estimated to bring at least $5 million to the local economy. It will provide local organizations like the Mattie Rhodes center a chance to network with other nonprofit organizations serving Latinos across the country.
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