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Hayes cited an early September poll on the Star's Web site in which nearly 80 percent (of more than 650 people who chose to participate) said Semler should not resign from the parks board.
When Hayes finished, he introduced Richard Fatherly, a retired broadcaster who is the group's media liaison. In his authoritative radio voice, Fatherly urged the group to write letters of support to the mayor, lauding his appointment and retention of Semler.
Fatherly read from his own letter to Funkhouser. "Mrs. Semler is an asset to your administration in bringing back the luster to Kansas City's quality of life," he boomed. "I get the feeling that you've seen through the ruse of the La Rrrrrrrraza" — he paused, moving his arm with a salsa dancer's flourish and waiting for the group's laughter to subside — "attempt to muscle in on Kansas City's tourism and convention business."
From the back row, local Minuteman Rod Will, who runs a small trucking business, had another idea for dealing with City Hall. Though Funkhouser might deserve praise, he said, City Council members such as Beth Gottstein, who pushed for Semler's removal, should be reprimanded.
"Why don't we take it to the next level? Let's do this recall," Will suggested. "I don't want anyone to represent me who believes in open borders, who believes in standing with people that say they want to take my jobs, my homes and so forth."
The idea drew little enthusiasm. The group was getting ready to picket a construction site in southern Overland Park where, demonstration organizer Thompson said, contractors had hired undocumented workers. Will volunteered that he operates his own personal picket every day. The sides of his trucks are plastered with messages such as: "Attention Illegal Aliens. America Doesn't Need or Want You. Leave My Country."
Minutes before the end of the meeting, with the group buzzing over shared stories of harassment from passers-by who disliked their anti-illegal-immigration bumper stickers, Semler stood up. She thanked everyone for their support. The man in the back row piped up again.
"You plan on standing tall for us, right?" Will asked. "You don't plan on stepping down, do you?"
"No," Semler said. "Absolutely not."