State GOP raises concerns over George P. Bush’s Alamo stewardship

7:33 p.m Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 Texas News & Politics
Ralph Barrera
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush is overseeing redevelopment of the area surrounding the Alamo historic site in San Antonio.

Texas Republican Party leaders expressed concern Saturday that Land Commissioner George P. Bush’s leadership of the effort to restore and “reimagine” the Alamo is lacking in transparency and a singular focus on the 1836 battle that makes the historic site in downtown San Antonio the most sacred shrine in Texas.

In a 57-1 vote, the Texas State Republican Executive Committee voted to call on Bush and the General Land Office to keep the Battle of the Alamo its central focus in redeveloping the site and to require that nonprofits that are joining in the effort comply with public records laws.

“The Alamo’s been more than the battle, but the battle has to be front and center and we have to remember the Alamo,” said Jeremy Blosser of Arlington, the committee member from Senate District 10 in Tarrant County.

A multimillion-dollar plan to restore the 250-year-old mission and renovate three nearby state-owned buildings to serve as a museum is in the early stages.

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The resolution states that, “Whereas there are forces at work to remake or `Reimagine’ the history of the Alamo and diminish its inspiring message while the property around it undergoes renovation to increase profit from tourism … be it resolved that decision-making authorities shall affirm and emphasize the intrinsic significance of the 1836 battle in telling the story of the Alamo.”

Writing in the Rivard Report in June, Jerry Patterson, Bush’s predecessor as land commissioner and a fellow Republican, wrote, “When asked, `Why not restore the Alamo to its 1836 appearance?’ the answer from the Alamo chief planner, George Skarmeas, was always, `The events of 1836 were just one small chapter in 10,000 years of history.’”

“That’s just absurd. The Alamo exists today solely because of what happened in 1836,” Patterson wrote. “Absent the siege of the Alamo, there would likely be a parking lot or high rise, instead of the iconic symbol of not just Texas liberty, but liberty everywhere.”

The resolution also “asks that the Texas General Land Office voluntarily commit to transparency in finances and operations of the Alamo, including the open records requests for information from nonprofit corporations engaged in the restoration and operation of the Alamo.”

Bush sent a statement to the Republican Executive Committee saying his office had been responsive to open records requests but that there are private partners who are not subject to those requirements. That would include the Alamo Endowment, which Bush reconstituted when he took office in 2015 and which he chairs, and the Alamo Complex Management Company.

When he testified before a House subcommittee in February, Bush indicated that those nonprofits would comply with open records and open meetings laws.

Blosser said that Bush’s assertion that they are not required to be compliant is not satisfactory and that Bush ought to “voluntarily make that happen.”

“The FOIA is not there so people can ask for information from their government and hear, `Oh, we don’t have to give you that because it’s a private partnership,’” Blosser said.

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The resolution also affirms “that Texas’ authority regarding the Alamo shall not be infringed upon by any organization or authority, including but not limited to local governments, the federal government, the United Nations, or UNESCO.”

The Republican Executive Committee also passed a resolution Saturday stating that it expects Republican House candidates in 2018 to indicate to Republican primary voters whether they will support the Republican speaker candidate who wins the majority of the votes in the House Republican Caucus.

And the Republican Executive Committee passed a resolution supporting the preservation of Texas historical sites, “so that free-thinking individuals can understand and judge the past by their own standards.”

The resolution described the Republican Party of Texas as “founded during Reconstruction by African-American and Anglo Texans,” and as “wholeheartedly dedicated to the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King,” while depicting the Democratic Party as the party of Jim Crow, the KKK and, “to the present day,” the party that pits “Americans against each other based on race and ethnicity.”

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