State lawmakers concerned that Alamo redesign effort not transparent


Highlights

Members of the Senate Finance Committee grilled Commissioner George P. Bush during a hearing Tuesday.

Critics have said the General Land Office under Bush’s leadership has lacked transparency.

Bush, who is running for re-election next year, said his office is working within the confines of the law.

State lawmakers on Tuesday chastised Land Commissioner George P. Bush for not doing enough to involve the public in the redevelopment of the Alamo site.

“Everybody that’s here today sitting in front of you voted for legislation during the regular session that would have made … what you’re doing illegal,” Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, told Bush during a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, referring to a bill that didn’t pass. Also questioning Bush about transparency concerns were Sens. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio; Joan Huffman, R-Houston; and Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury.

Bush’s critics have said the General Land Office has bungled the multimillion-dollar project to redesign the area surrounding the 250-year-old mission as well as to renovate three nearby state-owned buildings for a museum and additional historical programming. Concerns center on suspicions that the 1836 battle will be diminished in a retelling of the edifice’s history (which Bush has denied) and on plans to move a cenotaph that honors those who died during the battle.

Redevelopment decisions have been made in closed-door meetings, and not all of the information about those decisions has been made available after public information requests, critics have chided.

In September, the Texas Republican Party’s executive committee passed a resolution critical of how Bush’s General Land Office was handling the redevelopment of the Alamo.

Bush acknowledged that meetings of the three nonprofits that were created to work with the land office on the Alamo project are not open to the public. When asked why by Huffman, Bush said the law doesn’t require the groups to meet in public.

Bush defended his actions to the committee, saying the project has been under budget so far and public feedback will be incorporated before certain elements of the master plan are executed. He said a glass wall that was part of the project has been removed from the master plan at the request of members of the public and said the cenotaph “will always stand.”

“This won’t be done overnight. As frustrating as it may be to some people, we have a process that has been drafted. It’s a political year, I know,” Bush said. “We’ll be here as long as we can to get this thing done.”

The land office has posted minutes from the private meetings of the nonprofits on SaveTheAlamo.com, not to be confused with SaveTheAlamo.us, the campaign website for Rick Range, a well-known figure among Alamo buffs in Texas who is running against Bush as land commissioner. Professional land surveyor Davey Edwards is also running to unseat Bush. Bush’s handling of the Alamo project has become the rallying cry against his re-election in 2018.

In 2015, Bush wrested control of the Alamo from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, accusing the group of mismanagement.

“I liked it when the daughters had it,” said Don P. Dixon, a San Antonio resident who was at the hearing Tuesday and whose late wife was a member of the group. “Everything was fine. Everything was open. They did an absolutely fabulous job of building (the Alamo) up from nothing to the most treasured site in Texas. I don’t like anything that he’s doing with his plan. It’s a mess of Texas proportions.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Community news: ACC hosts open house Saturday

TRAVIS COUNTY EAST AUSTIN ACC hosts open house Saturday Austin Community College’s Health Sciences Division will host an open house for those interested in exploring careers in health care from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Eastview campus, 3401 Webberville Road. Community members and prospective students can tour facilities, view demonstrations...
Man and woman seriously injured in East Austin stabbing
Man and woman seriously injured in East Austin stabbing

Update 11:30 p.m.: Three people were taken to a hospital for stab wounds on Sunday night. Police were conducting an investigation underneath and around the Pleasant Valley Road overpass near 7th Street in East Austin. A third person was also taken to Dell Seton Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries about an hour after two others were rushed...
Texas Digest: Baby hippo dies at Dallas Zoo

DALLAS Hippopotamus born at zoo exhibit dies The first hippopotamus born at a new Dallas Zoo exhibit has died. Zoo officials said a female hippo gave birth early Saturday to her first calf, but she did not help the newborn to the surface of the pool soon enough, The Dallas Morning News reported. Harrison Edell, the zoo’s vice president of animal...
DPS trooper is shot east of San Antonio
DPS trooper is shot east of San Antonio

A Department of Public Safety trooper was shot in eastern Bexar County while pursuing a suspect around 3:20 p.m. on Sunday, according to the San Antonio Express-News. The incident occurred near Interstate 10 and Graytown Road, SAEN reports, and a suspect may have been shot as well. The Express-News reports that San Antonio police and Bexar County deputies...
Third-graders in Missouri selling raffle tickets for AR-15 weapon
Third-graders in Missouri selling raffle tickets for AR-15 weapon

Selling raffle tickets to benefit an athletic team is not new, but having an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon as the prize is drawing heavy criticism in the wake of the shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 and injured dozens, The Kansas City Star reported. Third-graders in the southern Missouri city of Neosho were selling the tickets to...
More Stories