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

FORECAST: Small chance of rain, temps in the high 80s across Central Texas
FORECAST: Small chance of rain, temps in the high 80s across Central Texas

Monday forecast for Austin: After storms on Sunday dropped more than an inch of rain in many parts of Austin and Travis County, the region still has a 30 percent chance of getting soaked again on Monday, the National Weather Service said.  The city’s temperature will hit 88 degrees on Monday, with light east-southeast winds at 5 mph under...
Pedestrian killed, struck by 18-wheeler on I-35 North near U.S. 290
Pedestrian killed, struck by 18-wheeler on I-35 North near U.S. 290

7:35 a.m. update: All northbound lanes of Interstate 35 near U.S. 290 have reopened following a collision that left one pedestrian dead early Monday, transportation officials said. However, “big delays remain” in the area, officials with the Texas Department of Transportation said. Earlier: A pedestrian trying...
Three arrested workers identified in Travis Tax Office fraud case
Three arrested workers identified in Travis Tax Office fraud case

Three employees of the Travis County Tax Office who were arrested Friday amid a fraud investigation are charged with third-degree felonies, according to jail records. Shell Prieto-Reese, 43, and Cathy Wilson, 57, are each charged with engaging in organized criminal activity and forgery, and each have bail posted at $50,000. Susie Alvarez, 43, is charged...
Chance of storms again Monday, but rest of week looks clear
Chance of storms again Monday, but rest of week looks clear

There’s a slight chance the Austin area could see more thunderstorms again Monday, but forecasters say weather for the rest of the week will look nothing like it did Sunday. The weekend wrapped up with showers and thunderstorms developing throughout the day Sunday and a warning that rain levels could reach 5 inches in parts of Travis County....
SANTA FE SCHOOL SHOOTING: Dan Patrick renews call to arm more teachers
SANTA FE SCHOOL SHOOTING: Dan Patrick renews call to arm more teachers

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Sunday blamed the Santa Fe High School shooting on “a violent culture where we devalue life,” citing movies and video games, bullying on social media, and abortion. He called for arming teachers as part of the militia envisioned by the Second Amendment. Patrick’s remarks on ABC’s “This Week&rdquo...
More Stories