Texas GOP raises ques­tions about Ge­orge P. Bush’s Alamo stew­ard­ship

Repub­li­can lead­ers say restora­tion should fo­cus more on 1836 bat­tle.

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - METRO & STATE - By Jonathan Tilove

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.

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 Co.

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.

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.

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