Today we of the Save The Alamo Committee want to announce our full endorsement of Miguel Suazo in his race to defeat George P. Bush as Texas General Land Office Commissioner on November 6.
I can tell you that Mr. Suazo is fully versed on all aspects of the Alamo—both the past and the present situation that we have been dealing with. I have had numerous meetings and conversations with him lasting several hours, and I can assure you that Mr. Suazo is totally in agreement with what we all have been fighting for. To list a few major points:
1. The Battle of 1836 and the heroism of the Defenders shall remain the primary focus of any future plans for the Alamo.
2. The Cenotaph memorial to the Alamo Defenders shall not be moved one inch from where it currently stands.
3. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas shall be restored to their proper role at the Alamo.
All of these points and more are publicly listed on Mr. Suazo’s website at https://www.miguelsuazo.org/media/remembering-the-alamo. He is imminently qualified and has well-thought-out positions on all the duties of the Land Office.
On the other hand, from his past actions and personal philosophy (“The focus of the Alamo has to be taken off the battle in order to promote unity and not division in our society”), we know that the defeat of George P. Bush is absolutely essential if we are to save the Alamo from political revisionism. If not, the entire future of the Alamo will be based on plans promoted by the politically correct Mayor and City Council of San Antonio, along with the Castro brothers and all the other radicals of their ilk. They have made no bones about their intent, and Bush has neither the spine nor the inclination to stand up to them. He has amply demonstrated that he cannot be trusted with the future of the Alamo.
Make no mistake, Democratic nominee Miguel Suazo is the one and only candidate capable of defeating George P. Bush in the General Election. A vote for anyone else, Libertarian Party candidate Matt Piña or otherwise, will do nothing to further this goal. Fifty percent is not required, and there is no run-off. Unlike the Primary, whoever receives the largest number of raw votes in this General Election automatically wins. Regardless of party affiliation, it is critical that we use our votes and support in the only manner capable of defeating Bush. A vote for anyone else will in effect be wasted. That is just the reality of the situation. And voting against Bush will have no negative effect whatsoever on any of the rest of the Republican ticket. (I myself personally intend to vote for all of them except for Bush.) Nonetheless, the entire future of the Alamo is infinitely more important than blind loyalty to any particular political party. What’s more, Bush has clearly proven that he does not merit the vote of any true Republican. Unlike Mr. Bush’s preposterous claim of being “the most conservative Land Commissioner in the history of Texas,” Miguel Suazo is indisputably the real conservative when it comes to the Alamo, the Cenotaph, and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
If ALL of us do our part, we can be the army that helps to push Suazo over the goal line. In the March 6 primaries, the combined Democratic vote for the GLO was 943,932, the vote for Bush was 859,209, and the combined anti-Bush Republican vote was 617,356. Together this would equate to: Suazo—39.0 percent, Bush—35.5 percent, and the anti-Bush Republicans—25.5 percent. It is obvious that our votes could very well determine the outcome of this race. Now is the time that we must all unite and do everything in our power to defeat George P. Bush. The future of the Alamo depends on it.
Remember the Alamo!
P.S.—Please share this message with everyone that you possibly can. This will dramatically magnify our impact. It is imperative that we get this word out to each and every single person who voted against Bush in the Republican Primary, and beyond. And remember that this is absolutely our last chance to stop Bush and save the Alamo for posterity. The good news is that this race is winnable. Forty-two percent of the voters in Bush’s own party have already cast a vote against him last March. We must now ensure that they all do so again in November.
San Antonio Express-News
July 8, 2018 Scott Huddleston
When a committee takes another look this week at a proposed plan for redoing Alamo Plaza, it will see some different options on the table.
The plan, while still a work in progress, has proved controversial, with organized opposition coming from a diverse spectrum of interests: T-shirt-wearing gun-rights activists, Fiesta parade officials, some noted downtown architects and one of the nation’s oldest, most active local historic preservation groups.
If nothing else, there is consensus among city and state officials and private philanthropists to pursue preservation of the Alamo’s mission-era church and Long Barrack and to build a top-tier museum to house the Alamo collection of musician Phil Collins and galleries explaining the nearly 300-year history of the mission and battle site.
Two aspects of the plan that the city is now rethinking are the possible demolition of historic commercial buildings on Alamo Plaza and the addition of railings and other barriers around the plaza to mark the location of the historic compound’s outer walls.
But even if those issues are peacefully resolved, there still are others to work through, including proposed closures of sections of Alamo, Houston and Crockett streets to traffic; re-routing of Fiesta’s two major street parades; and repair and relocation the 1930s Cenotaph.
“We have little special interest groups — some are bigger than others — for every aspect of the project, and we’re trying to balance all this out,” City Manager Sheryl Sculley said. “We want the plaza to be as open as possible, but we also want to create a sense of place.”
The next public meeting is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Witte Museum, where the Alamo Citizen Advisory Committee will receive an update on the plan. By the fall, the City Council could take action on it and terms of a long-term lease for the Texas General Land Office to manage the portion of the city-owned plaza that is in the historic footprint.
The latest plan for Alamo Plaza would, if approved, close Alamo Street and part of Houston and Crockett streets. That will require the two big fiesta parades, the Battle of Flowers and Flambeau, to take a different route around the Alamo instead of in front of it.
Much of the 1836 Alamo, a 3-acre complex of walls and buildings defended during the siege and battle for Texas independence, was destroyed by Mexican troops after Santa Anna’s capture at San Jacinto so it could no longer serve as a fort. The local village grew around its ruins as San Antonio evolved into a modern city. The area that once was the Alamo’s main courtyard became a gathering place for cattle drives, markets and demonstrations and now is a bustling, noisy urban square.
A group of local architects that is objecting to the closing of Alamo Street and the addition of fences and other barriers believe that residents will lose access to one of the city’s most important public spaces for the sake of tourism.
“We are very concerned that others are going to take over control of the Alamo or of Alamo Plaza — our civic space,” architect Madison Smith, one of seven people representing various groups with concerns about the plan who spoke to the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board recently.
In response to some public comments, Sculley, one of six members of the Alamo Management Committee, overseeing implementation of the Alamo master plan, requested that a draft site plan be adjusted to avoid building demolitions and installation of railings and fences. The letter also asked the committee and design team to explore the idea of building a museum at the rear of the state-owned Alamo grounds as an alternative to the site of the state-owned Woolworth, Palace and Crockett buildings on the plaza.
Sculley and Councilman Roberto Treviño, the other city representative on the committee, serving with officials of the Land Office and nonprofit Alamo Endowment, also have asked for detailed plans for reusing those buildings as a museum complex. But Sculley said it would be “nearly impossible,” unless the Palace and Woolworth buildings were gutted, to have the three structures, which have varying floor heights, function seamlessly together as a museum.
‘Thumbprint of history’ The San Antonio Conservation Society, which has circulated petitions opposing demolition, barriers in the plaza and closure of streets, was “very disappointed” to learn of a proposal to raze up to five buildings, retaining only the front half of the 1882 Crockett Building by noted architect Alfred Giles, said Vince Michael, the group’s executive director. Just last year, the management committee had said it did not intend to raze any structures, he said.
Concerns also linger about pedestrian and vehicle access to the plaza, as well as the rerouting of Fiesta’s Battle of Flowers and Flambeau parades. The first Battle of Flowers, started by society women in the plaza in 1891 as a tribute to the 189 fallen defenders of the Alamo and veterans of San Jacinto, led to today’s annual Fiesta celebration, which draws 3.5 million partygoers, with an economic effect of $340 million.
Anna-Laura Block, president of the Battle of Flowers Association, said closure of Alamo Street from Commerce Street to north of Houston Street may destroy the tradition of placing floral tributes from each parade entry directly in front of the Alamo church and the “goose-bump moment” when a local military general in a horse-drawn carriage salutes the Texas shrine. She is worried that proposed alternate parade routes will not leave adequate room for floats and marching bands to make tight corners.
“We have our own thumbprint of history that’s harmonious with the Alamo,” Block said. “How better is it to highlight the Alamo and San Antonio on TV during a parade? And they see the reverence that we’re using when we give our floral tributes.”
Architect Smith and others say there are ways, using retractable bollards and other movable barriers, to temporarily or periodically close Alamo Street to traffic, for parades for example, but not block it off permanently.
Sculley and Treviño counter that the historic interpretation of the Alamo footprint, including lowering the surface by 16 inches and replication of an old acequia, would preclude vehicle access on Alamo Street.
Gene Dawson, president of Pape-Dawson Engineers, which created a downtown traffic model for the city in 2012, said there will be “large turning radiuses and large, open no-tree areas for firetrucks to get through” — as well as parade entries.
R. Michael Berrier, a small-business man and concerned resident, is distrustful of the plan to close streets and fence off the plaza and the process as a whole. He believes that most of the plan, aside from structural repairs to the shrine and a new museum, is a waste of money.
“There’s a charge here. And the charge is to close it off, to sanitize it and make it a state park in the middle of our city,” Berrier said.
He has called a 20-foot-wide walkway planned on the west side of the plaza a “cattle run for local citizens.”
Sculley and other officials have denied that there is a hidden agenda driving the Alamo plan. “That’s offensive,” she told the Editorial Board recently.
Officials acknowledge that they want to remove street preachers and demonstrators from the battle footprint while allowing free-speech activities in the Plaza de Valero to the south, near the Menger Hotel and the Shops at Rivercenter.
Alamo CEO Doug McDonald said the plan currently calls for 24-hour access to the plaza from a main entry point to the west, but with gates to the north and south closed during daytime museum hours. The Alamo does not intend to issue tickets to visitors but will direct them through a “common point of entry” in order to provide a “premiere visitor experience.”
“And I think if this project happens, when we’re all done, you’re not going to find any San Antonians that think they’ve lost anything,” McDonald said.
Cenotaph relocation Another organized opposition group, This is Texas Freedom Force, is focused solely on relocation of the Cenotaph. At public meetings held June 18 to 21, about 20 to 35 members attended each night, holding up signs and shouting, “No!” whenever the proposal was mentioned. Brandon Burkhardt, a San Antonian and the group’s president, said he and his members will continue to object to moving the monument about 500 feet south.
The group opposed removal last year by the city of a Confederate monument in Travis Park, then for a short while waged a petition drive to recall Treviño and Councilman William “Cruz” Shaw, the two councilmen who led that effort.
The group, whose mission is “to protect Texas history and Texans’ rights,” joined others earlier this year in demonstrating against anti-open-carry firearms ordinances in Alamo Heights, Olmos Park and other suburbs that were later repealed.
Officials say relocation of the Cenotaph would enhance visitors’ experience in an open plaza and provide better views of ceremonies and re-enactments. But for months, TITFF members have appeared before council members, reading comments from Texans and others who oppose the move.
“We’ve won several of them over already,” Burkhardt said. “We just need a few more.”
The Daughters of the Republic of Texas has two members, Erin Bowman and Sharon Skrobarcek, serving on the citizen advisory committee but has not taken a position on the plan as a statewide organization, even though the group saved the Alamo ruins from neglect and operated the state-owned grounds from 1905 to 2015.
Tookie Walthall, a former president-general of the DRT, said she still feels an emotional attachment to the Alamo but does not care for the proposed changes, including Cenotaph relocation and closure of the streets that would reroute the parades and put an end to drive-by views of the church.
“They’re just going to put a lid on our history pot, and we’ll just dry up,” Walthall said.
San Antonio Express-News
June 19, 2018 Scott Huddleston
The second in a series of four meetings on a draft plan for Alamo plaza drew a larger but more sedate crowd, but Tuesday’s participants also criticized the proposed street closures, demolitions — and any efforts to move the Cenotaph, which drew opposition from a councilman in attendance.
About 200 people filled the Hardberger Park Urban Ecology Center on the North Side — about one-fifth having also attended Monday’s meeting on the far West Side. There are two more meetings on the updated plan set for this week, and a second round is set for July, Assistant City Manager Lori Houston said.
“And if we have to do another round, we’ll do it again” before the City Council takes action, possibly in the fall, she added.
Eric Kramer, principal with Reed-Hilderbrand Landscape Architects, explained how the design team envisioned re-establishing the Alamo as a place, not just a building, with lots of shade, and replicated features turning the mission and battle site into an open-air museum.
Although rails and plantings are envisioned to delineate the footprint of the 1836 battle compound, Kramer said the plaza would be open, walkable space.
The team is developing the interpretive design as part of an Alamo master plan that has been in development since 2014.
The design team has said the 1930 Cenotaph, a monument to the 189 known Alamo defenders killed in the battle, would be treated with dignity in a new spot about 500 feet south of its current location, providing a sense of arrival for visitors approaching along a promenade from the south. Moving the Cenotaph would make the plaza a more “active space” for interpretation and re-enactments, Houston said.
Some have said the location of the Cenotaph, dedicated in the plaza in 1940, seems historically arbitrary. But descendants have said there is no other place, besides its current spot in the center of the battle site, that is more suitable for the dramatic imagery captured in Pompeo Coppini’s sculpture, “The Spirit of Sacrifice.”
City Councilman John Courage, who joined Councilmen Manny Pelaez and Clayton Perry in welcoming the audience, said he is open to dialogue, but favors repairing the Cenotaph and returning it to its current spot.
“I personally believe that the Cenotaph was placed in a very special place in the middle of a battlefield where many people died,” Courage said, drawing applause.
He and the other councilmen urged everyone to try to stay calm about the future of a place that evokes strong passions.
“Let’s be respectful and keep our collective cool,” Perry said.
The San Antonio Conservation Society is circulating a petition “to save Alamo Plaza.” It opposes fences and glass railings; relocation or demolition of buildings; and closure of streets to traffic — a move the group says will cut off the plaza’s connectivity.
The conservation society, distributing the petition as hard copies and on its website, saconservation.org, began collecting signatures Monday afternoon, and had gathered more than 200 in the first 24 hours, said Susan Beavin, conservation society president.
“Alamo Plaza is not about barriers or creating a one-dimensional experience for tourists,” the petition says. “The plaza can be both dynamic and respectful of its long history as mission, fort, and civic hub — welcoming ALL.”
Beavin said the group was dismayed to learn that the draft plan, unlike renderings released last year with key concepts of the master plan, proposes possible demolition of up to five buildings.
“The petition is a way of getting their attention. We feel like they’re not willing to compromise,” she said.
Beavin said the group does not want the contentiousness attached to some of the plan’s components to delay structural repairs and restoration of the fragile, original limestone walls of the Alamo’s mission-era Long Barrack and church. The church’s crumbling, iconic facade was crafted by master masons of the Spanish colonial era.
This week’s remaining meetings are each set for 6:30 p.m. The Wednesday event will be at Embassy Suites San Antonio at Brooks, 7610 S. New Braunfels Ave.; Thursday’s at San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels Ave.
San Antonio Express-News
June 19, 2018 Scott Huddleston
Nearly 100 people turned up to discuss a proposed Alamo plan at a public meeting that became heated Monday night.
During the meeting at the Darner Parks and Recreation Operations Headquarters, people submitted questions or feedback via text or comment cards. Many were also passionately vocal.
City Councilman Greg Brockhouse urged the audience, some voicing opposition to a proposed relocation of the 1930s Cenotaph or a better interpretation of Native Americans of the site’s 1700s mission era, not to disrupt the speakers. The meeting was held at a West Side location in his district.
City Councilman Greg Brockhouse struggled Monday night to keep the tenor civil during a meeting in his district concerning a plan for the historic Alamo area that has drawn the scrutiny of the public.
Media: San Antonio Express-News
“We’re already in the first minute on our conversation, and I’m already hearing booing. It can’t happen that way,” Brockhouse said.
Members of the design team addressed the group, which sometimes jeered as the consultants acknowledged being from outside of Texas.
The plan proposes removal of traffic on portions of Alamo, Crockett and Houston streets; relocation of the Cenotaph about 500 feet south; possible partial or complete demolition of up to five buildings in Alamo Plaza; and construction of a museum on the west side of the plaza.
Some heckled Eric Kramer, principal with Reed-Hilderbrand Landscape Architects, as he explained components of the draft site plan, which could be voted on in the fall by the City Council.
People yelled “no” when references were made to relocating the Cenotaph. Others voiced concern about access into and out of Alamo Plaza.
“Is it going to be a public plaza?” one man asked.
“Where are you going to find trees like that?” a woman shouted, referring to rows of upright trees shown in artist renderings that some have said do not look native to Texas.
An hour into the two-hour meeting, Brockhouse urged the crowd to work within the citizen-input process.
“Quantify it. Work together on it. Bring your opposition to City Council,” he said. “This is not representative of what we are when we argue to this extent.”
He handed the meeting over to Leonard Rodriguez, a member of the Alamo Citizen Advisory Committee with lineal connections dating to the 1830s Texas Revolution and Spanish colonial period. Asking by a show of hands or applause, Rodriguez found many opposed to closing the streets and demolishing buildings.
Alamo CEO Doug McDonald spoke about the need for a state-of-the-art museum.
“People say they don’t understand the story,” McDonald said. “We need a bigger space to tell the story.”
The plan is part of a public-private project to enlarge pedestrian space and improve the state-owned Alamo complex and city-owned plaza. The city of San Antonio, Texas General Land Office and nonprofit Alamo Endowment are partners in the project, with completion targeted by 2024. A proposal to make structural repairs to the mission-era church and Long Barrack, also included in the project, has not drawn opposition.
John Hinnant, sixth-generation Texan, said in an interview that he has problems with the plan, although he supports closing part of Alamo Street to bring reverence to the site. But he hated seeing the meeting turn contentious.
“I am, for the most part, opposed to this entire plan. It’s overengineered, and it’s not necessary,” Hinnant said. However, he added that, “I’m seeing the worst example of bad manners tonight.”
More meetings, each set for 6:30 p.m., are set for Tuesday at Hardberger Park Urban Ecology Center, 8400 N.W. Military Drive; Wednesday at Embassy Suites San Antonio at Brooks, 7610 S. New Braunfels Ave.; and Thursday at San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels Ave. More meetings are planned for mid-July.
Earlier in the day, singer Phil Collins, who has donated his collection of artifacts to the Alamo, was in San Antonio for unveiling of bronze models depicting the evolution of the mission and military fortress over more than a century. The bronzes, on display in Alamo Plaza, were created by historian and artist George Nelson.
McDonald told people at the meeting that Collins did not object to any specific parts of the plan when briefed on it Monday.
“He believes the site ought to be reverent,” McDonald said.
Empower Texans Quicktakes
June 19, 2018
Donald Trump Jr. has canceled a fundraiser he was scheduled to hold for Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush after multiple members of the Bush family levied harsh criticism at President Donald Trump’s administration for its enforcement of immigration laws.
The barrage began earlier this week when former First Lady Laura Bush (the wife of former president and Texas governor George W. Bush and George P. Bush’s aunt) wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post in which she called Trump’s handling of illegal immigration “immoral,” a narrative pushed by national Democrats and, in Texas, retiring Texas House Speaker Joe Straus.
Straus himself worked in the White House during George P. Bush’s grandfather, George H.W. Bush’s one-term presidency.
After Laura’s remarks, a source told the political news site Axios that George P. Bush was told the attacks must stop or the Trump clan would not be able to continue publicly supporting him.
That warning was not heeded.
Today, George P. Bush’s father, former Florida governor and failed presidential candidate Jeb Bush, doubled down on Laura Bush’s criticism, calling Trump “heartless” in a post on Twitter yesterday.
This tweet was reportedly the final straw for Trump Jr., and the decision to cancel the event was made shortly after. The fundraiser was scheduled to be held in New York City on June 25 and its cancellation cannot be understated.
Because Bush is the last “survivor” of a political dynasty that long controlled much of the Republican Party, but one that voters and activists have large scale rejected over the past decade.
While his family’s vast resources and political infrastructure ensure he doesn’t need help from anyone from a fundraising perspective, George P. Bush does require constant infusions of access and legitimacy in order to maintain his ability to make a weak claim conservative credentials and keep his political ambitions alive.
After narrowly avoiding a runoff in the Republican primary and being booed at the Texas GOP convention for his mishandling of the Alamo, the Texas Land Commissioner is finding himself relegated to a subsidiary status among statewide officials at a time he is seeking to grow his political brand in the hopes of securing higher political office.
San Antonio Express News
June 7, 2018 Scott Huddleston
A new $450 million re-imagination of the Alamo seeks to triple the size of its historic plaza at the heart of downtown and turn what now is a cramped, touristy experience into what one design consultant called a shaded, parklike “place of reverence and learning.”
The new proposal, put forth Thursday by the city, the General Land Office and the nonprofit Alamo Endowment, envisions closing parts of three streets to traffic, demolishing up to four buildings and moving the 1930s Cenotaph.
It will be shown June 18-21 during three days of public hearings and could be approved as an interpretive plan by the City Council this fall.
The plan would expand outdoor walking space in the plaza from 3 to 9 acres, with emphasis on views of the famed Alamo church and offer cafe seating amid rows of trees.
Highlights of the proposal
Vertical glass walls no longer proposed
Partial closure of Alamo, Houston and Crockett streets
Expanded Alamo Plaza to function as open-air museum
Make Losoya Street two-way
Possible demolition of plaza buildings
Construction of 135,000-square-foot museum
Replicated cannon station at Alamo’s southwest corner
Lowering of ground to exhibit historic architecture
Removal of curbs, other impediments to pedestrian access
Addition of shade trees in plaza
Removal of 1930s Alamo Arcade
Replacement of stone wall with fence around Alamo Garden
Interpretation, to be determined, of historic acequias
Interaction with greeters or docents in the plaza
Curbs and steps would be removed. In some places, the ground would be lowered by 16 inches to its historic level to fully expose the base of the church and Long Barrack and footings of the historic outer walls of the compound that could be shown in outdoor exhibits through a translucent surface.
Removal of traffic from the streets, including Alamo and Crockett streets, around the Alamo remains the cornerstone of the plan, but with two new proposals: closure of part of Houston Street, and conversion of a stretch of Losoya Street to two-way traffic.
“That has to be endorsed, or else we can’t do this,” said Doug Reed, principal with Reed-Hilderbrand Landscape Architects, one of three out-of-state consultants that developed the plan.
The Cenotaph, which has become a contentious point of focus, would be moved about 500 feet to a spot of “greater prominence,” officials told the San Antonio Express-News.
An earlier proposal to move the nearly 60-foot-tall monument about two blocks to a pocket park on Market Street drew vehement opposition last year from Alamo defender descendants and other Texans. Some still feel it should be repaired, but returned to the center of Alamo Plaza, where it has stood since it was dedicated in 1940.
Under the new plan, the Cenotaph would be disassembled, then rebuilt with a new steel frame on the approximate site of a gazebo that now stands in front of the Menger Hotel.
In that spot, it would be treated with reverence and seen by everyone entering through a promenade from the south, design officials said.
The Cenotaph’s current location, the one people are accustomed to, is “out of context for the point in time” when the siege and battle for Texas independence occurred in 1836, City Manager Sheryl Sculley said. She called the new proposed Cenotaph location a thoughtful compromise.
“We took that input that we heard from the community, and this location we think better matches the overall context of what is trying to be explained about the centuries of development at that site,” Sculley said.
A proposal to raze the Woolworth’s Building at 518 E. Houston St. already has drawn the ire of preservationists.
The building, which once housed the first lunch counter in the South to desegregate in 1960, was listed in 2016 by one advocacy group, Preservation Texas, as one of the “most endangered places” in the state. It’s one of three structures in Alamo Plaza, along with the Palace and Crockett buildings, that the Texas General Land Office purchased in 2015.
Those buildings now house amusement attractions that are viewed by many as irreverent. The city is working on creation of an entertainment district where they could be relocated. But officials are not sure the three buildings can function together as a unified museum without being gutted.
Eric Kramer, principal with Reed-Hilderbrand, said the design team is looking at a range of options, including one that keeps all three buildings intact.
“The lunch counter and the desegregation story is an important one,” Kramer said. “And our study of removing that building isn’t one about erasing that story. It’s just a question of how it should be told on that site.”
The plan also proposes demolitions of buildings at 301 and 307 Alamo Plaza that house Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditorium, Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks and Ripley’s Moving Theater, to provide open space by a replicated cannon station at the Alamo’s southwest corner. An 18-pound cannon was fired three from the Alamo in response to Santa Anna’s call for surrender to start a 13-day siege.
Frank Ruttenberg, a lawyer and member of group that owns both buildings, serves on the 26-member Alamo Citizen Advisory Committee, said he was unsure of a plan that includes tearing down the buildings.
“To the extent that people talk about buildings coming down, I would say that I always think it’s better to not take down history to focus on a certain part of history,” he said after the draft site plan was presented to the committee.
The plan will be the shown at more public meetings later this month. The public-private project, including construction of a 135,000-square-foot museum complex and repairs to the mission-era Long Barrack and Alamo church, have been estimated to cost up to $450 million.
At the meeting Thursday night, the committee invited responses from many of its members, but did not take comment the public. Nonetheless, some people in the audience of about 200 expressed disapproval at the mention of moving the Cenotaph as well as closing down the streets and converting Losoya to two-way.
Kramer’s suggestion that the Cenotaph could be moved outside the mission footprint was met with a chorus of “No” from some.
One was Jane Klein.
“We don’t want it moved,” she said. “It was put there for a reason: It’s the gravestone for the tomb. … And it might get damaged if we move it.”
Anthony Edwards, a member of the advisory board, questioned the removal of the Woolworth’s building in particular. He wasn’t confident that its history could be adequately preserved without the building itself.
“The Woolworth’s building, for me as an African-American, that’s symbolic as the first place to move toward de-segregating,” Edwards said. “I’m kind of torn there as to whether that should be torn down or not.”
If the latest plan wins general support of stakeholders and the public, it could be presented to the City Council in the fall for adoption of an interpretive plan and an agreement with the state on management of the plaza.
“We’re not in the design stage yet. We’re still thinking strategically about broad concepts and how to resolve those broad issues in great ways,” said John Kasman, vice president of PGAV Destinations.
One such broad concept that some feel has not been addressed appropriately by the Alamo is the matter of painting its history as a “winners and losers” dichotomy.
George Cisneros, another member of the advisory committee, said the Alamo site should do more to correct misconceptions fostered by Hollywood representations and other legends.
“It’s always given as a good-versus-bad scenario. There were patriotic, heroic, brave young men who died on the outside of the wall defending their country. We never talk about those men,” he said.
When key concepts of an Alamo master plan were revealed publicly in April 2017, many criticized a concept of enclosing the plaza with interpretive glass walls. That idea has been withdrawn. Design officials said they also have tried to respond to concerns raised about shade, treatment of the Cenotaph, openness and access to the plaza and the impact of street closures on downtown traffic.
“I hope that we’ve come up with some design solutions that have really tried to address the tensions,” said Doug McDonald, Alamo CEO.
The Legislature has committed about $100 million for the plan, including $75 million appropriated last year, while the city has pledged $38 million in capital or voter-approved bond funds. The endowment has said it intends to privately raise at least $200 million. But officials have not said whether the latest changes might affect the final cost. The project would be completed by 2024 — 300 years after the Mission San Antonio de Valero moved to its third and final site, where it became a Spanish fort known as “El Alamo” in the early 1800s.
Susan Beavin, president of the San Antonio Conservation Society, has seen the plan, and is worried about several things, including demolitions, street closures and access to the plaza for Fiesta parades.
“I see there certainly are a lot of bones of contention,” she said.
As for the Cenotaph, the society’s leadership voted last September, deciding it should stay put. The group has not had time to consider the latest proposal for the monument, which depicts the work of sculptor Pompeo Coppini, titled, “The Spirit of Sacrifice.”
Gary Foreman, a historical Alamo re-enactor and filmmaker who has lobbied for decades for an extensive makeover of the plaza to duplicate the 1836 fort as much as possible, said he supports moving the Cenotaph, which he said takes up too much room for interpretive and educational activities in the plaza, where the main courtyard of the battle compound had been.
He also favors demolition of post-battle structures to help visitors remember the Alamo — the end goal since the 1980s, when people began calling for a more reverent, engaging battle site.
“People need to remember how this started before they find things to criticize,” Foreman said.
June 4, 2018 Ross Ramsey
As the election season rolls on, keep this in mind when Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush opens his mouth: The officeholder from the state’s best-known political family certainly knows how to spin a story.
Back in February, Bush was in a noisy Republican primary fight with his predecessor, Jerry Patterson. Among other things, Patterson is an Alamo buff. He has made it abundantly clear that he thinks Bush has mismanaged things at that monument. And he got some support for that view from a draft of an internal audit critical of the “structure and funding model” at the Alamo put in place by the General Land Office.
“Internal” is an important word in the previous sentence. That draft audit — along with the final version that came out this week — was issued by the internal auditor in Bush’s own agency. That’s what internal auditors are supposed to do: to tell you when there’s spinach on your teeth, toilet paper stuck to your shoe, oddities in your accounting and so on.
They point things out to management. Management is supposed to clean things up.
The draft audit was first revealed by the Austin American-Statesman in early February, and other reporters caught up with the land commissionerto see what he thought about it. “I can’t really comment on the document,” Bush said at the time. “I cannot disclose, but we do have evidence that it was a doctored memo.”
Here’s the lead paragraph from the draft audit — also the lead paragraph of the final audit:
“GLO should reconsider the structure and funding model it uses for operating the Alamo. A contractor performs the daily operations, but it uses state resources to do this, as it does not have its own funds or other assets. This is an unusual situation that has created complexity and a lack of clarity regarding the nature and the use of the funds used for Alamo operations. It is also the root cause of several of the observations in this report.”
The land commissioner’s suggestion that the draft memo was “doctored” temporarily sunk the stories about his management of the Alamo, for the most part, and it did so at a critical time: Less than two weeks later, early voting in the primary elections began. Bush easily won the nomination for another term with more than 58 percent of the vote. Patterson ran second in that four-candidate race, pulling in just under 30 percent.
Now that the final audit is out, you can audit the land commissioner’s political spin. Give him an A-plus. While the leaked draft didn’t foul his re-election bid, the final document is both direct and damning — not the sort of thing a politician wants on his report card to the public:
“We determined that the financial formation and accounting of the Alamo Complex fund did not comply with state requirements,” the auditor wrote. “Also, not all contract requirements of the agreement to operate the Alamo are being met. In addition, controls over budgeting, expenditures, contracting, and reconciliations should be strengthened.”
They made several recommendations to straighten things out.
Auditors typically give space to the people and organizations under the microscope, a place to make arguments, to disagree or to point out things the auditors might have missed. In this audit, the top line sort of slams the door: “Management concurs with the recommendations.”
Managing the Alamo is going to be noisy, no matter who’s in charge. It’s a Texas shrine, and between various factions of historic preservationists, political interests, tourism promoters and people and groups disrupted by the GLO’s efforts to modernize operations and spruce up the site, it’s the subject of a long-lasting, ongoing rumble.
That rumble is a management issue, and Bush is the top guy at the agency in charge. It’s his job. But the hat he was wearing earlier this year was that of a politician, not a manager, and the spin he applied at the time did what he needed it to do: It put off the spanking detailed in the final audit until now — long after the primaries where Patterson was a threat.
The delay helped, but didn’t put the issue of the Alamo to bed. Just read the day-after-the-audit emails from Miguel Suazo, the Democrat challenging Bush in the fall: “It clearly demonstrates that George P. Bush is in over his head and lacks the competence to manage our state’s most historic landmark.”
He sounds like Jerry Patterson, doesn’t he?
San Antonio Express-News
May 31, 2018 Scott Huddleston
A final audit addressing financial operations at the Alamo is in the crossfire of a battle between Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and the Democratic candidate hoping to unseat him.
Bush called the audit and resulting changes by the General Land Office “a deep dive into the Alamo’s financial management policies.”
But his opponent in the Nov. 6 general election, Miguel Suazo, has said the audit should concern everyone who cares about the mission and battle site.
“It clearly demonstrates that George P. Bush is in over his head and lacks the competence to manage our state’s most historic landmark,” Suazo said hours after the Land Office released its internal audit Thursday.
The Land Office, which has endured criticism over a public-private master plan to repair the Alamo’s two 1700s structures, add a museum and refurbish Alamo Plaza as a reverent battleground by 2024, expects to enter an agreement by July 1 with the nonprofit Alamo Trust Inc. to provide daily operations at the state-owned Alamo grounds.
Since 2015, the Land Office has contracted with the Alamo Endowment to help with preservation, management, operation and restoration of the Alamo. That same year, the endowment created the Alamo Trust as a subsidiary and assigned it responsibility for the Alamo operations.
For the first time, the Alamo Trust, which replaced the Daughters of the Republic of Texas as operator of the Texas shrine, will have a management agreement requiring accounting and operational best practices recommended in the audit, GLO officials said. In a news release, Bush said the audit “represents a cultural shift in the oversight of the Alamo’s financial management policies.”
“Many of the recommendations have already been implemented while others are being fulfilled through the implementation of a new Alamo management contract with the Alamo Trust,” Bush said.
Land Office officials said the state agency, assigned oversight of the Alamo by the Legislature in 2011, hired three people with experience in finance for state agencies to oversee Alamo accounting and report to the Land Office’s chief financial officer.
It plans by Sept. 1 to have new policies in place regarding budgeting, purchasing and contracting, including timely reimbursements of operating costs, an electronic purchase-order system, monthly bank reconciliations and vetting of contractors to avoid conflicts of interest.
But Suazo, an Austin-based attorney specializing in energy and natural resources, said vulnerabilities exposed in the audit are disturbing.
According to the report, the Alamo Trust and Land Office did not fully comply or have systems in place regarding procurement, daily deposits into the state treasury and timely requests for and payment of replenishment funds, among other areas.
“This means that the Alamo is also risking the misuse of taxpayer funds,” Suazo said.
The flare-up is the first major one between Bush and Suazo over the Alamo. Suazo favors portions of the Alamo master plan, including closure of the plaza to traffic and relocation of amusement businesses in the plaza, to provide an atmosphere that respects the memory of hundreds of men killed in the battle on March 6, 1836.
But unlike Bush, who terminated the DRT’s Alamo operations contract in 2015, Suazo has vowed to negotiate a contract with the Daughters to manage the site, with “final authority” resting with the land commissioner.
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The Daughters had been custodians of the site since 1905, but were the subject of a 16-month attorney general’s investigation into alleged mismanagement that began in 2010.
A draft version of the GLO audit was leaked to the media in February, prior to March 6 primary elections for commissioner.
Bush fended off an election challenge by former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, but not without enduring criticism from Patterson and others, including state senators, about confusion and lack of openness involving the Land Office’s role at the Alamo in conjunction with the Alamo Trust.
Bush since has resigned from the Alamo Trust board to avoid a conflict. The board held its first quarterly meeting that was open to the public on May 16.
The Alamo has incurred troubles in the past related to errors or questionable expenses.
In February, the San Antonio Express-News, through a Public Information Act request, obtained an electronic scan of a check for $65,078 to the trust from the Remember the Alamo Foundation — another Alamo Endowment subsidiary created to raise funds privately for the Alamo master plan. GLO officials said the check corrected an error by Alamo accountants regarding personnel expenses.
Last year, another document obtained by the Express-News listed more than $1,600 in personal expensesmade by an Alamo manager that did not qualify for reimbursement. The manager, who resigned but agreed to repay the trust, had made personal expenses that were unauthorized, or for which there were no receipts, using a credit card issued by the nonprofit. They included restaurant tabs, a painting and several unspecified purchases on Amazon.
Staff Writer | San Antonio Express-News