By Scott Huddleston
San Antonio Express-News
Originally published Dec. 5, 2018
State legislators quizzed Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush about the Alamo and a long-range master plan, and asked him to look for ways to provide more transparency in the management of the historic mission and battle site.
“We need to get it more simple, and clearer,” Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said at the conclusion of an hourlong exchange Tuesday between Bush and the Senate Finance Committee, which Nelson chairs.
Committee members said they would like to see better access to meetings of the nonprofit contractors that run the Alamo and are coordinating the master plan, with Bush serving as a board member of those entities. Senators also asked that meetings of interagency panels overseeing the master plan, with representatives of the Land Office, city of San Antonio and nonprofit Alamo Endowment, be open to the public.
Some members of the Senate committee even said they would like the Alamo’s 70-member staff be employed directly by the state, rather than working for the Alamo Trust, a subsidiary of the endowment created to provide daily operations at the shrine. Like the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, a lineage group that held a contract to manage the Alamo until Bush dissolved it in 2015, the Alamo Trust holds closed board meetings and is not subject to the Texas Public Information Act.
But members said Bush should find ways to voluntarily make more information available to the media and the public in order to ensure that a planned $450 million, public-private upgrade to the Alamo and surrounding area has the support of Texans and others who cherish the Alamo.
“Keep it transparent. My folks want to understand what’s happening here,” Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, told Bush.
The master plan, set for full implementation by 2024, would include renovation of three state-owned buildings on the west side of Alamo Plaza to serve as a museum and visitor center. Bush said a conceptual design will likely be presented for feedback at public meetings next summer and be completed in fall 2018.
Concerns have been raised about the focus and content of the plan, as well as access to information about management and the expansion of the Alamo site to include the city’s Alamo Plaza. Along with $32.5 million allocated by the Legislature for the Alamo in 2015, and another $75 million this year, the city has committed $38 million to the improvement project. Structural repairs and restoration of the Alamo’s mission-era church and Long Barrack are expected to cost more than $30 million.
Rick Range, a retired schoolteacher from the Dallas area and longtime Alamo devotee, and Davey Edwards, a land surveyor in Decatur, have filed to run against Bush in the Republican primary on March 6 — the anniversary of the famed 1836 battle for Texas independence.