Dec 7th Saving The Alamo And Alamo Cenotaph – Senate Finance Hearing With George P. Bush
by Sonja Harris on December 8, 2017 at 1:28 PM
An inscription on the cenotaph reads: In Memory of the Heroes who sacrificed their lives March 6, 1836 in the defense of Texas. They chose never to surrender or retreat; these brave hearts with flag still proudly waving, perished in the flames of immorality that their high sacrifice might lead to the founding of this Texas.
On Tuesday, December 5, the Texas Senate Finance Committee held a hearing in Austin to "monitor the expenditures of state funds appropriated to the General Land Office for the preservation, maintenance and operation of the Alamo historical site. Ensure the funds are spent to emphasize the architectural design and the historical impact the battle had on the development of Texas as a nation and as a state".
The hearing was a direct result of Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick calling for an investigation on the spending of the ‘Reimagine Alamo Master Plan’. Especially since, General Land Commissioner George P. Bush has been very guarded in giving out information. Bush appeared unprepared as if he did not expect to be quizzed to the extent he was during the hearing. He came across as lost in his own state of confusion.
Senators Joan Huffman(R) District 17, Brian Birdwell(R) District 22, Kirk Watson(D) District 14, Lois Kolkhorst(R) District 18, Paul Bettencourt(R) District 7, led by Chairman Jane Nelson(R) District 12, took turns admonishing the Commissioner for his lack of transparency in providing public documentation of meetings held by the Alamo Endowment board. The Alamo Endowment Board is one of several entities created to administer the renovation plans. The Committee was unified in asking Bush to provide information that is clearer for the public to understand.
Senator Huffman was the first to deliver her ‘verbal punches’ by asking about the different entities that are involved. Bush did name them, The Alamo Endowment Board of which he said he was the president; The Alamo Trust, which is the day-to-day manager of the Alamo; and The Alamo Foundation, which is the fundraising entity. Bush was heavily criticized for reimbursements to the Alamo Trust by the GLO, in essence using state funds to pay the employees working at the Alamo. Senator Watson made it very clear that if the Alamo Trust did not exist, these employees would be state employees.
At one point Bush stated that a separate board would decide on the design and that this board would not be subject to the Public Information Act. Senator Watson seemed annoyed and he responded by telling him, “Everybody that is here today sitting in front of you voted for legislation during the regular session that would have made what you are doing illegal.” If state money is used, then the meetings should be open.
During the hearing, it was determined that the Guide Star.org that the GLO said would provide all the necessary information to the public was not free. This had to be another embarrassing moment for George P.
Bush was asked about the Master Plan, and he told one senator that the Master Plan is: “Just a concept not an actual plan.” He did clarify to another senator that the Master Plan was actually complete. Did Bush contradict himself? We are in the execution phase of the Master Plan, Bush commented, which calls for selecting a design firm. This should be ready by summer 2018. He listed the principles as:
Recapture the Battlefield
Protect the Alamo, Church and Long Barracks
Develop a Museum
Go to the public and incorporate the feedback
Even his flow charts were criticized by Senator Kolkhorst as being confusing. She asked a question that should be of interest to all Texans. “Will the state of Texas have all of it (The Alamo) or will it (The Alamo) always be a San Antonio/Texas partnership?” Bush answered that the Master Plan recommended conveyance by the city of San Antonio to the state of Texas to have a ‘consolidated ownership’ over the future of the original battlefield. This still did not answer the question as to who has VETO power over the Master Plan and the Cenotaph.
George P. gave his usual rote answer concerning the Cenotaph to the Committee by saying, “The Cenotaph will always stand. It will always be on the grounds of the Alamo.” He stated that the empty tomb was in disrepair and could not be repaired on city property because appropriations did not allow this.
To summarize the hearing, the senators made a concentrated effort to get to the truth of the Alamo Master Plan mirage, its entities, and where the millions of dollars are being spent, and what will happen to the Phil Collins Collection and the Alamo Cenotaph. It was George P. that did not provide clear and concise answers. He named three entities, but still another board in charge of designing the huge project magically appeared. Transparency is definitely his biggest challenge. The GLO office should be prepared to answer questions to the public and the press.