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Campbell Faces Skepticism of Alamo Protection Proposal

State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, was grilled by fellow senators Tuesday over her proposal to ban foreign control of the Alamo.

The Alamo in San Antonio.

State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, was grilled by fellow senators Tuesday over her proposal to ban foreign control of the Alamo.

Campell proposed the Protect the Alamo Act in response to a nomination that could make the San Antonio Missions — including the emblematic Alamo — a World Heritage site through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). A decision is expected to be announced in July. Campbell said that without the law to protect the Alamo, there would be a risk that the Texas General Land Office, which manages the Alamo and surrounding properties, could sell it.

“In the charge to the battle, the battle cry was 'Remember the Alamo,' and since then, the Alamo has been recognized as hallowed ground in Texas, and a shrine of Texas liberty,” Campbell said at a hearing before the The Senate Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee. “The Alamo is a story of Texas, and it should be owned, operated, and maintained, controlled by Texans.”

But several lawmakers said the proposal, also known as Senate Bill 191, is unnecessary — and, worse, that it could cause the UNESCO voting committee to look unfavorably on the San Antonio nomination.

“I don't think there is anyone that disagrees with you about the Alamo and its history,” said Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio. “I don't think there is any member on this committee that will allow the Alamo to be sold. The concern I have simply is that we are sending the wrong message.” 

A World Heritage designation would add up to $105 million in additional economic activity to Bexar County by 2025, as well as up to 1,100 jobs and as much as $2.2 million in additional hotel tax revenue, according to a 2013 report by the Harbinger Consulting Group. 

Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, quizzed Campbell on her knowledge of UNESCO sites. “What are some of the other UNESCO sites in this state and country?” he asked. Campbell responded, “I don't know, because my bill is about preserving the Alamo; it is not about having a discussion regarding UNESCO.”

Land Commissioner George P. Bush's deputy told lawmakers that the General Land Office would only be able to sell the Alamo if lawmakers passed legislation directing them to do so.

"I believe Commissioner Bush would state emphatically that we are not interested in selling the Alamo or giving up our authority on the Alamo," said Deputy Land Commissioner Larry Laine.

“Commissioner Bush would say no to allowing the Alamo to be sold, but what about the next commissioner?” Campbell asked Laine, who responded, “I cannot speak for that next commissioner.”

“I can't either,” said Campbell. “And neither can anyone else.” 

Betty Bueché, Bexar County's facilities and parks director, told lawmakers the bill is unnecessary and potentially harmful.

"There is nothing in the operational guidelines that indicates that UNESCO intercedes in the operations or management of any site," said Bueché, who said she was speaking on behalf of the county commissioners court. "I believe this is not needed and that it will send a message to the 21 voting members on the committee that the state of Texas is not enthusiastic about wanting this to happen."

The bill was left pending by the committee on Tuesday, a historic day for the Alamo. It was 179 years ago that Texas troops first called for help to defend the mission, which had fallen under attack by the Mexican army.

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