A simmering dispute over planned renovations to the Alamo erupted into a war of words between two Republican elected state officials this week.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick joined critics of Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who is overseeing the controversial Alamo redesign plan. Patrick accused Bush of broadly labeling detractors as “liars and racists,” though Bush actually used the label for a small group of people who made false claims about his plans. Bush said Patrick twisted his words in what he labeled a “dangerous mistake.”
The back-and-forth was sparked last week by a Facebook post from the group Save The Alamo, founded by Rick Range, who lost against Bush in the Republican primary for land commissioner in 2018. The group is routinely critical of Bush, the son of the former Florida governor Jeb Bush and nephew of former Texas Governor and U.S. President George W. Bush.
In a Dec. 10 post, Range wrote that Bush intends to put up a statue of Antonio López de Santa Anna, the president who led Mexican troops against the defenders of the Alamo, outside the San Antonio battle site. The General Land Office has not released any plans or publicly indicated a desire to erect the statue.
The following day, Bush said on Twitter the claims were an “outright lie” and “flat out racist.” He questioned whether his Mexican heritage played a role in the accusation he would support a Mexican dictator.
“One must ask themselves, why am I being accused of honoring the murderous dictator Santa Anna? Is it because my mother (now a naturalized citizen) is from Mexico?” Bush wrote in a tweet.
On Monday, Bush’s office sent an update on the Alamo renovation to lawmakers, with a note that there was “a small, vocal minority opposing any action affecting the Cenotaph, including repair and restoration. Unfortunately, there are members of this contingency who have used racial and derogatory words and issued threats against” Bush and a San Antonio City Council member.
The Cenotaph, also known as the Spirit of Sacrifice, is a monument, located adjacent to the fortress, commemorating those who died at the Battle of the Alamo. A plan to relocate the Cenotaph on the Alamo grounds has fueled criticism against Bush for more than a year.
Patrick responded in a written statement, criticizing Bush’s office for disparaging people who disagreed with the Alamo redesign. He noted that the Texas Senate passed a bill that attempted to slow down the plan to move the Cenotaph. That bill did not pass the Texas House.
"Recently, the GLO Commissioner and a member of his staff have derided anyone who disagrees with the Alamo redesign as a small vocal minority who are liars and racists,” Patrick said. “This is offensive and inaccurate. The 31 members of the Texas Senate represent over 28 million Texans. They are not a vocal minority — nor are they liars or racists.”
Bush responded that evening and said Patrick took his statements out of context. He stressed that his comment about “racists” was directed toward those accusing him of trying to erect a statue dedicated to Santa Anna.
“To twist my words and put out a statement saying that I called Honorable State Senators and anyone who opposes me racist is wrong,” Bush said in a written statement. “It is a very dangerous mistake for an elected official with his power to make.”
Getting the last word in, Patrick responded, "There is never an excuse for anyone to threaten or issue a racist attack. That said, my statement earlier today did not twist words or float rumors."
Last year, the San Antonio City Council approved a $450 million redevelopment plan for the Alamo that includes the relocation of the Cenotaph by 500 feet. Renovation and relocation will begin in the coming months, reported The Rivard Report.
Almost a century after its construction, the Cenotaph is showing signs of wear and could be a safety threat if a piece of stone fell off it, said Karina Erickson, a spokeswoman for Bush.
The names of at least 14 Alamo defenders are missing from the monument, and a few others are misspelled. Those mistakes will be corrected in the renovation and relocation project, Erickson said.
But activists raise concerns over the Cenotaph being too far from the line of sight of the Alamo Mission building. Erickson said the monument will still be close to the Alamo Mission building and there are no plans to move the whole Cenotaph from public view for repairs, Erickson said.
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