A need for openness at Alamo

January 19, 2018 GMT

More transparency for the nonprofit board overseeing the Alamo is a welcome move.

The Alamo Trust runs the day-to-day operations of the Alamo, which is undergoing changes to increase access and historical accuracy according to a master plan developed by the state, the city of San Antonio and the Alamo Endowment, the private group that has another subsidiary trying to raise private funds for improvements.

Land Commissioner George P. Bush came under some criticism from state senators late last year for an alleged lack of transparency from Alamo management and, more specifically, lack of transparency in a master plan rollout. Shortly after, the General Land Office announced that PGAV Destinations of St. Louis would undertake statewide outreach and help with the development phase of the master plan — another welcome move that ensures more transparency and statewide involvement.


The trust now says it is making its meetings public voluntarily. We’ll take it, but contend that even a nonprofit that manages a state site should, for practical purposes, be considered a public entity for records and openness.

And the Alamo is simply a special case. It is already state-owned — with the General Land Office taking overall responsibility after ousting the Daughters of the Republic of Texas from that role in 2015. It is internationally famous, but understandably holds a special place in the hearts of Texans who view it as the cradle of Texas independence.

That interest has translated into about $100 million in state funding from the Legislature for the master plan project, along with another $38 million from the city, which owns the adjoining Alamo Plaza. The plaza will also change under the master plan, which envisions restoring the site to as much of the 1836 footprint as is possible given post-1836 development around the site. It also envisions a world-class Alamo museum.

The point is to more fully and accurately tell the Alamo story, with a particular focus on the 1836 battle — the historical event that drives most visits.

Even if the endowment raises the $200 million in private funds needed, there are still a lot of public dollars that have to be accounted for — with more likely to come if the development phase of the master plan is to be successful.

So, the trust’s willingness to be more transparent is as necessary as it is welcome. Its board meetings will be open to the public, though it will still be able to go into closed session for the same reasons purely public entities do — mostly legal matters and personnel issues. Notices of these public meetings will be posted at least two days before.


However, we agree with state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, that 72 hours before — what public entities do — would be better. The trust should do that. Watson was one of the members of the Senate Finance Committee who tasked Commissioner Bush with simplifying the management structure of the Alamo, a move we also endorse.

There is a suggestion that this could be accomplished if the 100 employees now working on day-to-day operations at the Alamo simply became state employees. This has merit, as does the notion that the entire site — including the plaza — be state owned. The Alamo is, after all, treasured by the entire state. But we await details, with an eye toward whether this would ensure more or less transparency, more or less bureaucracy, and micromanagement and sustainable quality in day-to-day operations.

In the meantime, the trust’s move is a definite step in the right direction.

The reimagining of the Alamo promises to be a signature development for the city of San Antonio and for state residents who revere the site. That means statewide buy-in for all the changes envisioned. And that requires a high degree of openness.