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5 burning Alamo questions heading into 2019

by Ben OlivoJan 07, 2019
Protestors sit behind members of the Alamo master plan design team on June 18 at the Darner - Parks and Recreation Headquarters. Harry | SAHeron

This series explores five big questions following the City Council's 9-2 approval of the Alamo master plan on Oct. 18. Consider this food for thought as the process moves forward.

Two weeks ago, the City Council made history by approving, in a 9-2 vote, the Alamo master plan—a $450 million remaking of the plaza that had its supporters, but also a wide and diverse group of detractors.

By far the most vocal was This is Texas Freedom Force and the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association, which strongly oppose moving the Cenotaph. How strong?

"We are prepared to get into a physical altercation with them and surround the Cenotaph," said Brandon Burkhardt, president of This is Texas Freedom Force. "I can't say a whole lot about what our plan is. We already have about 200 Texans signed up, and it keeps growing daily."

Burkhardt said the strategy is to buy the lawyers time to file an injunction; they assume the city will try to move the monument in the dead of night, just as the city did with the Confederate statue in Travis Park in September 2017.

"We have eyes on the Cenotaph 24/7 right now" Burkhardt said. "We have people who are taking shifts and covering different parts of the day and night."

The restoration and repair of the Cenotaph is scheduled to be completed by 2020, City Manager Sheryl Sculley told the City Council three weeks ago. But other details related to the timetable other than that remain murky.

For Burkhardt and his group, the part of the master plan that moves the circa-1940 Cenotaph roughly 500 feet to a spot in front of the Menger Hotel is akin to moving The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or other war memorials. It's especially disrespectful to the Alamo defenders, they say, because the monument would be located outside the walls they died defending.

The architects behind the plan argue the Cenotaph needs to be moved to recreate the openness of the original Alamo fort, and to orient visitors as they enter the grounds. This strategy is pulled from the vision and guiding principles that were adopted in 2015 by the Alamo Plaza Advisory Committee, District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño, the plan's most vocal advocate, has said repeatedly.

Arguments have been made on both sides as to whether the Cenotaph needs repair.

At the Council meeting, the group's founder Lee Spencer White portended some kind of clash between members of her group and police officers. When asked about whether her group will sue, she declined to comment.

We've seen similar situations when a group of citizens sues in an attempt to overthrow a Council's decision.

The property currently under dispute is the one on Cherry Street next to the Hays Street Bridge. In early September, the Texas Supreme Court heard arguments from the city and the Hays Street Bridge Restoration Group on the case. Without getting diving too much into that wormhole, the decision is still in court after the City Council approved the sale of the land in 2014 for a development. The restoration group has argued the land was deeded to the city for use as a park.

Having covered a few trials, plaintiffs have to prove two things: do they have standing (do they have grounds to sue), and can they prove how they are damaged by the thing they're trying to stop.

If the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association were to sue, for example, they could argue they have grounds because the memorial was build for their ancestors. I'm not a lawyer, I just play one on this site.

In the case of the Alamo plan, throughout the course of the months-long discourse, there were many legal matters that were broached. Perhaps the biggest one is the deed from 1871, when Spain handed over the plaza to San Antonio, in which it states that the plaza should remain "dedicated for public use as a public space." So far, it's been City Attorney Andy Segovia giving his professional opinion, and many, many, many people interpreting the one-main entrance during museum hours as contradicting the language.

For Treviño, he said the city is prepared to handle any incoming litigation.

"We're prepared to tackle all the issues as they arise," he said. "We have a goal, and we hope to meet that goal, what definitely have is a path forward. So we're going to stay focused on that."

The election

The outcome of the Nov. 6 election could play huge.

Burkhardt and others are hoping that if Prop A is approved by San Antonio voters, it opens the door for a referendum that puts the Alamo plan up for a vote. How exactly that would play out, nobody knows.

This is Texas Freedom Force is preparing to start the process.

"If they pass, we're going to be able to hit the ground running," Burkhardt said.

The other election is that of Land Commissioner, which George P. Bush is attempting to keep. His challengers are Libertarian Matt Piña and Democrat Miguel Suazo.

delay with the Texas Legislature ...

our goal is to get him out ...

suppor this opponents, we've been supporting them for months, right now, we're not doing it as an org, but individuals are going across texas, to houston and dallas, they are talking to people as they go into vote ...

we do lean more towards matt pena,

when it comes to the cenotaph, at the very minimum, ...
other than that, just writing and emailing representatives, bieiderman is not alone, bob hall, donna campbell ...
i believe there's 12 total ...


hopefully yhey won't move anything until january, and then lege can convene and watch

we;re not against the restoration of the alamo, or the cnoetaph if it's done in place, the way that this whole thing has been handled, not even listening to people ... they were brought to the table, and their request was met, but when it came to the C not one of our org, not the TTF or the descendants, were not brought to the table.

Kyle Biederman
try to cut the funding, or he's going to attemp to take it out of the GLO's hands, that way texans will actually ahve a vote on this, this is something we have preached at CC, we believe that texans should be the ones that vote on this, not just SA, but the entire state,

Alamo plan opponent Paul Gescheidle addresses the City Council as Brandon Burkhardt broadcasts his comments on Facebook live. Both are members of This is Texas Freedom Force, which opposes moving the Cenotaph. BEN OLIVO | SAN ANTONIO HERON

What will the railings look like?

Will the Crockett, Palace and Woolworths buildings be torn down?

What will happen with the burial grounds?

Where will the tourist attractions go?

Contact Ben Olivo: 210-421-3932 | ben@saheron.com | @rbolivo on Twitter

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