Budget season in San Antonio has arrived.

The city is proposing a $2.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2019, focusing on public safety, infrastructure, parks, and affordable housing, among other issues.

Download a copy of the proposed budget here.

Want to weigh in on the issues and learn more about the city's goals?

There are several public meetings scheduled over the next month where citizens can ask questions and mingle with city officials. The series is part of the SASpeakUp campaign to raise awareness about the city budget process and gather feedback from the community.

"These events are really for folks to come in and take a deep dive into the proposed budget," city spokeswoman Laura Mayes said.

She said each meeting will begin with a budget presentation followed by an open house-style event where attendees can talk to officials from various city departments.

She said the meetings will be family friendly with activities for children and raffle prizes.

The meeting times and dates are:

» 5:30-8 p.m. Thursday (tonight) at Morgan’s Wonderland, 5223 David Edwards Drive

» 5:30-8 p.m. Aug. 20 at the Hardberger Park Urban Ecology Center, 8400 Northwest Military Highway

» 5:30-8 p.m. Aug. 21 at Palo Alto College Student Center, 1400 W. Villaret Boulevard (in Spanish)

» 9-11 a.m. Aug. 25 at Woodlawn Lake Park, 1103 Cincinnati Ave.

» 5:30-8 p.m. Aug. 28 at Cherrity Bar, 302 Montana St.

» 9-11 a.m. Sept. 1 at Pearsall Park, 4838 Old Pearsall Road (in Spanish)

These public meetings are in addition to City Council work sessions, where council members take deep dives into various portions of the budget. These meetings happen at the Municipal Plaza Building, 114 W. Commerce St. and can be watched live here. Click here for a schedule.

For more information on the budget, click here.

Featured photo by V. Finster | San Antonio Heron

Contact Jolene Almendarez: 210-550-0087 | jolene@saheron.com | @jalmendarez57 on Twitter

This report was updated at 2:50 p.m. to include info on an Aug. 27 open house.

Citing the disruptive nature of previous meetings, the proposed final draft of the Alamo interpretive plan will be unveiled 6:30 p.m. Aug. 30 behind closed doors, District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño told the Heron. A location has not been announced.

The meeting is that of the Alamo Citizen Advisory Committee, which will view the plan in executive session. Afterwards, the members of the community will have an opportunity to view the plan and ask questions.

“The public meetings, the people that have attended, have attended with one goal in mind which is to disrupt the citizens advisory committee meeting and so … I’m requesting that we hold an executive meeting before and then we’ll open up to the public toward the end,” Treviño said.

The public can also participate in an "open house and tour" at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Menger Hotel, 204 Alamo Plaza, although few details were immediately available about what that will entail.

Alamo Citizen Advisory Committee meetings are not subject to the Texas Open Meeting Act, but have previously remained open to the public.

About a month ago, several public meetings on a plan for revamping Alamo Plaza prompted outrage from various group over historic Fiesta parade routes, road closures and — most notably — moving the Cenotaph memorial. The plans being presented Aug. 30 are not necessarily new, but additional renderings, some adjustments, and recognition of feedback from the community, will be presented, Treviño said.

The meeting, he said, will include a rendering showing why the Cenotaph has to move — because it blocks views of the Alamo and doesn’t fit with goals to recreate the original compound footprint with an open feel. After a contentious public input meeting at Jefferson High School last month, Treviño said keeping the Cenotaph at its current location was not an option. In the plan, the monument would move about 500 feet south to a location in front of the Menger Hotel.

Several groups, but primarily This is Texas Freedom Force and the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association, object to moving the Cenotaph and have hosted rallies and protests in opposition of the proposal. They’ve likened it to moving the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and other historical war monuments.

Treviño said the Aug. 30 presentation will show how the Alamo master plan has evolved since the process began earlier this year.

"It's going to be a balance of those," he said.

But not every idea from the public will be incorporated into the plan, he said.

After the Citizens Advisory Committee, Treviño said its members will write a letter of recommendation to the six-member Management Committee, which will ultimately decide if the plan should be sent to the Executive Committee for a final vote.

The Management Committee is composed of Treviño; City Manager Sheryl Sculley; Alamo Endowment board members Ramona Bass and Gene Powell; and Bryan Preston and Hector Valle of the Texas General Land Office.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush are the two members of the executive committee and will also vote on the process.

"I think we're very close," Treviño said.

Ultimately, the City Council will vote to permanently close Alamo Street, to relocate the Cenotaph and to create a lease agreement with the State of Texas for the city-owned portions of Alamo Plaza. The state lease will allow state and Alamo Endowment dollars to be spend on the entire plaza.

Featured photo: Protestors air their concerns over the Alamo interpretive plan in late June. V. Finster | San Antonio Heron

Previously published
» Explaining the impacts of a two-way Losoya Street
» Treviño: Keeping the Alamo Cenitaph in place is not an option
» Despite Treviño's firm stance, Cenotaph activists are not done with their fight
» Saturday's protestors to Alamo planners: Come and take it
» Cenotaph process are most frustrating for those opposed to Alamo plan

Contact Jolene Almendarez: 210-550-0087 | jolene@saheron.com | @jalmendarez57 on Twitter

Merkaba, a Mayan-inspired bar, will take up residence at the former Swig Martini Bar spot at 111 W. Crockett St.

“It’s a new concept for us, something we haven't done before,” said Derek Langford, senior general manager at Howl of the Moon, which is opening the new bar.

Merkaba is a reference to the “vehicle” of ascension used to connect with higher realms.

“The reason we chose that name is because we wanted to use the ancient Mayan lore and kind of the folk story that surrounds it,” Langford said in an interview Tuesday.

Lighting that changes with music from a DJ booth, holograms on windows that mimic water features, films playing on walls, and strategic lighting to highlight aspects of the bar are all part of the experience.

The bar won’t necessarily serve craft cocktails, but it will have “elevated” drinks made with fresh ingredients inspired by flavors found in the Yucatán, Guatemala and Central America — including star anise, honey, mezcal, rum, and tequila.

One featured drink is the Flower of Life Paloma, a twist on the classic tequila-based cocktail, featuring Casa Noble Crystal Tequila, fresh lime juice, hibiscus syrup, grapefruit soda, and saline.

Merkaba is also teaming up with Paesanos, which primarily serves Italian food, to offer eats at the location.

He said the Aztec Theatre and nearby Casino Building, which was constructed with hieroglyph decor, inspired the bar’s theme.

The space is still under construction. Langford anticipates a late September or early October opening.

Featured photo by Jolene Almendarez | San Antonio Heron

Contact Jolene Almendarez: 210-550-0087 | jolene@saheron.com | @jalmendarez57 on Twitter

The traffic situation on West Commerce Street is not getting better anytime soon.

Two major projects — San Pedro Creek Culture Park and bond upgrades — will have portions of the street closed the next two years. And construction of the Canopy Hilton Hotel at Commerce and St. Mary’s Street will also close lanes.

The current phase of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park has Commerce closed from North Flores to North Laredo streets, though drivers are still able to access Penner's, the Holiday Inn Express and San Fernando Hall. The closure is for utility work underneath the creek that’s needed before construction on the next phase of the park can begin, said Monica Trevino-Ortega, public information officer at the San Antonio River Authority.

The street’s been closed since June, and will remain so through the end of September. Then, a single lane will remain open until August 2019.

Four blocks east on Commerce, the construction of the 24-story Canopy Hilton Hotel, a development by Esquire Tavern owner Chris Hill, has had North St. Mary’s Street closed since early May and has rerouted southbound traffic to Presa. That closure is expected to end Aug. 30. However, before St. Mary’s closure clears up, portions of Commerce will be closed at this intersection Aug. 27-30, according to city records. The hotel development is expected to open November 2019, Hill said.

The largest project is $15 million in bond upgrades, funded by the 2012 and 2017 bond programs. The project, which received preliminary approval from the Historic and Design Review Commission last week, will shut down portions of Commerce — from North St. Mary’s to San Rosa streets — for 18 months beginning January 2019.

The project is expected to begin at the west end of Commerce and continue eastward toward North St. Mary’s Street two blocks at a time. Construction will alternate onto different sides of the street, said David McBeth, a capital programs manager in the city’s Transportation and Capital Improvements department.

He said the city plans to make an effort to keep at least one lane on Commerce open throughout construction, but there will be periodic closings at intersections when concrete is being poured. The dates for the specific closures are unknown until the city hires a contractor for the job, he said.

Sales associates tend to inventory inside Penner's last week. Photos by V. Finster | San Antonio Heron

Business impact

The 102-year-old Penner’s clothing store, located at corner of West Commerce and Camaron streets, is in the thick of the construction.

Co-owner Mitchell Penner said river authority officials have been very responsive over the past few years, keeping local business owners up to date about the construction.

While the store has seen a drop in foot traffic, they’ve maintained their flow of regular customers, he said. Penner’s, he said, isn’t so much driven by tourism. It’s more of a destination spot for people looking for specific items, such as classic menswear, Guayabera shirts, and some women’s wear.

If the company were more like an H-E-B, with customers popping in twice a week, he said, Penner’s would have taken a bigger hit. But most of the customers they cater to come in a few times a year.

“Do I wish the city and county would work together and maybe award the same contractor the project because they're already here and figure out how to work together to work at the same time?” he asked. “I just think it makes the most sense.”

He's confident Penner’s will make it through the two years of construction by tightening their inventory and making smart business decisions.

Penner doesn’t blame the city or county for the congested situation on Commerce, though. He said he knows it’s a tough area to work on. The outcome, he hopes, will be worth the wait.

“Their goal is not to hurt any local businesses,” Penner said. “They’re not trying to do that ... They have an area that really does need enhancement.”

Zona Cultural

In the 2012 bond package, $9 million was include for Commerce Street improvements.

But after Zona Cultural (west downtown) was designated as a 44-block metro cultural district in 2015, the project expanded.

"We really thought about the scope of the project and what we would really like to see," McBeth said. "That's when the idea of transforming this area to try to make it a special place in Zona was talked about."

A 2017 bond program provided an additional $6 million to the project, increasing the total allocation to $15 million.

McBeth said it made more sense to rebuild seven blocks of Commerce with larger sidewalks for a more pedestrian-friendly experience.

“The experience for pedestrians, I think, is going to be much better than it is today,” McBeth said.

Wider sidewalks will make room for more trees, shade and decorative flairs.

"Our design is being developed to relate more to the Zona district and make it distinctive," he said.

Some other proposed elements of the project include the following:

» Five gray and red interactive kiosks decorated with vinyl wraps
» Decorative, detailed sidewalk paving with “natural materials”
» Custom metal and tile mosaic benches
» Decorative Via bus shelters
» Lighting along walkways that includes posts with decorative perforated metal screens and internal lighting.

The number of lanes on Commerce will be reduced from four to three, but won’t have an impact on people’s travel time through downtown, McBeth said.

Three lanes of traffic can generally handle about 5,000 vehicles per hour during peak hours. The stretch of Commerce that will undergo construction sees 500-1,200 vehicles during peak travel times.

Commerce currently has four 11-foot lanes and 8- to 10-foot sidewalks on both sides of a typical stretch of the street. According to renderings, the new walkways will include 20-foot sidewalks and 10-foot sidewalks with ADA standard ramps. The width of the new road lanes will vary between 10-12 feet.

Over the course of the next few months, the city will put out bids and hire a contractor and City Council will ultimately approve the project. McBeth said a public meeting will also be held with local businesses and building owners, so they’re not caught off guard by the construction timeline.

View project renderings and other details of the project here.

Featured photo by V. Finster | San Antonio Heron

Reporter Alexis Aguirre contributed to this report.

Contact Jolene Almendarez: 210-550-0087 | jolene@saheron.com | @jalmendarez57 on Twitter

There’s no map to opening a brewery in downtown San Antonio, but Dustin and Hannah Baker have been forging their own way into the industry over the past 18 months.

Roadmap Brewing Co., 723 N. Alamo St., is slated to open in September, and on Monday, the Bakers brewed their first batch, an IPA called Mama Dukes.

Named after Dustin’s IPA-loving mom, Joan Baker, Mama Dukes is among four core beers they plan to keep on tap yearound; the others being a coffee stout, a German-style Kölsch and a saison. They’re launching with eight beers and plan to build up to a rotation of about a dozen beers and one cider. Aside from the cider, all beer will be made on-location.

“We didn't want to do this without our customers being able to see the equipment, see where the beer is coming from that they’re drinking,” Hannah said.

Hannah and Dustin are responsible for running the day-to-day operations at Roadmap, while Dustin’s dad, Scott Baker, handles the business end.

The trio is joining a community of breweries — small and large — that have opened in the downtown area in recent years, including Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery, Alamo Beer Company, Künstler Brewing, and Freetail Brewing Co.

“On one Monday morning, I gave grain to another brewer while (head brewer Les Locke) at Southerleigh helped us out as far as storing some ingredients, until we got the freezer up and running,” Dustin said.

Unlike other industries, he said, the more breweries operating in an area, the more of an attraction the area becomes.

"I would love for (another) one to come within our neighborhood here because it makes it more of a destination," he said.

The entire endeavor is a long way from their brewing beginnings, when Dustin was using a home kit to make beer for the first time on the stovetop nearly four years ago. The kit was a wedding present from Hannah’s uncle, Kelly Jobe.

Roadmap Brewing Co. is set to open in about six weeks. Photo: Ben Olivo | San Antonio Heron

Eventually, Dustin moved his beer production into the garage and his batches continued to grow. They moved from a home in Pittsburg to San Antonio about two years ago for Dustin’s job. He’d been substitute teaching for about four years and eventually taught math in his own classroom at Gus Garcia Middle School in Edgewood Independent School District.

Dustin said he secretly put a business plan together for a brewery before showing it to Hannah, and they both agreed to show it to his dad to Scott Baker, who splits his time between Rhode Island and Florida. Scott Baker’s ambition has always been to open his own bar when he retired.

“I somehow convinced him to forgo that and open our brewery,” Dustin said.

As the 2017 school year came to a close, they’d been working on a business plan for several months.

“The moment that I told my principal that I wasn’t returning was one of the scariest but most exciting time of my life — our life,” Dustin said.

Since then, they’ve put in long hours at the brewery, painting walls, setting up the brewing system and tying up all the loose ends they need to open next month.

“We don’t really know what our niche will be yet, so to say, but we’re definitely the type of brewery that likes to experiment and have some fun with our ingredients,” Dustin said.

For more updates on the Roadmap Brewing Co. opening date, visit their Facebook page.

Photos by Ben Olivo | San Antonio Heron

Contact Jolene Almendarez: 210-550-0087 | jolene@saheron.com | @jalmendarez57 on Twitter

A parking lot near La Villita, primarily owned by St. John's Lutheran Church, could end up as the site of an eight-story, mixed-use apartment building — a combination of workforce and market-rate units, retail space and a rooftop pool.

Austin developer Dennis McDaniel, who built the Steel House Lofts, is partnering with the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) and St. John’s Lutheran Church on the project.

The project, known as St. John’s Square, would sit on the southeast corner of South St. Mary’s and East Nueva streets, a 1.3-acre lot just west of the church. It could cost upwards of $50 million to build and offer around 250 units.

On Thursday, SAHA commissioners voted to pursue 4 percent low-income housing tax credits, a federal program that’s meant to spur affordable housing growth.

McDaniel said roughly 80 percent of the units would be leased at market-rate rents, while 20 percent would be considered workforce housing and therefore offered to people making 80 percent of the area median income (AMI) — which, in San Antonio, would amount to $50,800 for a family of four. However, the project’s details are still being negotiated, he added.

“We’re real happy to be in the design stage of this project, because it helps the community,” McDaniel said. “It helps the church and we think it’s going to be pretty special.”

In 2013, McDaniel met Oliver Gunnels, who managed the St. John’s lot, and who also lived at the Steel House Lofts, when it was a for-rent property. Gunnells connected McDaniel with church officials who asked him to build a parking garage on the lot.

But McDaniel wasn’t excited about building just a garage. Later, he instead proposed adding apartments and retail space to accompany a parking structure.

The church agreed and the two sides spent nearly five years working out the details of the arrangement. McDaniel signed a 99-year lease on the property in February. In return for the lot, St. John’s will receive a package that includes parking spaces, and revenue from rents, he said.

Current site plans show 110 studios, 138 one-bedroom apartments, 13 two-bedrooms and about 335 parking spaces. The project also includes 6,612-square-feet of retail.

Rents have not been determined. McDaniel said market rate for the area, which is a block west of Hemisfair, is between $2.30-$2.40 a square foot, or between $1,200-$2,300 per month.

Rents for the workforce housing are still being negotiated, said Tim Alcott, SAHA's real estate and legal services officer. So are the exact percentage of the total units that would be reserved as workforce housing.

While the Steel House Lofts connected McDaniel with the property, SAHA played a role, too.

After the Steel House Lofts became a for-sale product in 2014, SAHA President and CEO David Nisivoccia purchased a unit and soon met McDaniel, who wasn’t familiar with SAHA’s mission.

So when Nisivoccia pitched making the St. John’s Square project a SAHA partnership with workforce housing, McDaniel was game.

The project is due to receive $3.2 million in city Center City Housing Incentives Policy incentives — an estimated $2.3 million in city tax rebates over 15 years, along with city and SAWS fee waivers and a mixed-use loan for the retail build-out.

Another funding method being considered, aside from the traditional mortgage-equity partners combo, is from the Opportunity Zone, a federal program that offers investors tax incentives for contributing funding to distressed, low-income areas prime for revitalization. It’s unclear whether the St. John’s Square project will get the funding or how much money the project could be eligible to receive.

Both Alcott and McDaniel said the capital details are still being worked out.

Renderings courtesy San Antonio Housing Authority

Contact Jolene Almendarez: 210-550-0087 | jolene@saheron.com | @jalmendarez57 on Twitter


West Commerce Street from St. Mary's Street to Santa Rosa


West Commerce Street from Santa Rosa to Frio streets


Santa Rosa from West César E. Chávez Boulevard to West Martin Street


South San Saba Street from West Nueva Street to West Martin Street

Contact Jolene Almendarez: 210-550-0087 | jolene@saheron.com | @jalmendarez57 on Twitter

Armadillo Boulders, a rock climbing gym in the Tobin Hill area, opened this past weekend, and also gives people a place to do yoga and sip cold brew from tap.

"We wanted to break down the barriers or the obstacles of the sport to people,” co-owner Michael Cano said. “It’s not an alternative fitness thing. It’s a lifestyle fitness. So it’s just like going to the movies or going (to play) putt-putt.”

There are no ropes, harnesses, certifications or 50-foot climbing walls at Armadillo Boulders, 1119 Camden St. Instead, all of the walls are under 30 feet, and after a five-minute safety course, anyone can scale them.

The facility is the result of a three-year endeavour by Cano and his longtime friend Joe Kreidel. Both men are San Antonio natives and graduates of Clark High School.

Co-owners Joe Kreidel (left) and Michael Kano opened Armadillo Boulders over the weekend. Photos by V. Finster | San Antonio Heron

Kreidel was living in Tucson, Arizona, when he came home to visit family and realized there were hardly any indoor climbing facilities in San Antonio. He emailed Cano, who was living in Brooklyn at the time, to gauge is interest in opening a climbing gym.

Nick Parra climbs a wall Sunday at Armadillo Boulders. Parra has visited the gym four times and recommends first timers focus on their feet placement. V. Finster | San Antonio Heron

“I was surprised at how quickly Michael was on board,” Kreidel said. “I think it was quickly apparent to both of us that it was a pretty clear path forward.”

The two men made the move back to the city with their families about two years ago and spent much of that time driving around the city, eating barbecue, drinking coffee and searching for the perfect location for their business. Finding a building with 50-foot ceilings, however, proved nearly impossible and they narrowed their original plans for a rock climbing gym to be solely about bouldering.

“We want to be a fantastic bouldering gym," Cano said. "We didn’t want to be mediocre at ropes and mediocre at bouldering."

A former industrial building at Camden Street fit the bill. They nearly doubled the size of the original ceiling and had the walls built by Vertical Solutions, a Salt Lake City-based company which Kreidel and Cano deem the best climbing wall builders in the industry.

From there, every aspect of Armadillo Boulders was created to give people a curated experience.

They left the natural birch walls unpainted so the colored climbing holds, which indicate difficulty levels, readily stand out. Kreidel resets a portion of the wall routes twice a week, giving people new bouldering problems to solve. Within a month, every wall at the facility will have been changed.

“So if you climb in July and you climb in August, it’s going to be a new gym,” Cano said.

There are also homages to San Antonio throughout the facility. All of the walls are named, including the "dancer" wall, because it resembles a folklorico dancer’s swaying dress, and "Wall-ito," a smaller, 16-foot kid’s wall adorned with a hula hoop and pool noodles. It was used by a group of 15 kids who attended a 9-year-old boy’s birthday party at the facility on opening day.

In a more secluded part of the gym, the only paint on the walls depicts the Virgin Mary.

“It’s nine feet tall and I think the craftsmanship is incredible,” Cano said.

They also paid close attention to other details in the gym, as well.

For instance, guests can sip on Element Kombucha and Pulp coffee on tap. And parts of the wood cutting tables, marked with saw burns, were repurposed to border the front desk.

Kreidel and Cano also teamed up with the Southtown Yoga Loft to offer yoga classes, and has a fitness area.

"There’s also a lot of people who are going to be members who aren’t going to climb much," Kreidel said.

They hope that with multiple fitness options, Wi-Fi and tables on which to enjoy coffee, Armadillo Boulders can become a community oriented space for people.

Armadillo Boulders is open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. every day with additional members-only hours. Day passes are available. For more information, visit the website here.

Brandon Martinez leads a safety orientation for new visitors on Sunday at Armadillo Boulders. V. Finster | San Antonio Heron

Featured photo by V. Finster | San Antonio Heron

Contact Jolene Almendarez: 210-550-0087 | jolene@saheron.com | @jalmendarez57 on Twitter

For roughly 150 people who protested in front of the Alamo Cenotaph Saturday morning, they are modern-day defenders of Texas history.

“This ground was bought and paid for by the blood of Texans, and we will fight until the bitter end to protect it,” said Brandon Burkhart, president of This is Texas Freedom Force (TTFF), which opposes a plan that would relocate the Cenotaph to another location on the plaza. “Come and take it.”

In front of him, people who embody Texas in cowboy boots and hats waved picket signs and cheered. They, like Burkhart, say they have been left out of the public input process.

The Alamo interpretive plan — a joint effort by the city, the Texas General Land Office and the Alamo Endowment — suggests moving the Cenotaph about 500 feet south to a spot in front of the Menger Hotel. Planners say the move is necessary to enable clear views of the Alamo as people approach the plaza, and is part of an effort to recreate most of the compound’s circa-1836 footprint.

At a rally on Saturday, John Kimple (left) and Todd Key hold signs protesting a plan that would move the Alamo Cenotaph to another location on the plaza. Photos by V. Finster | San Antonio Heron

Last week, District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño said that while moving the Cenotaph was not an option, planners could compromise on other issues presented in the plan, such as re-routing the Battle of Flowers Parade. During a public meeting in August, a modified plan will be presented to the Alamo Citizen Advisory Committee, a 28-member group that weighs in on the proposal.

Critics say Treviño’s statement is proof the city did not intend to consider people’s concerns about moving the Cenotaph.

“This is our headstone,” said Lee Spencer White, president of the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association, whose fourth-great-grandfather died at the famous battle. “This is our cemetery. So you're going to tell me that you don’t like the view anymore?”

Tim Anderson, a descendant of defender Andrew Kent, added, “If you went to a cemetery and moved someone’s headstone, whether their body was there, would their family be upset? Absolutely. So why shouldn't we be?”

In a city-endorsed online market research survey, 2,068 people were asked about their preference to “Repair/restore The Alamo Cenotaph, add names of missing Defenders, relocate the Cenotaph to a prominent location outside the historic mission footprint, visible from the Church.”

Results show 63 percent of respondents strongly agreed with the statement, 31 percent were neutral, and 6 percent disagreed. About 77 percent were Texans.

The Alamo Defenders Descendants Association conducted its own survey of 2,569 Texans via email and robocall. In that survey, 60 percent of people were in favor of keeping the Cenotaph at its current location, 6 percent favored moving it, and 34 percent didn’t have enough information or had no opinion.

State Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredericksburg, also spoke at the rally, saying he supports leaving the Cenotaph alone.

“We’re getting other legislators together so that we can put pressure on the GLO and George P. Bush (GLO commissioner) to be able to keep the Cenotaph right here, where it belongs,” Biedermann said.

After the rally, Biedermann explained the Texas Legislature appropriates money to the General Land Office, and Bush is one of two people who has the power to veto the Alamo Plan. The other person is Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

“We’re going to put the pressure on Commissioner Bush because that’s who we work with,” he said.

Correction: The Alamo Defenders Descendants Association conducted the survey via robocall and email about Texans' perspectives regarding moving the Cenotaph. A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed the survey.

Contact Jolene Almendarez: 210-550-0087 | jolene@saheron.com | @jalmendarez57 on Twitter

An informational campaign and protest, by groups who oppose relocating the Cenotaph, began at Alamo Plaza on Monday and will culminate in a rally on Saturday.

“The Cenotaph is kind of a community headstone for anyone who is an Alamo defender descendent,” said Paul Gescheidle (above), a member of This is Texas Freedom Force (TTFF), the most vocal group opposed to the monument’s relocation.

Squire Damon (also spelled Daymon) is Gescheidle’s ancestor, who died at the Battle of the Alamo. Damon was among the “Immortal 32,” a group of 32 men from Gonzales who responded to Lt. Col. William Barret Travis’ plea for reinforcements at the Alamo.

Lupe Rivera stands by the Cenotaph with literature about its proposed relocation on Monday at Alamo Plaza. V. FINSTER SAN ANTONIO HERON

On Monday, Gescheidle talked about his connection to the Alamo and Cenotaph, while wearing a red, white and blue cowboy hat and handing out flyers to passersby about the proposed move of the monument. About half-a-dozen TTFF members, also decked out in patriotic attire, did the same.

For Gescheidle and others in the 15,000-member statewide group, suggestions to move the monument are disrespectful.

The Alamo interpretive plan proposes moving the Cenotaph about 500 feet south to a place in front of the Menger Hotel. Planners have said the move is necessary to recreate most of the original footprint of the compound and enable clear views of the Alamo as people approach the plaza.

Last Wednesday, District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño said several aspects of the plan can be modified, but moving the Cenotaph is “not an option.”

The TTFF members aren’t backing down.

TTFF members have talked to about 1,000 people about the Cenotaph since Monday, said Keri Hillyer, the group’s director of research. They’re encouraging people to contact Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s office, the Texas General Land Office, and their City Council member about the issue.

“This isn’t just about the city of San Antonio … the Alamo represents people from all over the country,” Hillyer said.

TTFF member Lupe Rivera kept a Texas flag, emblazoned with a rattlesnake and the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me,” propped on his shoulder as he spoke to people in front of the Cenotaph this week. He said TTFF members have also talked to people from as far away as Germany and Australia about the monument move.

“What they’re trying to do to us here is a travesty,” he said.

“These politicians have come around, they want to change everything. It’s a travesty. That’s the only word I can use.”

In an online market research survey about the Alamo, in which 2,068 visitors responded, about 77 percent were Texans and the rest resided in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver and Phoenix.

People were asked if their preference was to “Repair/restore The Alamo Cenotaph, add names of missing Defenders, relocate the Cenotaph to a prominent location outside the historic mission footprint, visible from the Church.” Read the survey here.

The results show 63 percent of respondents strongly agreed with the statement, 31 percent were neutral, and 6 percent disagreed.

Respondents were not asked if they agreed with keeping the Cenotaph in place, and no focus group studies have been conducted throughout the Alamo planning process, Alamo CEO Douglass McDonald said.

Focus groups provide more qualitative research and allow people more options to respond to questions in a nuanced way.

The Alamo Defenders Descendants Association, another organization opposed to moving the Cenotaph, conducted its own survey of 2,569 people via email and robocall. In that survey, 60 percent of people were in favor of keeping the Cenotaph at its current location, 6 percent favored moving it, and 34 percent didn’t have enough information or had no opinion.

The survey, however, began by setting up the options with the description, “The Cenotaph is an impressive structure commissioned in 1936 to honor the Alamo Defenders on the ground where they died.”

The $2,000 survey was paid for by Lee Spencer White, president of the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association. White’s survey was only conducted among Texas residents and she calls the city-endorsed research a “tourist survey.”

She asked, “Do you want the tourist input or do you want the Texans’ input?”

The TTFF members continued their protest Friday on Alamo Plaza. On Saturday, a larger event called, “Save the Alamo Cenotaph Protest” is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Alamo Plaza. It’s being co-hosted TTFF is co-hosting the rally with members from the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association.

Correction: The Alamo Defenders Descendants Association conducted the survey via robocall and email about Texans' perspectives regarding moving the Cenotaph. A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed the survey.

Previously published:
Treviño: Keeping the Alamo Cenotaph in place is ‘not an option’

Paul Gescheidle, descendant of Alamo defender Squire Damon (also spelled Daymon), stands next to the name of his ancestor at the Cenotaph on Monday. V. FINSTER | SAN ANTONIO HERON

Featured photo by V. Finster | San Antonio Heron

Contact Jolene Almendarez: 210-550-0087 | jolene@saheron.com | @jalmendarez57 on Twitter

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