Senator remembers the Alamo by filing legislation to protect it

San Antonio Express-News & Houston Chronicle

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AUSTIN — Despite evidence to the contrary, state Sen. Donna Campbell is ringing the alarm that the Alamo could be at risk of falling under the control of the United Nations and has filed a bill to protect the shrine.

Campbell, R-New Braunfels, filed Senate Bill 191 to ban foreign entities from owning, controlling or managing the historic landmark.

She said the legislation was in response to the nomination of San Antonio’s missions, including the Alamo, as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO. An international panel will vote on the nomination in June.

According to UNESCO, being inscribed on the list may allow a country to receive financial assistance to support its preservation activities. When a site is selected for the World Heritage List, it is still the property of the country where it’s located.

Despite this, Campbell said she wrote the bill as an extra measure to ensure the security of the Alamo’s ownership.

“The Alamo is the story of Texas,” Campbell said. “It should always be maintained and cared for by Texas.”

Campbell said she is not opposed to the Alamo being designated as a World Heritage Site but that “UNESCO starts with U.N.,” and there should be added protection to make sure it is always owned by Texas.

“If anybody is disturbed by my bill, then I would have to wonder if there’s something that they know that I don’t know that puts the Alamo at risk,” Campbell said. “UNESCO and everybody involved should be very comfortable with my bill.”

Some, however, suggest that the bill is more a nod to Campbell’s tea party base of supporters.

She could be genuinely concerned, or the legislation could be politically motivated, said David Crockett, a professor of political science at Trinity University and a indirect descendant of the famed Alamo defender with the same name.

“It’s possible that she has tapped into that concern of some of her constituents, and she’s just trying to appeal to them,” Crockett said. “The other option is she herself really does believe that there is a threat posed by internationalist forces to reduce sovereignty in the U.S.”

But Crockett said Campbell’s legislation does not help her stature as a senator.

“It does nothing for her, I don’t think,” Crockett said. “In fact, it poses a danger of mainstream conservative Republicans thinking it’s a bit nutty.”

Sue Ann Pemberton, president of the San Antonio Conservation Society, said the legislation seems unnecessary but would not affect World Heritage recognition for San Antonio missions.

“We don’t see a need for this bill,” Pemberton said. “If there are changes in the wording of it, that would be a great concern to us.”

Pemberton said there are 22 sites in the United States that are on the World Heritage List, including the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon.

“You don’t see a U.N. flag on top of the Statue of Liberty or the Grand Canyon,” Pemberton said.

The General Land Office manages the Alamo. A spokesman said the office is not concerned about it being controlled by a foreign entity and that the nomination for a World Heritage site has nothing to do with the ownership of the Alamo.

“The Alamo is owned by the people of Texas, and it always will be,” spokesman Jim Suydam said.

This is not the first time the General Land Office has had to reassure Texans that the historic mission would not be seized. In October 2013, rumors circulated when George Rodriguez, former president of the San Antonio Tea Party, wrote a report cautioning that the Alamo may fall under U.N. influence.

The Land Office wrote a news release disputing the rumors and confirming that the Alamo would not be turned over to any foreign entity.

Jerry Patterson, former Texas land commissioner, said he thinks the bill should be changed to a Senate Joint Resolution because the Land Office does not have the authority to sell the site.

“The only way that could happen is if the Legislature or the governor were to declare this to be surplus property and authorize this for sale,” Patterson said. “If the senator is serious about protecting the Alamo from any kind of ownership or rights transferring to any other entity, foreign or domestic, it would have to be a constitutional amendment.”

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