Friday, March 29, 2013

NM Citizen Legislature Scored For Conflicts Of Interest, Plus: More On Berry And "ABQ: The Plan," And: Death Claims Odis Echols, A Legend Of La Politica  

The problems of a citizen legislature. The Center for Public Integrity reports ABQ GOP State Senator John Ryan made $240,000 as a Washington lobbyist last year, and...

Ryan is not registered to lobby in New Mexico, but he has voted on bills involving some of the same issues he lobbies for in Washington. Last year, he voted on a tax bond measure that funded dozens of projects across the state. One of items in the measure sent $278,000 to build a wastewater pipeline in Clovis, NM, which paid Ryan $40,000 last year. Ryan’s contract with Clovis cites a similar project on his to-do list. The same bond measure contained $210,000 for the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority, which paid Ryan $80,000 last year, according to federal records. Over the past few years, Ryan voted on several other bills that either helped finance or otherwise affected his clients

Several other NM legislators were singled out in the Center's piece for possible conflicts of  interest. It's a perennial problem in Santa Fe. The part-time lawmakers get $154 a day for expenses, but no salary and can vote on anything they please. Some have suggested an ethics commission that could advise lawmakers to recuse themselves on certain votes. Senator Ryan has recused himself on several occasions...


We blogged this week of how Mayor Berry's "ABQ: The Plan" is getting increasingly wary treatment from the city council. There will be no bonds for the plan on the October ballot but as reader Elaine Hebard explains "The Plan" will still get money:

At the City Council meeting March 4, the Council voted to delete these items from the GO Bond Program: River Amenities, Enhancements and Bosque Restoration, $2,250,000; Bosque Trail Development, $1,000,000  (General Obligation Bonds categorized by purpose must be approved by the voters in the municipal election Oct. 8).

…And then the Council transferred $2,892,000 from the City’s General Fund to the Parks & Recreation Capital Acquisition Fund: River Amenities, Enhancements and Bosque Restoration, and Bosque Trail Development, $2,892,000. These funds do not have to be voted on and will be available as soon as the Mayor signs the G.O. Bond Programming Resolution. While we should be wary of adding new commitments, what really happened is that the public okay was removed.

Yes, the public okay was removed from "ABQ: The Plan" and the Mayor still got cash for his pet projects, but going forward it is going to be more difficult for him--especially if the Dems become the majority party on the nine member panel.


You don't become a legend of La Politica without a colorful personality, an outsized ego and an instinct for making the right move at the right time. Former State Senator and veteran lobbyist Odis Echols had all that and then some.

Odis, who died in ABQ Thursday at the age of 82 after several years of declining health, was a Clovis native who joked of growing up among "dirt farmers." His family was not among them. Odis's father--Pop Echols--was a radio station owner and concert promoter who helped along musicians like the legendary Buddy Holly. Odis learned the art of promotion and performance in those early years and later--as they say--took his act on the road.

The first act of his political life was getting elected in 1966 to the New Mexico Senate where he would serve ten years and rise to the position of Senate Majority Whip. A lifelong Democrat, he was a good ol' boy of the back slapping variety, rarely without a smile and a good political story--even if it did sometimes border on being a tall tale. His was the politics of joy and inclusion in a time when state politics was a much more personal playground, uninfected by the millions of dollars and the public vitriol that is standard today.

Echols was proud of being one of the originators of the bill that made job training funds available to employers and he wanted a larger stage for his second political act--the governorship. He came close, but in 1974 it was Jerry Apodaca who prevailed in the Dem primary and who was elected in November. It was a one-shot deal for Odis and the stars never aligned for him another run.

But his third act was not a curtain call. In the late 70's he began lobbying and is credited with popularizing the trend of taking on multiple clients. Before he was done, his client list was the length of your arm.

For many years, Odis partnered with me to deliver Election Night results on ABQ public radio station KANW 89.1 FM. He loved the game. When Governor King who, like Odis, boasted a savvy, rural  personality, lost his re-election bid for a fourth term in 1994, Echols turned to me and said: "Joe, you can only take so many bites out of the apple."

Odis knew and worked with every Governor from Cargo to Richardson. He was a lobbying powerhouse who paved the way for Indian gaming which became a billion dollar a year industry.

Longtime lobbyist Scott Scanland, who began with Echols as a business partner, said Echols will be remembered as "a dean of the New Mexico lobbying corp who paved the way for me and many others."

Retired newsman and politico Rodger Beimer added:

Odis “From Clovis” Echols was a broadcaster, a promoter, a politician and a legend.

And he did it all with joie de vivre and a zest for the political life that you won't see matched anytime soon.

That's it for this week. Thanks for joining us. Reporting from Albuquerque and wishing you a Happy Easter, I'm Joe Monahan.

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