After being closed since 9/11, this year the State Capitol dome finally reopened to the public. Although you now must sign up for a tour (free, but only available Monday through Friday) and still have to climb 99 steps to the top, your efforts are rewarded with a great view from the pinnacle of political power. And while the final steps leading to the outdoor balcony are still off-limits, that loss is more than made up for by the addition of Mr. Brown's Attic, a museum packed with Capitol memorabilia that's named after the man who donated land for the Statehouse.
State senator Ken Gordon didn't win his bid for Colorado Secretary of State, but his campaign was far from all wet. Building on his Best of Denver-winning ad from 2006, Gordon donned a wetsuit and hopped in a tank full of circling sharks at the Downtown Aquarium -- all to emphasize the fact that he never took money from special-interest PACs. "After working in the legislature for fourteen years," he said, "I found the time underwater with the sharks to be calming and restful." Clearly, those sharks were unaware that Amendment 41 would soon put the bite on them. But now that Gordon's back in the Senate finishing his term, he's making sure that the new law continues to have teeth.
While other political campaigns devolved to the usual heightened rhetoric and low blows, Ken Gordon and Mike Coffman kept the race for secretary of state not just civilized, but downright informative as they assessed problems with the system. And when those problems were so amply illustrated in the November election, Gordon and newly elected Secretary of State Coffman joined together to help sort through the snafus.
When Mike Coffman moved from the Colorado Treasurer's office to the nearby digs of the secretary of state, he left five-year-old golden retriever Buckley behind. The dog had grown up in the treasurer's office, and when a staffer asked if the dog could stay on, newly elected Treasurer Cary Kennedy agreed. This is one bipartisan pooch.
Back in the early '80s, Ron Binz became the first head of the Office of Consumer Counsel, a consumer-advocacy agency that represented consumers before the Public Utilities Commission -- and regularly pissed off not just major utilities, which had previously had the PUC almost all to themselves, but legislators plugged into those utilities. In fact, when Binz was later nominated to a slot on the PUC, legislators shot him down not once, but twice. But two decades later, Governor Bill Ritter named Binz -- by then a utilities consultant who ran a vineyard in his spare time -- to chair the PUC, and the nomination passed with just one "no" vote. Mr. Binz, please be seated -- and keep watching out for the consumer.

Best Freshman in the Colorado Legislature

Chris Romer

The name is familiar, even if the face owes more to Bea than Roy Romer, Colorado's governor from 1986 to 1998. But Chris Romer is clearly his own man. After winning a three-way primary for the District 32 slot, Romer just kept running right through the election and on into the Colorado Senate, where he's pushed an impressive array of legislation that hasn't been limited to education and finance, his private-sector specialty, or Democrat-friendly issues. In fact, he's been slapped by his own party for suggesting that public-school students be competent in English in order to graduate from high school. "We need to send a signal of assimilation, not just immigration," said the freshman legislator in introducing SB 73. And so far, Chris Romer's assimilating very well into the Colorado Statehouse.
He could have run for governor, but Andrew Romanoff wisely decided that he belonged at home -- as Speaker of the House, where he opens his office door every Tuesday afternoon to anyone who feels like a chat. The District 6 representative also shares on his blog (http://andrewromanoff.blogspot.com/), and oversees official House proceedings with very good humor. But Romanoff is perhaps at his best talking behind the scenes, working toward consensus on even the stickiest issues. Could be that he came by that talent naturally, as the child of a Democratic mother and a Republican father. More likely, though, he picked up his political skills along the way, through his keen intellect and observational skills. Romanoff is term-limited out in 2008, but he's been so very nice to have around the House.
Denver Art Museum
Courtesy Denver Art Museum
There's never been anything like it in Denver -- and not just because it looks like a futuristic spacecraft (or maybe what's left after one crashes). Even as the steel framing of the structure created by Daniel Libeskind and the Davis Partnership was going up, the Frederic C. Hamilton Building was a landmark. And as it came on line last fall, this addition to the Denver Art Museum was reviewed in newspapers and magazines around the world. Although many of the reviews were negative, as Oscar Wilde pointed out, being talked about is better than not being talked about -- and talk about the Hamilton they did. Some of the talk was about functional problems, and the roof does leak. But even so, the building has fulfilled its most important promise: raising Denver's cultural profile a full notch, maybe two.
Although there's been a lot of new construction in the Golden Triangle, most of it has been absolutely dreadful, with mid-rises better suited to Centennial or Reunion sprinkled between big fat Greek high-rises. But there are some noteworthy exceptions, particularly the Golden Row Townhomes: three out-of-this-world neo-modernist townhouses. The detailing of the buildings is superb, with pierced planar walls creating a restrained and simultaneously complicated massing; also very neat is the orchestration of the rich array of materials, including metal, glass and stone. Sprocket Design-Build, headed up by Bill Moore, has only been around a few years, but it's clear this creative firm is building for the future.
The Central Platte Valley may be one of the oldest parts of the city, but today it looks completely new, with cool-looking modern architecture filling the once-dusty, desolate railyards. The most recent standout is Glass House, at 23 stories the tallest structure in the area. Designed by the multi-disciplin-ary firm Preston Partnership and developed by Wood Partners and East-West Partners, this condominium project includes two adjacent towers with lively cubic volumes that reflect off each other in the glass walls; the twin structures sit on a unified concrete podium that does double duty as a parking garage. Glass House has great views of both downtown and the Front Range -- but it's looking pretty good itself.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of