Best Capitol Watchdog 2007 | Ron Binz | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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 (, 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.
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.
With fins on the roof reminiscent of a cool '50s cruiser, the swank, sleek Signature Centre presents a striking silhouette against the sky. But this building has far more going for it than flashy good looks: It's also environmentally friendly, designed by architect Binh Vinh and developed by Aardex to meet LEED certification. Its many ecological features -- including warmer air conditioners and individual ventilation and lighting systems that are switched off when not in use -- not only look good, but they do good, too.
The innermost stop on light rail's new southeast corridor, Louisiana and Pearl is also the most citified, with its lot-free "kiss-n-ride" designation (don't even try to park in the nearby residential neighborhood) and Mark Leese's welcoming "Jurassic Leaves" sculpture/shelter aboveground. But down below, under the bridge where you catch your ride, the station becomes a truly moving experience: T-Rex traffic rushes by as trains come and go, while Denver sculptor Ira Sherman's interactive metal-and-neon "Stange Machine" snakes above the platform, whimsical and sleekly spooky at the same time. This is the ultimate urban-transport experience.
If 17th Street is truly the Wall Street of the West, then the Ideal Building -- which now holds Colorado Business Bank -- lies at the intersection of art and commerce. At the two-story entrance, menacing marble bison guard bronze doors decorated with American Indian dance motifs. Inside, a frieze encircles the richly appointed lobby, paying tribute to the theme of money in history and its sacred importance in our lives today. Designed in 1907 by engineer Montana Fallis for Charles Boettcher's Ideal Cement Company, Denver's first multi-level, all-reinforced concrete building celebrates its hundredth anniversary this year. With interest compounded.
Just where Daniel Libeskind's new building planted Denver on the cultural map is still up for debate. But the weekend-long completion celebration definitely put our city at the center of the party map! From the 10 a.m. Saturday opening under sunny skies to a chilly Sunday-night close, the 35-hour party attracted everyone in Denver who gives a DAM. Watching patrons bump into art and knock their heads on the angled walls only added to the fun, and throughout the weekend, it was impossible not to run into an old acquaintance or make a new friend.

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