When David Bennahum, the president and CEO of the Center for Independent Media, a progressive organization based in Washington, D.C., decided to create his first state-based spinoff, he looked to Colorado. His creation went live last year, quickly establishing itself as a lively and journalistically credible blog capable of breaking news about, for instance, irregularities in failed gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's campaign. Reporters at mainstream outlets haven't always given Colorado Confidential credit when they've followed the site's lead, but they're definitely reading -- and that's what matters most.
Like Colorado Confidential, Colorado Media Matters is the initial regional foray by a national organization -- in this case, Media Matters, a Washington, D.C., outfit founded by former right-winger David Brock. Overseen by the indefatigable Bill Menezes, an ex-Denver Post staffer, the Colorado branch monitors an incredible amount of local TV, radio and print product with an eye toward ferreting out anything that smells like conservative bias. Knowing such detectives are keeping an eye on them is bound to make ethical journalists even more aware of being evenhanded -- and that's good for everyone.
Conservative pundits constantly fulminate about liberal media bias but seldom bother trying to prove their case. So props to the Independence Institute for "Unabashed Bias," an analysis that attempted to show that the Denver dailies regularly engaged in slanted coverage of referenda C and D, two 2005 ballot issues. Because Institute honcho Jon Caldara publicly opposed both measures, questions about objectivity are worth raising -- yet the findings themselves were often quite persuasive. That's putting your study where your mouth is.
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.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of