Off Limits

A fine body of work: The man busted earlier this month for allegedly defiling cadavers was none other than performance artist J.T. Colfax, who's appeared in this column numerous times. Denver native James Michael Thompson had changed his name to honor his hometown's longest street before he headed off to New York to find fame and fortune many years ago. Although fortune eluded him, Colfax achieved a certain notoriety for several of his artworks, including the Clarksburg Project, which involved sending unwanted missives--several describing his discovery that he was gay and the loss of his virginity beside a dusty Denver street--to the good folks of Clarksburg, West Virginia, a pen-pal town that Colfax picked at random.

Unlike the subjects of that project, who were living and able to complain, the subjects of his current piece were not. Colfax, who returned to Denver last year, had been working in a local mortuary, where he'd taken to decorating cadavers with artistic messages after hours, then snapping their portraits.

Turning into pumpkins: While political pundits like to blame the Colorado General Assembly's stroke-of-midnight session endings on a tradition of procrastination, the real culprit is politics.

And this year was no exception. By 8 p.m. last Wednesday the House had just one bill left, a measure that called for fixing up the State Finance Building. But House Majority Leader Norma Anderson would not call it up for a vote, even though by then her fellow representatives were sitting around playing computer games and cleaning out their desks. Anderson's reason for the delay: The Senate wouldn't vote on something she wanted, a plan to spend $75 million on a new police-radio system.

"There's something called an art of compromise," Anderson says. "I would give them what they wanted if they would give me what I wanted." But the Senate didn't blink, and Anderson finally ended the session at 11:45 p.m.--killing the building fix-up plan in the process.

"This is why we go until midnight on the last day every year," says one GOP rep who's been around long enough to see it happen before. "It's not because we don't have enough time. It's because the leadership is always pulling this kind of shit to try to get their way." Another calls Anderson's move "pure spite."

The most vocal supporter of the building fix-up was Anderson's longtime friend Jim Dyer. And Anderson herself was not opposed to the bill; repairs to the building are long overdue, and there was money in the budget for the project. So why kill it? Anderson admits her goal was to get back at the Senate. "When you can't get agreement, you just quit," she says.

Something the legislature could agree on: The third time was not a charm for Ann Duckett. The ex-wife of former lieutenant governor Mike Callihan, Duckett had once been fired from the Mesa County District Attorney's office and later lost her position at the Capitol Reporter, the paper she'd founded. On the last day of the legislative session, the Senate rejected Duckett again, this time for a second term on the state racing commission.

When the accusation was made that Duckett didn't even know who set the agenda for the racing commission, Senator Gloria Tanner rose to her defense. "If [Senate Majority Leader] Jeff Wells didn't tell us all the time that he sets the agenda here, I wouldn't know who does it," Tanner told fellow legislators. "But he constantly reminds us."

Pressing engagements: In an April 22 story about how the Republican Party is courting the Hispanic vote, the Wall Street Journal quoted Colorado House Speaker Chuck Berry, yet another Republican looking at Roy Romer's seat, as saying "We need to do a better job of connection" with Hispanics. Berry's done his bit: His wife is lobbyist Maria Garcia Berry--although, given her extremely close connection to Berry, she focuses on lobbying the city rather than the state. And when one of her current clients, Western Pacific Airlines, asked the legislature to help subsidize its move to DIA, Chuck Berry conveniently missed the vote...The paper chase continues at Denver's dailies. Reporter Chance Conner, who'd been covering Oklahoma City for the Post, is out altogether; Jim Carrier, who came to Denver a decade ago as the "Rocky Mountain Ranger," is moving to a business desk vacated by Kerri Smith, who's moving on to courts, as Howard Pankratz moves on to federal government...

Yes, being a reporter can be a dirty job--but that doesn't explain the recent stink emanating from the basement of City Hall, near the media briefing room. The odor got so unpleasant that maintenance workers checked the air ducts, where they found four dead squirrels being feasted on by maggots.

None of them journalists.

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