Colorado Capitol building rotunda, Denver 2009As we gazed up into the Capitol rotunda, the volunteer tour guide and I had a very American conversation. She was telling us that when the Capitol dome was built, those who were willing to climb the 99 steps to the top landing, above the third floor, could see Wyoming and New Mexico.

There are too many tall buildings in the way now, she added. I agreed with her. I said that I wished buildings would shrink again. And then she wondered why anyone would want to work way up in a tall glass tower anyway. She didn’t mention September 11, and I have no idea what the Belgian woman on the tour thought. But I got the point.

At the beginning of the tour, I told her I had lived in Colorado almost 22 years before touring the Capitol. I’ve been there a couple of times for Pro-Choice Lobby Day, to lobby my Catholic state senator, a father of seven, about making Catholic hospitals inform rape victims about emergency contraception (not prescribe it to them, just tell them it’s available). I was unable to convince him that a Catholic hospital should put public health above religious tenets.

He’s done some good things as a legislator. He helped pass a law forbidding Colorado police from immediately confiscating property that may have been used in a crime; they have to wait until the suspect is convicted. (There was a movement this year to overturn the law. I’m not sure if it passed.) But his social views drive me up a wall, so when I think of him, I tell myself, He’s term-limited.

I didn’t run into my senator on this tour, but I did walk past my representative. I’ve talked to her once or twice, most recently at a meeting about Colorado’s economic situation. She cut her eye at me as if to say, “I know you from somewhere.”

The tour guide informed us that last year, a man was shot in the Capitol. He showed up at the governor’s office claiming to be the emperor of Colorado and then pulled out a gun. The police shot him. Now the public cannot go in and out the main doors of the Capitol building. The three of us stood behind glass and gazed at the park created to honor Colorado’s war dead and Civic Center Park and and the City and County Building, where the mayor’s office is located (in that order).Denver City and County building, taken from behind glass door of capitol, April 2009

Then she took us into the chambers themselves, where nothing much was going on. The House has electronic voting; the Senate is too prim for that. Only legislators are allowed to walk down this aisle in the House chamber. The public has to go around.Center aisle, reserved for reps, Colorado Capitol, Denver 2009

I thought about how interested I was in politics in my teens and twenties. I was in the political science club in high school. I wrote to my senator about becoming a page. I studied government in college.

I still care: I meet up with my reps from time to time; I send emails and the occasional letter on paper. But I hate going door to door, so I don’t want to canvass in person. When I was a girl I wanted to be president, but now I don’t wish to run for office.

Although the work of legislators affects every aspect of our lives, much of the time, their efforts seem not to touch us. It’s as if we’re looking at each other through glass.

Leave A Comment

  1. Catherine April 28, 2009 at 7:37 am - Reply

    Last summer was the first time I can recall being in the capital building (I would think that as a kid in DPS we went on a field trip at least once). It’s amazingly beautiful.

    Maybe you can be a page next session?

    Catherine’s last blog post..The Many Faces of Elliot

  2. Amber April 28, 2009 at 8:09 am - Reply

    I’m so glad I read this. Just last week, I was telling my husband I have never been in the capital building. It is on my must-visit list this summer!

    Amber’s last blog post..Pest Smart

  3. Beth Partin April 28, 2009 at 9:33 am - Reply

    I don’t know, Catherine…I wonder if there’s ever been a 46-year-old page?

    Amber, you can go up to the dome too. You just have to get a ticket, and since there’s a limit of 30 people at any one time, you may have to wait.

    Beth Partin’s last blog post..The Fillmore Auditorium on Capitol Hill: Standing All Night

  4. BruceQ April 28, 2009 at 11:51 am - Reply

    You know, for all my blabbering about Denver history, I’ve never been in the Capital Building either. Maybe we should organize a group tour?

    Since it’s a little hard to find, here’s the link to the Capital Tour info:

    I don’t know about 46-year-old pages, Beth, but if you ever change your mind and decide to run for office, I’d vote for you!

  5. Beth Partin April 28, 2009 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Bruce, but on what grounds? Hey, she writes about Denver, man…she must be able to run a district!

    Why not!

    Beth Partin’s last blog post..MonHaibun: Ashes and Embers

  6. BruceQ April 28, 2009 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    Not at all, I’ve read you enough to know where you stand on a lot of issues, and the best reason is “I still care…”

  7. Beth Partin April 28, 2009 at 3:55 pm - Reply


  8. saint facetious April 29, 2009 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    I dig our cap building. Or the “golden tit” as it’s called roundabouts here.

    saint facetious’s last blog post..Languages and more languages

  9. Beth Partin April 29, 2009 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    But why isn’t there a pair then?

    Beth Partin’s last blog post..Denver Restaurants on Capitol Hill: Little India

  10. Mary April 29, 2009 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    I went to the capitol when we first moved to the neighborhood. I remember being totally delighted that it was just OPEN to the public — this big, lovely, impressive building where important decisions about our state were made and I could walk into it any time I wanted.

    When I heard about the shooting, I was immediately saddened to think, “I’ll bet they make it a lot harder to get in now.”

    I still love to check it out (and have taken a few pics of BlogDog there as well. They always turn out nicely.)

    Mary’s last blog post..The world is my gym

  11. Beth Partin April 29, 2009 at 10:20 pm - Reply

    Actually, Mary, it was a little difficult to find the entrance. I knew that I had to go in the side, but I didn’t realize the entrance was to the basement. So there I was on the first floor, pulling at all the doors. It’s a wonder I didn’t set off an alarm. Finally I found the entrance.

    But once you go through security, they don’t care how much you wander around. The only thing that makes them antsy is a group of people massing outside the governor’s office (though that’s probably because of the shooting).

    Beth Partin’s last blog post..The Capitol Building on Denver’s Capitol Hill, Part I

  12. BernardL April 30, 2009 at 6:37 am - Reply

    Oh, they touch us, Beth: our wages, our transportation, our businesses, our goods and services – they touch so much it should be mandatory to have held a real job for at least ten years as a qualification to represent people who do so their entire lives.

  13. Beth Partin April 30, 2009 at 9:00 am - Reply

    Yeah, Bernard, I know they affect us, but how they do it seems so distant sometimes.

    With regard to the last point, I’m a great fan of requiring people who make things to have studied how to make them. So people who build bridges should study engineering, and people to who make laws should study the history of law. A job outside law and politics is also important, but I want our legislators to place their law making in a historical context.

    Beth Partin’s last blog post..The Capitol Building on Denver’s Capitol Hill, Part II

  14. Todd Bradley April 30, 2009 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    That photo of the inside of the dome is very good.

    Todd Bradley’s last blog post..“Mike in the Shot” and “HDTS Promo Video” are now on IMDB

  15. Beth April 30, 2009 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    Thanks. I had a little help from Zoombrowser.