After a delay of more than three months, Mayor Greg Nickels finally delivered his State of the City address to the city council Monday, June 18—via form letter and DVD, both of which council president Nick Licata, who had just cut a chocolate bar to pieces with a knife, waved in the air indignantly in his office Monday.
Nickels gave the speech once before, but not to the city council; instead, for the first time in decades, he took the State of the City outside City Hall, delivering it before an audience of Rotary Club members at the downtown convention center on March 7. "It makes a joke out of the city charter," which requires the mayor to "deliver a message to the city council" each year, Licata fumed. "Since when did Rotarians start representing the city of Seattle?" Determined to make sure that all future State of the City speeches are confined to their traditional place in council chambers, Licata plans to introduce a city charter amendment that would require the mayor "to appear annually at a regular city council meeting" to deliver the State of the City address.
Licata is also behind another potential charter amendment, one that would have broad implications for the chiefs of fire and police. The amendment would subject fire and police chiefs to periodic council review—the same review that is now required of all other city department heads. Last year, council members exempted the police and fire chiefs on the grounds that council oversight would compromise their ability to uphold public safety; only Licata voted against it. He hopes his colleagues may have a change of heart after seeing a scathing report by the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board (OPARB) accusing Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske of interfering with the work of the Office of Professional Accountability, which investigates police misconduct allegations (see "Targeting the Chief," this page). Both charter amendments would have to be approved by voters in November.
The debate over the city's selection of public art for council offices prompted a barrage of internal e-mails on the second floor of City Hall—194 pages worth, all of which I obtained through a records request. Most centered, predictably, around the so-called "green monster"—a roughly 5-by-6-foot oil painting by Karen Ganz that features a primitive '20s-style cartoon rendered almost entirely in shades of green, selected by the city's Facility Art Replacement Team, charmingly known as FART. Council staffers, most of whom aren't given to vituperative outbursts of distaste for anything, rallied against the large green painting, referring to it as "Mr. Peanut," "Kermit the Frog," and "Mean Green," according to the e-mails. "It has been brought to FART's attention that if it does not banish [the painting] its members may face a public stoning," FART's chairman wrote. One council staffer noted that the mayor appeared to be hogging all the best art in the city's collection, including works by George Tsutakawa, Jacob Lawrence, and Paul Horiuchi, and asked whether there was "any possibility of snagging" some of them. FART's inevitable answer: of course not.