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Originally published July 4, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 4, 2007 at 2:04 AM

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Location of speech latest sore spot in city relations

The Seattle City Council was so insulted that Mayor Greg Nickels gave his State of the City address at a Rotary Club lunch that it is considering...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Seattle City Council was so insulted that Mayor Greg Nickels gave his State of the City address at a Rotary Club lunch that it is considering changing the city's charter to compel him to deliver the speech, in person, in council chambers.

If the charter amendment council President Nick Licata proposed passes, it will go to voters in November.

Licata said the mayor has a responsibility to address the public each year and that the Rotary, a professional networking group, doesn't count.

"The City Council does represent the public," he said. "Even Bush addresses Congress, not the U.S. Chamber of Commerce."

The tussle over the speech, an annual opportunity for the mayor to tout past accomplishments and new initiatives, comes at a sour time in mayor-council relations.

After Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske exonerated officers accused of misconduct, Licata and Nickels each raced to set up his own advisory group to review police accountability.

Other council members have grumbled that the mayor often ignores their suggestions, then steals them and takes credit.

Marty McOmber, the mayor's spokesman, said, "Of all the issues in the city of Seattle right now, you would think the City Council might have more important items to work on than to try and schedule when and where the mayor gives his speech."

Usually, mayors give the State of the City in council chambers.

This year, the mayor delivered it at a Rotary luncheon at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in March. He dined with members and gave the speech after lunch, when the room was opened to the public, who could take seats set up behind the dining tables.

Nickels invited all the council members. Only two attended.

McOmber called the speech "a resounding success, largely because so many members of the public attended it."

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Licata informed the mayor's office after the speech that he didn't think Nickels had fulfilled his duty under the city charter "to communicate by message to the City Council a statement of the conditions and affairs of the City." The charter doesn't specify how or where the speech should be delivered.

In June, the mayor's office sent council members a CD with the text and video of the mayor's speech.

Councilmember Richard McIver has not read the speech. "If he can't respect us enough to come in front of us and say it, I don't need to read it," he said. "The nine people who make your budget ought to hear from you what your perspective is on it," he said, adding the mayor has a "bad attitude."

The council has until Aug. 14 to add the proposed charter amendment to the ballot.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com

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