090211_bitter_sonics_fan.jpg
KOMO
Greg Nickels has kid hold sign for him
Former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, now the White House Drug Czar, will be there, talking

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Greg Nickels Misses His Big Day in OK City

090211_bitter_sonics_fan.jpg
KOMO
Greg Nickels has kid hold sign for him
Former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, now the White House Drug Czar, will be there, talking about Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap while widening his stance against legalization. But, for the first time in at least a decade, Seattle won't have any mayors at the U.S. Conference of Mayors starting Friday in Oklahoma City.

Mayor Mike McGinn says he's too busy to attend. More notably, habitual conferee Greg Nickels won't be there. Alas. It could have been a marvelous show, watching Nickels, who was installed as president of the conference last June, deal with the host city that heisted his basketball team (and later became his Waterloo). On the conference schedule are tours of the Ford Center, home to Oklahoma's NBA franchise formerly known as the Sonics.

What could he say? Great set of lockers?

Voters of course saved Nickels the indignity by knocking him out of the mayor's office in the first round last year, sizing him up as someone who believed there's honor among corporations. He left the KeyArena door unlocked and stood by as franchise owner Clay-I'm-Here-To-Stay Bennett quietly loaded the team bus. Once in OKC, Bennett revealed his true colors - red, yellow and blue, the tones, apparently, of Thunder. He then hoisted the scalp of Nickels' re-election.

In January, almost to the day Nickels lugged his political baggage from City Hall, the national mayors held a special inauguration for Elizabeth Kautz, mayor of Burnsville Minn. (pop. 60,000) as Nickels' replacement.

Nickels reigned for less than six months as the mayors' leader, a position he coveted. On the upside, fading at the finish of a third-term re-election run, Nickels handed Kautz a special honor. By serving the balance of Nickels' time, then serving her own 12-month term, Kautz, the mayors' fifth female president, will become the longest-serving woman prexy in the organization's 78-year history.

The NBA loss to OKC wasn't the biggest single factor leading to Nickels' third-place finish in last August's primary. But emotionally a viaduct here or a snowstorm there didn't compare to the lasting gut punch of losing the iconic Sonics after 40 years. The subject comes up whenever his name does. After a few months of growing a beard at Harvard where he taught - according to the Harvard Crimson - "how to run for office" (but not necessarily how to win), a recent KIRO radio story on his return drew this Web comment:

Nickels could have been praised as a hero but now he'll always be remembered as a villain... the villain who gave away team for nothing...Now look at OKC... they made the playoffs, they have the coach of the year, they have the nba scoring leader.... all THIS could have been the momentum we needed to keep this team here. Thanks for nothing Nickels... you sellout.

No one is saying his political career is over. But he might have missed his comeback. Oklahoma City held its mayoral election in March.

 
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