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Posted at 11:37 AM ET, 01/19/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: Jan. 19, 2011

By Mike DeBonis

TODAY IS JAN. 19, 2011 -- DAY 18 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

PREVIOUSLY -- Patrick Mara to run for D.C. Council at-large seat

The special election for an at-large council seat has gotten a lot more interesting in the past few hours. State Board of Education member Patrick Mara has already announced he's pursuing a run, and Ward 1 activist Bryan Weaver just announced on TBD that he's accepted a draft effort. "You can't win if you don't play," said Weaver, who lost to Jim Graham in the September primary with 21 percent of the vote. Weaver, who ran on a platform heavy on good-government and juvenile justice concerns, said, "I don't see that any of the 18 candidates currently running are speaking to the progressive side of the ledger" and criticized some of the current declared candidates to be "throwbacks." He will now compete for those progressive voters (read: Adrian Fenty voters) with Mara, Sekou Biddle, Josh Lopez and possible future entrants. Questions, questions: Does any one candidate bring a voter base big enough to matter once the electorate is sliced and diced? Will Weaver be able to harness the grass roots? Will Mara's GOP base be enough to bring him victory? Will Kwame Brown's organization and backing be enough to carry Biddle over all comers? Answers on April 26!

AFTER THE JUMP -- Brown moves to tighten up First Source -- SCOTUS declines to take up D.C. gay marriage -- Metro board has picked permanent GM -- First look at Rhee book

*** MAIN COURSE ***

TIGHTENING FIRST SOURCE -- At yesterday's D.C. Council meeting, Chairman Kwame Brown laid down a marker, introducing a bill that would drastically toughen the city's "First Source" laws requiring D.C. resident labor on city-funded contracts. Any city contractor looking to do $300,000 or more in business would have to prove that 20 percent of its workforce lives in the city, and as much as 70 percent of workers on city construction projects would have to be D.C. residents. Tim Craig covers for The Post, noting some minor intra-Wilson Building political intrigue: "Brown's proposal comes as he and Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) seek to fulfill campaign promises to toughen First Source and reform a city bureaucracy they say has not done enough to prepare District residents for jobs. ... By introducing his bill Tuesday, Brown appears to be positioning the council out front of the issue. When a reporter asked Brown if Gray had been briefed on the bill, the chairman replied: 'Why would we run it by him? We are the legislative branch of government.' 'My staff has talked with his [staff], and gave them the bill,' Brown said." Note that the D.C. Chamber's Barbara Lang -- a close Gray adviser -- says "there are some things that have to be done first before we are ready to enforce this." And BIA President Merrick Malone says the requirements could be a "nightmare to manage" for contractors and developers.

SCOTUS PASSES -- The U.S. Supreme Court declined Tuesday to review the question of whether same-sex marriage should have been put to a popular vote in the District, dealing a final blow to legal efforts to undo the 10-month-old law. But, as Tim and I report in The Post, gay marriage opponents are promising to head to the Hill: "Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, ... said he and fellow activists will 'look at what the best route is' to have Congress intervene to try to force a referendum. ... [A] new Republican majority in the House has gay-marriage supporters concerned about new attacks -- most likely through 'riders,' or restrictions placed on city spending during the appropriations process. ... [David Catania] said he's skeptical that opponents of the law can be successful in the current Congress, which features a Democratic Senate, but he said that city leaders should begin contacting GOP leaders with oversight over the District to 'make it known' what the city's 'point of view is towards these local issues.' Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District's nonvoting delegate, said she and [Gray] plan to meet next week with [congressional Republicans] to deliver a 'hands-off' message." Also: The Blade's Lou Chibbaro Jr. does his usual thorough job, reporting that the Rev. Anthony Evans "said local same-sex marriage opponents have began discussions with 'our Republican friends' in Congress to take steps to challenge the D.C. marriage law ... [and] lobbied GOP leaders on the Hill to strip congressional delegate [Norton] of her voting privileges on the House floor. ... '[O]ur first action was to make sure that Eleanor didn't get a vote as punishment for her wholehearted support for same-sex marriage in this city and also for her to ignore the black religious community,' Evans said. 'There is a consequence to her actions. That was one of them.' " Also the Examiner, The American Prospect, LifeSiteNews.com, Legal Times, Metro Weekly, and a thorough legal analysis from an Ohio law prof.

SARLES STAYS? -- The Metro board has chosen a new general manager, Kytja Weir reports today in the Examiner, with a formal vote to come Jan. 27. Board members are keeping mum about the selection, bur Weir writes that it "appears that interim General Manager Richard Sarles is the likely pick." Context: "A professional engineer with a master's degree in business administration, he arrived at Metro after retiring as executive director of NJ Transit. At the time, he said he was not interested in a permanent job and looked forward to retirement after the short-term gig. He signed on for $25,000 a month and a paid apartment. But he has received high marks for stabilizing Metro after months of uncertainty. The speed of the pick comes as somewhat of a surprise, as the 14-member board is undergoing a massive overhaul."

FROM THE RHEE BOOK -- Expect to hear a lot more about this in the coming weeks: Bill Turque has an advance copy of "The Bee Eater," a soon-to-be-released book about Michelle Rhee and her leadership of the D.C. Public Schools penned by former USA Today editorial writer Richard Whitmire. Bill writes on the D.C. Schools Insider blog that the book "doesn't unload any real revelations about the D.C. schools story. But there are a few interesting new nuggets for Rheeologists." Among them: "[T]he role Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp played in pushing Rhee for the chancellorship." It's well known that New York City schools chief Joel Klein was a Rhee backer, but Kopp suggested Rhee to Victor Reinoso at a 2007 meeting of the NewSchools Venture Fund. That, combined with Klein's recommendation, appears to be the genesis of Rhee's selection. Also, Whitmire had this to say about Rhee's eating habits: "Invariably, her lunch would have fed a stevedore: a huge slab of meatloaf and mashed potatoes comes to mind. At another interview, she had a large-size McDonald's sweet tea and three round plastic tubs of food: potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and red beans and rice."

SOCIAL INSECURITY -- In what looks to be the most controversial of yesterday's D.C. Council bill introductions, Phil Mendelson and Jim Graham are proposing that the Department of Motor Vehicles no longer require a Social Security number from people applying for a driver's license. At D.C. Wire, Tim alights on the implications for undocumented immigrants. "Under his legislation, Mendelson said the DMV could still ask for it, but would not be allowed to deny an application for a license if someone fails to provide one. Mendelson said the legislation was spurred by one of his constituents, who he says is a legal resident who does not have or want a Social Security number. ... But when pressed by a reporter, Mendelson and Graham concede that the bill could also force the District into the national debate over illegal immigration. They argue that their proposal would bring out of the shadows undocumented immigrants who are already driving on District streets." A better reason for not requiring SSNs: In this age of rampant identity theft, why the heck does the DMV need anyone's SSN? More coverage from DCist, the Examiner, WAMU-FM.

JEERS TO OCF -- Jonetta Rose Barras slams the Office of Campaign Finance in her Examiner column for bringing the hammer down on the Fenty write-in supporters, aka Save DC Now: "OCF's ruling and fine of $18,500 against Save DC Now was stunning and could have a chilling effect on citizen participation in future elections. Moreover, they testify to the agency's discriminatory enforcement of local laws. OCF Director Cecily Collier-Montgomery defended her agency, arguing that Save DC Now flagrantly disregarded an earlier order. The fine, she said, will 'encourage compliance with the reporting requirements by those who participate in the process.' It's more likely, young people won't get involved at all, fearing they'll be slammed by the government acting on behalf of special interests or favored politicians, as happened with Save DC Now."

DCRA 'SO COMPLICATED' -- City Paper's Lydia DePillis interviews new DCRA Director Nick Majett. He details his workaday frustrations: "What I found is that people just don't know. And because the agency's so complicated, you can't just go to one person and get an answer. In most cases, I know the answer. But you can't walk into DCRA and say 'I want to start a business, what do I do?' In fact, a lot of the time, you have to go to an attorney. So a lot of people get frustrated, thinking they're going to come down here and one person's going to be able to answer all of their questions." Matthew Yglesias reads this and wonders: "[I]t strikes me that you should, in fact, be able to walk into DCRA and say, 'I want to start a business, what do I do?' If the agency is 'so complicated' that answering the question is beyond human comprehension, then perhaps it should be simplified. But if the issue is really that 'you have to go to an attorney' then it sounds like it is, in fact, possible to get the rules explained by adequately trained personnel."

KWAME AT HARDY -- Kwame Brown inserts himself into the ongoing Hardy Middle School drama, posting a letter Friday to DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson. It reads, per D.C. Schools Insider: "I know that you are considering multiple approaches to address problems at Hardy. ... I urge you to move forward immediately -- with the input of parents -- to adopt a plan that will restore the school to its previous, highly-regarded state, but also one that will transform Hardy into a school that will serve as a model for all of our city's middle schools." Which "approaches" is he referring to? Hmm. Meanwhile, the Georgetown Dish reports that a Hardy student is still trying to get Gray to tour the school.

TRACKING D.C.'s MURDERS -- The Post's Annys Shin highlights the valuable work of Laura Norton Amico, a former newspaper reporter who has been quietly running Homicide Watch D.C. blog. "Amico, 29 ... has quietly carved out a role for herself as the District's most comprehensive chronicler of the unlawful taking of human life. ... Her mission sounds simple: 'Mark every death. Remember every victim. Follow every case.' It was inspired in part by what she sees as the limitations of traditional crime coverage. 'I find it frustrating when I know there is a case, and all I see is the police department's rewritten press release, when cases aren't followed through, when there is no closure,' said Amico, who puts in 10-hour days, seven days a week on the site and makes no money from the venture. On Homicide Watch D.C., the story of every slaying is told by marking the location using Google Maps; linking to obituaries, Tweets and Facebook tribute pages; posting copies of suspects' charging documents; and letting friends and families of the victims and defendants vent in the comments section."

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Henderson on Gray's IMPACT comments: "The mayor and I share a common outcome at the end of the road, which is a great teacher in every classroom. ... He and I have a track record of working together on vexing problems" (The Post)

No, Metro's bag screenings aren't really optional at all (TBD/On Foot)

More on Rep. Trey Gowdy (Housing Complex, DCist)

Small piece of Park Morton redevelopment; the rest is on hold, pending "buy in at every level" (WBJ, Housing Complex)

Mary Cheh re-introduces health inspection letter-grade bill (WTOP, WTTG-TV)

Jim Graham resurrects bid to name Columbia Heights park after Barack Hussein Obama (the Examiner)

Why the Anacostia streetcar needs to run down Martin Luther King Avenue, not the old CSX right-of-way (GGW)

Rhee: Education is an economic issue, not a social issue (Marketplace)

Bill Cosby now a Rhee endorser (the Examiner)

Cop exchanges gunfire in Petworth with bad guy, who is now in custody (WTOP, the Examiner)

In praise of Metro's closure planning (All Opinions Are Local)

How D.C. Water plans to burn your waste to save money (Public Works Magazine)

Get your pre-existing condition insurance (DISB release)

Some good questions to ask while you're pondering the D.C. budget (Susie Cambria)

William Lockridge funeral set for Thursday (WaTimes)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Council committee to examine BOEE's "readiness" for the April 26 special election, 2 p.m. in JAWB 412

By Mike DeBonis  | January 19, 2011; 11:37 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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