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Morning all. Michelle Rhee is currently gtetting interrogated by Mark Plotkin on the Politics Program on WTOP. First response: “I do not want to be Secretary of Education.” Then she put a plug in for Joel Klein—-logrolling at its finest! In other huge news, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells last night handed out his prestigious Livable Walkable Awards (aka the Brickies) at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. The Year 2 honorees include longtime activist Jim Myers, the Brent Elementary School PTA, Frager’s Hardware, and Damon Harvey of DDOT.

In the Blade, Lou Chibarro Jr. runs down some of the challenges facing a ballot referendum banning gay marriage in the District. They are many: For one, 21,000 signatures is a lot.

Meanwhile, in WaTimes, Gary Emerling examines how gay-marriage advocates are “re-evaluating their strategy.” Pretty much everybody says it’s all about timing. Emerling manages to get one minister on the record, the Rev. Derrick Harkins of Nineteenth Street Baptist, who says he doesn’t think a bill “would be met with great enthusiasm on the part of the African-American church.”

The backlash begins: D.C. police union chief Kris Baumann makes the WaPo Metro front with warnings over extended inauguration bar hours. “With our resources stretched so thin that weekend to provide security at the inauguration, we’re going to be at the bare bones out in the districts,” he tells Theola Labbé-DeBose. Chief Cathy Lanier yesterday on WTOP: “There is a contingency plan for everything we can imagine.” (Wilson Building wag to LL yesterday: “This isn’t over.”)

Some aftermath on the bad “acid reflux” diagnosis from WJLA/NC8. “Sources report that firefighters repeatedly asked Givens if he wanted to go to the hospital. ABC 7/NewsChannel 8 took this new information to Givens’ family members who said the firefighters’ claim is absolutely false…..Sources…noted that Givens signed a release stating he did not want to go the hospital.”

Metrorail to Dulles may have Federal Transit Administration approval—-historically the most crucial step in the process—-but “not all political leaders who have pushed for the 23-mile rail line are ready to celebrate,” Amy Gardner reports in WaPo. “The project has suffered so many setbacks and become mired in so many layers of political, economic and ideological controversy over the decades that some of them won’t declare victory until the final documents are signed.” SecTrans, OMB, and Congress still need to sign off.

Meanwhile those “political leaders” get a pat on the back from WaPo editorial board.

WMATA to launch new Web site, Examiner’s Kytja Weir reports. Expect lots more Google maps, though “the system has not linked up entirely with the popular search engine’s mapping tool, which lets Google users plan their trips by car, foot or public transit…Metro has been in talks with Google since at least the spring on that feature, but Peck said they are tied up in legal wrangling.” (Yes, Wilson Building wags, that is Suzanne Peck.)

CULTURE WARS HIT METROBUSES—-Weir again: “A stay-at-home mother of four is poised to start a Metrobus ad campaign to counter ads from the American Humanist Association that question a belief in God.” Ad created by McLean’s JoEllen Murphy “shows an image from Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’ on the Sistine Chapel ceiling with the slogan: ‘Why believe? I created you and I love you, for goodness’ sake. – God.'”

Former aide to Va. Republican legislator arrested for “anti-gay” assault last month, Blade reports. “A police statement said Fumagalli allegedly grabbed a rainbow flag, an internationally recognized gay rights symbol, from one of the two men and assaulted him.”

Wow. I mean, wow. From NC8: Family’s Audi gets stripped of wheels by thieves; after filing police report and waiting for new wheels to arrive, DPW tows the car. Better to say it dragged the car to impound: “They dragged the car with a cinder block underneath it,” said a neighbor. “It made me sick.” Damage is estimated at $20K.

LL colleague Jason Cherkis reports D.C. police signed agreement with Department of Mental Health on dealing with mentally troubled folks—-days after the David Kerstetter shooting.

Two designs under consideration for new levee on National Mall, Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner. “Both levee alternatives comprise concrete walls of varying heights on either side of 17th Street between Constitution Avenue and the World War II Memorial. In the case of a flood, steel posts and plates would be inserted into holes built across the roadway to stop rushing waters.”

—-THE INAUGURATION SECTION—-

Entire mall to open to public for inauguration. “JumboTrons and an audio system will stretch from the steps of the Capitol, where President-elect Barack Obama will be sworn in, to the Lincoln Memorial, an unprecedented display,” writes Nikita Stewart. The western boundary in previous years was 7th Street NW/SW. Also WaTimes.

FLEABAG ALERT—-Up to 1,400 hotel rooms available within 30 miles of D.C.—-some as low as $100, Biz Journal reports. Call Destination D.C. for more info: 800-422-8644.

Metro will likely shut down escalators at high-traffic stations come inauguration time—-per usual procedure on busy days—-WTOP’s Adam Tuss reports. Hope this doesn’t happen:

IT’S LIKE BEING SMALL-TOWN MAYOR EXCEPT WITHOUT THE ACTUAL RESPONSIBILITIES—-Some 2,500 community organizers gather at Washington Hilton for pre-inaug strategy powwow, reports Elissa Silverman and Hamil Harris in WaPo. In attendance: Obama aides Valerie Jarrett and Melody Barnes.

Fairfax businessman Earl Stafford fronts $1M for “People’s Inaugural” at J.W. Marriott on Jan 19 and 20, Leah Fabel reports in Examiner. He expects 1,000, and “[a]t least one-third of them, he said, will be ‘marginalized or distressed,’ including those suffering terminal or mental illnesses, wounded veterans or the unemployed.” They “will stay at the Marriott and receive formalwear and salon services before the evening’s ball. About 300 disadvantaged young people will also receive an invitation for a youth ball to be held elsewhere in the hotel.”

NPR does piece on potential huge crowds. “The worst-case weather scenario? Dan Tangherlini, the district’s city administrator, says he and Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier had swapped their respective nightmares. His would be “31 degrees and raining, which would generate ice and be a nightmare,” Tangherlini says. “She was joking her worst-case scenario would be 60 degrees and sunny. That would have 10 million people here.”

Newseum will be open on Inaug Day.

—-END INAUGURATION SECTION—-

In his op-ed column on SecEd prospects, NYT’s David Brooks drops Rhee’s name in first graf.

Rhee also finally meets with Forbes editor. Nothing new there.

U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor says he is “quite anguished” about D.C. Madam suicide on WTOP. Reaction.

Harry Jaffe mourns Chevy Chase Bank in Examiner column. “My pal and former publisher [Bill Regardie] argues that local ownership of banks no longer counts. I beg to differ. If you are a small businessman who needs a loan to expand, and you know the banker, and you have built up trust by paying past loans, that relationship could bear fruit — and the businessman and banker can grow together.”

Blogger Outside the Beltway makes the case against statehood: “In no meaningful way is DC a state-like entity. It’s a city. And not even a huge city!”

About $10M in TIFs awarded to three projects, Jonathan O’Connell reports in Biz Journal—-$8.8M to CityInterests LLC to replace South Capitol Shopping Center in Bellview; $1.1M to Four Points LLC for four properties on 2200 block of MLK Avenue SE in Anacostia; and $742K to Neighborhood Development Co., for the residential/retail complex The Heights on Georgia Avenue. Housing Complex has the press release. DCMUD also covers.

2445 M St. NW sells for $181M.

Caps’ TV ratings way up; Wiz 15th most valuable NBA team of 30.

LL GRIDLOCK WATCH—-Stay off Beltway this weekend!

POLITICS HOUR WITH KOJO NNAMDI TODAY—-12 p.m. on WAMU-FM, 88.5: Tom Sherwood, WRC-TV; Sommer Mathis, DCist; Saqib Ali, Maryland delegates (District 39, Gaithersburg); Ilir Zherka, D.C. Vote; Andrew Kline, Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.

D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—-12 p.m.: Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary roundtable on Bill 17-951: Omnibus Anti-Crime Amendment Act of 2008, JAWB 500.

ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—-10:30 a.m.: remarks, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency annual report and District response plan announcement, E24 Firehouse, 5101 Georgia Ave. NW.