In his order, Mayor Marion Barry also said the Department of Housing and Community Development can skip the normal requirement that contractors selected for repair contracts under $200,000 must devise a program for minority hiring. Both competitive bidding and the affirmative action program would be too time-consuming, the mayor declared.

To encourage small and minority contractors, however, the mayor authorized the housing director to reduce the amounts of the bonds they must buy to assure completion of their jobs.

In his order, the mayor declared a "public exigency," a state of urgency generally defined as one step below an emergency. He said repair of the 306 units -- including 177 that "need minor repairs" costing under $6,000 -- would chip into a backlog of 7,600 qualified applicants who are on a waiting list for public housing.

A spokeswoman for the housing department said some contracts the mayor's order permits already have been negotiated.

The order, formally issued Nov. 12, was not announced until a month later when it was published in the D.C. Register, distributed last week. On Nov. 16, four days after the mayor waived competitive bidding on the housing repairs, the D.C. auditor issued a report charging that the housing department illegally sidestepped a need for competitive bids last year when it negotiated a contract for a $3.5-million renovation of a new departmental headquarters. Housing Director Robert L. Moore called that report "a political document."

Leland Beale Jr., a member of Virginia Gov.-elect Charles S. Robb's transition advisory committee, wants to outlast the transition. The 55-year-old Democrat, Virginia head of the U.S. Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service during the Carter administration, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he would like to become state commissioner of agriculture and consumer services.

That job is now held by S. Mason Carbaugh, a 20-year careerist, whose only comment was, "My record speaks for itself."

Charlottesville Police Chief John deK. Bowen said Robb has talked to him about becoming secretary of public safety, in charge of law enforcement and the corrections department, without making an outright offer. But Bowen, 47, said he and his family are so attached to Charlottesville that he doubts he'd go to Richmond.

There are, to mix metaphors, weightier items than this to report. Two of Prince George's County's chubbier politicians, Tim Mahoney, Democratic member of the House of Delegates, and Larry Hogan Jr., Republican assistant to his father, the county executive, made a friendly bet as to who would be first to lose 20 pounds, getting down to 160. The winner would get a $200 suit.

Hogan won. "He beat me by six pounds, but he cheated -- he didn't eat for one week," Mahoney lamented. Retorted Hogan: "Republicans have always been better at cutting the fat."

And here indeed is a weightier Prince George's item: As predicted, the county's Democratic Central Committee voted 17-0 on Sunday to recommend that Gov. Harry Hughes appoint Del. Frank Komeda to the state Senate seat vacated by Sen. Peter Bozick. Committee chairman Gary Alexander said he abstained from the vote because of a business relationship with Komeda.

Kids for Cops is the name of a new community relations program announced yesterday. It is designed to bring D.C. police into friendly contact with city youngsters. This is how it will work:

Starting Jan. 4, all uniformed police officers will carry trading cards with pictures of Georgetown University basketball players. Children will be encouraged to ask officers for a card. Once a 20-card set of all players has been collected, the children can redeem them at police stations for two free tickets to see the Hoyas play at the Capital Centre.

The program is sponsored jointly by Safeway Stores and the Cap Centre.