Jesse L. Jackson Sr. wrote D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown last week on the letterhead of his Rainbow PUSH Coalition urging Brown and his colleagues to reject the Retail Service Station Act of 2011.
Jackson wrote on behalf of Eyob “Joe” Mamo, the gas station magnate who has come under scrutiny during the recent spike in fuel prices, including an investigation by Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan. The bill, introduced by Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), could potentially affect Mamo’s ability to operate stations that his wholesale operation also supplies. A similar bill passed in 2004, only to be repealed in 2007 under heavy lobbying by Mamo.
Calling Mamo “a model of success for minority entrepreneurs all around the nation,” Jackson urged Brown to oppose the bill, which “unfairly scapegoats and singles out Mr. Mamo’s company,” Capitol Petroleum Group. The bill, Jackson writes, would “stifle its growth as a viable company that contributes to the District’s economy.”
“By re-introducing this Bill (and versions of it), over and over again, the Council — led by Cheh, [Jack] Evans, [Tommy] Wells and [Phil] Mendelson (and co-sponsored by [David] Catania) — seek to put in place onerous and inequitable business restrictions ... that do not exist anywhere else in the country,” he writes.
Note that all the members he references are white; the letter was sent to Brown and the six other black council members, as well as Mayor Vincent C. Gray.
Jackson also commends Brown on not co-sponsoring the bill. “You have a proud and distinguished record advocating for fairness, inclusion and minority business development. I appeal to you to lead the Council to uphold these values and extend equal opportunity to all businesses in the District,” he writes. “The District should be a beacon for minority business participation and not a barrier to it.”
The Jackson letter is part of a vigorous lobbying effort now being orchestrated on Mamo’s behalf by former D.C. Council member John L. Ray. A hearing is set for June 17.