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Editorials and Opinions

Vancouver 2010

So, how do you like the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver so far? If you’re an American, quite a bit, thank you very much. If you’re one of the NBC sportcasters here, you like it even more, because now you’ve got an almost legitimate excuse to talk about practically nothing but Americans. If you’re Canada, the host nation, probably not so much, for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons. If you’re from Russia, even less. You and your president are mad as hell about it all. This has been an unexpectedly dizzying and surprising winter Olympics, at turns exposing everything that’s right and everything that’s wrong with these every-four-years efforts. If nothing else, we’ve seen a couple different sides to the host nation, for better and worse. That image of the Canadians as bland, modest, mild-mannered folks who are patient and have things in perspective and proportion, well, that one took a small hit. They are as crazed about gold as anybody else, and carry as much bellowing national pride as the next country, which happens to be their too-good neighbor, the United States. The Canadians, in their efforts to create a really fast luge and bobsled competition, created a course that athletes and experts complained was way too fast. It certainly proved to be too fast for a young luge competitor from Georgia who was killed when he lost control at somewhere around 90 miles an hour. That tragedy, right before the start of the games, was a huge controversy with charges, tortured explanations, and countercharges in the midst of competition. It’s not being talked about too much any more, except perhaps in the Georgian village where they’re still mourning the loss of their hometown athlete. The Canadians, who should be good in these events because there’s lots of ice, mountains, and snow there — as opposed to Washington — haven’t fared well. Last two times they hosted the winter Olympics they got no gold. They finally broke the spell this time, but then the United States — with most of their NHL stars playing for Russia, Sweden and Canada — managed to knock off the Sidney Crosby-led Canadian team, a huge upset. The Russian hockey team, with Alex Ovechkin at the helm, lost to Slovakia. Russia was shut out in the medals for pairs skating, where China finished first and second, and when defending gold medalist Evgeni Plushenko, a boyish Putin look-alike in sequins, lost the gold to American Evan Lysacek in men‘s figure skating, he got peevish. He waltzed up to the gold podium at the medals ceremony then, after some comments about skaters who don’t do a quadruple jump not being manly, he walked out. Russian President Putin and his wife also complained about the loss. And then there was our country ’tis of thee. Even if the Americans don’t win another medal, they’ve kicked butt. This would be really wonderful to behold if we didn’t have to listen to the various broadcasters point out the obvious to us, instead of letting us enjoy it. This, in spite of the fact that this has not turned out to be the Vonncouver Olympics. We’ve seen too much of the golden girl, in both senses of the word: her hurt shin, her pained grimaces, her bikini poses, her personal life, her long hair, all of that. She won a gold in the downhill and flashed her gutsy brilliance, fell in another race, and raced conservatively in the super-G for a bronze. Not bad at all, but just modest enough to let others shine. Others won big also, with Shani Davis taking gold and silver in speed skating, Julia Mancuso winning two silvers and Apolo Ohno setting a record for Olympic medals with short track skating. Then there’s Bode Miller. Remember him? Like Vonn, Miller was the hyped American athlete in Torino and crumbled like a cookie, with no medals. Here, he’s been about as good as he can get, getting a bronze, silver and gold so far, and a lot less attention, while looking like the scruffy skier Robert Redford might have played once. Finally, there’s Shaun White, the red-headed snowboarder in a class by himself. I think I saw him working his way to the moon after one of his runs. Confident without being arrogant, articulate, shrewd and funny, he’s the coolest guy in Vancouver. Canada has enjoyed a few victories, though. The gold medal win by dark-horse moguls skier Alex Bilodeau, the country’s first in a Winter Olympics, prompted a fire of excitement nationwide. More touching was seeing Bilodeau’s older brother Frederic, who has cerebral palsy, weep with joy when the results were announced. One of the great things about watching ski runs is to see how the Vancouver’s mountain setting revealed itself every time. It was breath-taking. And there’s the city itself, gleamingly hip and cosmopolitan against a backdrop of fierce nature. Even if Canadian athletes aren’t sweeping the podiums, the country has the shown the world a remarkable culture full of natural beauty and modern elan. Now there’s something to be proud about. Plus, we got to see fiddle players who could tap dance. What more could you want?

What’s happening to our merchants?

  -Georgetown has always had its ups and downs. In the 1960s, saloons and nightclubs were a major concern to residents. In the 1970s, crime was running rampant and vendors were setting up all along Wisconsin Ave. in front of stores. But the Georgetown merchants organized and built a strong merchant association that got city hall to pay attention to what was happening to this historic neighborhood. The Citizens Association got involved in fighting crime with increased neighborhood watch programs and increased policing of the neighborhood. The realtors of Georgetown were willing to work with the small merchants. Johnny Snyder, Sam Levy, Emil Audette and other commercial realtors did not gauge the merchants, but set reasonable rents. Rick Hinden of Britches, John Laytham and Stuart Davidson of Clydes, The Georgetowner and Richard McCooey all worked together to form a strong mercantile base for the community. By the ’80s, Georgetown was in its heyday. Business was strong. Then in the ’90s, things began to change. Rents went sky high, mom and pop stores moved out, foreign money took over the commercial sector, banks (the mainstays of the community) such as Riggs, Washington National and American Security all closed or were taken over by outside interests. The merchant association lost its importance when the BID came about. The Citizens Association became more of a social outlet. All nightlife disappeared as saloons and nightclubs were forced out. Parking enforcement turned many shoppers off. Malls in the suburbs stole business from Georgetown, offering free parking and big movie screens. All of Georgetown’s movie theatres shut down. The Food Mart, Neam’s Market, the French Market all left. Residents had to drive outside of the community to go grocery shopping. Chain stores moved in. Shoppers did not come back. The same chain stores could be found in the suburbs, where parking was easy and free. And so, here we are today, almost at a stage where Georgetown has to start over. The merchant mix is all wrong. As the neighborhood’s primary lobbying force, the Georgetown Business Association has to take the lead. The cit council has to wake up and see what is happening to this historic neighborhood and work with the BID and other merchant associations to improve the situation. Let’s be a little more creative.

DC leads a just cause

It’s official. Let the weddings begin. As of today, March 9, gay men and women could get married in the District of Columbia, and many of them probably did. Officially, same sex marriage was legalized in the district on March 3, when same-sex couples could get a marriage license in district court and many, many of them did, from the District of Columbia and elsewhere, states where same sex marriage is not legal, the number of which still constitute a large majority in the United States. Still, the issue of gay marriage passed a gauntlet in the District of Columbia that seemed insurmountable at one time in a jurisdiction where Congress, which had veto rights over the District budget, routinely insisted that anti-sodomy laws remain in place. That might seem a thing of the past, but the climate for legalization of gay marriage and gay rights and discrimination is still a stormy one. For all the celebration and sighs of relief and it’s-about-time commentary that erupts whenever a jurisdiction legalizes same-sex marriage or equivalent rights, there’s always an event, a fight, a comment, a slur, a legal battle or maneuvering that reveals just how far gays have yet to go to achieve rights that to them and to most reasonable people seem just. To many religious organizations and institutions, same-sex marriage threatens their beliefs and threatens the family, an ill-defined word in these contemporary times where divorce among straight people is alarmingly high. And there is always the religious fringe whose hatred of gay Americans, or gay people in general, appears to know no bounds. That’s why, for instance, the Supreme Court is set to deliver a free speech verdict, no less, on the fate of rabid (there’s no other word for their cruel use of speech) anti-gay protesters who routinely show up at military funerals with hate-filled signs like “God Hates Your Tears” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” (among milder examples). The groups, members of Kansas’ Westboro Baptist Church, believe that 9/11 and U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are God’s punishment on America for tolerating gays in America. Needless to say, they are not fond of same-sex marriage, either. A family of one dead soldier who sued the protesters and initially won a $5 million verdict is appealing a U.S. district appeals court decision that overturned the verdict on First Amendment grounds, saying that the signs had “imaginative and hyperbolic rhetoric” which was protected. Meanwhile, Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli II, who had toned down his ultra-right rhetoric during the recent election campaign, has written letters to Virginia higher education officials asking them to back off policies against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, causing a furor among students on public university campuses. And the unworkable and painful “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about gays in the military remains in place, even though some of the highest ranking officers in the military have spoken out against it. All of these landmark efforts on same-sex marriage, legal rights and recognition are essentially about making gays and lesbians a part of mainstream America, a notion that absolutely terrifies anti-gay forces. If gay people have the same visible rights and place as other members of the community, it becomes impossible to marginalize them with slurs, rhetoric, oppression, discrimination and open hateful acts. If gay men and women come into the community light in terms of equal rights and responsibilities, it forces bigots to slink into the dark, where they belong.

High Hopes for Health Care

  -In a recent New York Times op-ed, Paul Krugman, echoing Abraham Lincoln, remarked that the case for universal health care was “an appeal to our better angels, urging politicians to do what is right, even if it hurts their careers.” His politics and bias, whether you agree with them or not, are immaterial here. More important is to understand his use of a phrase now firmly ensconced in the American rhetorical canon, one which may help us to see how the passing of a landmark piece of legislation on Sunday fits into the larger picture of American social policy. Better angels. It’s a Lincoln original, a curious turn of phrase he used, against the advice of his Cabinet and colleagues, to describe an aspect of America’s internal conscience. It implies the smallest lozenge of good residing within everyone, heavenly, metaphysical, one we strain to hear over the din of heated argument and impassioned emotion. Our ongoing struggle with this innate empathy also calls to mind a stark truth: that American crusades for civil and social justice, the ones we now deem unshakable and sacrosanct, were never popular with contemporaries. At the turn of the 19th century, those who had fought so hard to guarantee free speech in the Constitution faced its erosion by sedition laws. In Lincoln’s own time, emancipation was reviled by the South and thought imprudent and reactionary in the North. A century later, a handful of legislators, state politicians, and citizens showed they would go to any length to curb the presidency’s quest for civil rights chartered by law. To question the spirit of these movements today, now removed from any political or prejudicial skew, would be to question what is now snugly assimilated into the country’s heritage. Do we possess the prescience to feel certain the cause for health care will be remembered similarly? No, but we have a feeling it will be. Of the three fundamental rights Thomas Jefferson ascribed to humanity, life and liberty are the most easily stripped by the vindictive, heartless, cutthroat side of mankind. We must never allow that side to take ground. We must recognize for ourselves and for each other that the cause for life, like the cause for liberty, will be threatened constantly by the shallow, inhuman interests that lurk on the fringes of a harsh world. We must pledge to never lie beholden to these. We must pledge to take the steps necessary to ensure that our citizens, one and all, have the resources they need to preserve their own life and the lives of loved ones. This may require us to quiet ourselves for a moment and listen within to that which binds us together as Americans, and as human beings. The better angels of our nature.

Evans for Chairman?

Well into the middle months of Mayor Adrian Fenty’s final year of his first term, there is an unsettled, faintly ominous feel to the political and economic atmosphere in the District of Columbia. While the mayor appears to have made significant progress in many areas, large sections of voters throughout the city seem to be unhappy with Fenty, as well as his chosen Chancellor of Public Schools, Michelle Rhee. Speculations have it that some members of the city council, notably Chairman Vincent Gray, who has been visibly at odds with the mayor over a number of issues, will challenge the mayor’s re-election. No one is exactly betting against the mayor, who has a fat war chest. But electoral politics are a background noise to the business of the council, which now has to contend with a looming budget deficit of the kind not seen by most of its members. The man least fazed by turbulent political clouds or impending economic troubles, and who probably knows more about them than anyone on the council, is the council’s finance committee chair, Jack Evans. More telling, Evans is the longest continuously serving councilman, having won a special Ward 2 election in 1991, when he emerged the winner over a large field. Evans has seen the mayor-council relationship ebb and flow over his nearly 20 years in office. “It’s never been ideal,” he says. “Mayor Kelly and council Chair John Wilson were at odds often. Mayor Williams at first didn’t have much to do with the council but that changed in his second term, where there was a lot more contact and cooperation. Right now, I’d say, we’re having some problems in that arena. It’s no secret that Chairman Gray and the mayor rarely communicate. There are several people on the council who’ve had no words with the mayor for months. Maybe years.” Evans isn’t one of them. It is generally recognized that Evans, who supported Linda Cropp in the mayoral race, has become Fenty’s most consistent and strongest supporter on the council, as well as supporting the school reform efforts of Rhee. “That’s fair to say,” he says. “I think the mayor is a doer, he believes in action, and when something’s done or settled, he moves on.” The electoral hubbub doesn’t really concern Evans, although if Chairman Gray should run for mayor, “I can tell you I will run for chairman,” he says. “No question.” Right now, though, politics are not at the top of his list. The budget is. “We’ve been very lucky in terms of the economy,” he says. “We’ve done extremely well and haven’t felt the main brunt of things. That’s not true anymore. As everybody has noted, we’re facing a shortfall of nearly $500 million. It’s almost a cliché, but this requires some extremely tough, painful decisions. We’re better off than other jurisdictions, but things are not going to get better right away. “There’s only so many places you can look, so many things you can do. Now we’re going to be perhaps talking about looking at freezes on wages, maybe even pay cuts. We are required to balance the budget.” Evans is by far the most experienced member of the council when it comes to financial and budget manners, making him ideally positioned to be heard in his role as head of the Committee on Finance and Revenue. Mayor Fenty is scheduled to bring the Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Request Act of 2010 and the Fiscal Year of 2011 Budget Support Act of 2010 to the Council April 1. “That’s where it starts,” Evans says. The council will hold a public briefing on the mayor’s budget plan on April 12.

History Made Daily in Washington

It's springtime, and in this city, in our neighborhoods, we could be living almost anywhere, with slight differences of details because we lead daily lives as prosaic as a suburbanite filling his SUV with soccer gear. You can close your eyes and the world is not that much with you, breathing down your neck with alarming tales of celebrity or war. But in Washington, that’s hardly ever true. In the most beautiful weekend of the year so far, the SunTrust National Marathon, thousands strong, came through our neighborhood and others, the water bearers lined up along Columbia Road as the early batch, loped through. It transformed, if not transfixed, where we lived — streets closed off, drivers grinding through the maze of Lanier Place, Ontario Road or Adams Mill Road, trying to get out to the grocery stores. “My daughter’s in this,” a neighbor said, rushing to get to the race. “Gotta get out there.” Elsewhere, at Lafayette Park, thousands of anti-war(s) protesters gathered, protesting not only the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, but Israel’s settlements. As of old, they brought masks, megaphones, coffins, the regalia and passion of the young. They may have picked the wrong time to gather this way in front of the White House or in the city. For one thing, there was the spring fever burning bright, infectious. For another, the transient politician among us, and the occupants of the White House were pre-occupied with other things. This was the weekend, when, in contradictory fashion, the big health care reform bill, almost in a flash, spurred by encouraging CBO statistics about its cost and by the impassioned pleadings of the president himself, suddenly was about to come to a vote. Which meant, of course, that the Tea Party folks were in town. This may have meant little to people in Georgetown, or in my neck of the woods off Rock Creek Park in Adams Morgan, but they made their presence felt on Capitol Hill. On the Hill, history and history-making kissed us squarely on the mouth. It was pure theater, mixed in with the regular theater, the president giving one of his classic campaign style speeches — “Don’t do it for me, don’t do it for the Democratic Party, do it for the American people” — while the GOP stalwarts, including the sour-faced House minority leader Jim Boehner, repeated his mantra: the American people don’t want this bill. Outside, the Tea party folks accused Democrats of socialism, communism, big-ism, take-over-ism, and so on, with a fury rarely seen in this city since the last Cowboys-Redskins game at RFK stadium. Some members of the Tea Party, it should be noted, also exposed themselves, not in the usual way, but with racial and homophobic slurs directed against black and gay Democrat legislators on Saturday and again on Sunday. Mr. Boehner, when pressed, called this reprehensible, although somehow managed to say it in a way that suggested the American people were so angry about health care that they forgot themselves. What was certain was that if the GOP party itself had previously tried to keep a thin distance between itself and the Tea Party, it disappeared entirely on Sunday. Faced with a vote that would pass a historic bill they had fought so bitterly, GOP legislators moved out to a balcony and egged the crowd on with “Kill the Bill” signs. Eventually, history was made: the bill, by a 219-212 margin, had passed. We were asleep by then. Many of us had also missed the sunny Sunday afternoon on the mall where still another group in the thousands had gathered to ask for immigration justice. The very fact that history looms over our shoulders daily in this city is what makes the things we do from day to day so precious here, because we hear the hollering of the Tea Party, the banging of the drums of the protesters, the epic words of political opposites. We have our own little political struggles to overcome: the murmurs of discontent about our mayor pop up in the neighborhoods, there and there. Overnight, history sweeps through our sleep, through our locked doors. We wake up, like everyone else and pick up the morning paper on the third day of spring, awaiting rain.

Remembering Robert Pyle

Georgetowner Robert “Bob” Pyle passed away on March 18 at age 83. A World War II veteran, he attended Japanese Language School at the University of Michigan before graduating from Dickenson College in 1948 on the GI Bill. He also wrote for the U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes, with assignments covering the Nuremberg War trials and the Paris Peace Conference. After Dickenson, he attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Pyle came to Washington, D.C. with Wilmington Congressman Herbert Warburton (R-DE) in the mid-1950s and later served on the campaign and as Chief of Staff to Representative Perkins Bass (R-NH). Pyle later served as chief of staff to Congressman David Emery (R-ME), a field staffer for the Republican Congressional Committee and a campaign consultant to the Republican National Committee, advising over 50 congressional, senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns throughout New England, the South and the Midwest. In 1974, a year that saw many Republicans swept from office due to Watergate, he managed two winning campaigns for Representatives Ben Gilman (R-NY) and Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY). These were two of the three so called “Watergate Babies.” In the mid-1970s, Pyle started a government relations firm and consulted with the American Bakers Association as the Republican lobbyist. In 1976, the Independent Bakers Association tapped Pyle to run a meeting in Washington, DC and later he became their president. He held this position for 29 years, operating out of their offices on Georgetown’s Potomac Street. During this time, Pyle lobbied Congress on numerous issues critical to the baking industry, ending Federal production controls over wheat and peanut markets. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan named Pyle to the Selective Service Commission, and he served as a local host on many Republican Inaugural Committees. Pyle is survived by his wife Patricia Carlile Pyle. He is survived by his children: Sarah Moore, Dr. Robert Noble Jr., Mark C., and Nicholas A., children of Edith Ayrault Rose, and Louis Crosier, son of Claire Thorn. He is also survived by nine grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made out to the Independent Bakers Association Memorial Internship Fund, c/o IBA, P.O. Box 3731, Washington, DC 20027.

Any Character Left?

  -To the editors: Regarding the feature “Reviving Dead Space” [March 10 issue], do clients who “loved old buildings” or their architect, “an expert in period Georgetown buildings,” truly believe that gutting “the entire house” yields a “creation” that has any “good bones” or “character” left? Far too much original fabric of historic Georgetown buildings is being wantonly removed in the interest of reviving ”dead, crumbly cottages” into “spacious light-filled beauties.” With design features such as the now-commonplace “open floor plan, sparkling stainless steel, skylights, limestone, etc.,” are we certain the author is not describing a contemporary loft condo downtown? I can only wonder what the (apparently very diminutive) previous occupants, circa 1810, would have thought of this “transformation” while huddled around their basement kitchen hearth in “the four-foot earthen windowless crawlspace.” Douglas Rixey, AIA Georgetown The author is a partner at Rixey-Rixey Architects on M Street.

Liquor Moratorium Needs Loosening

  -May we request a moratorium on, you know, the moratorium? Meaning, of course, ABRA’s liquor moratorium for Georgetown, which begins at Wisconsin and N Streets and applies to every restaurant within a third-mile radius, and is now up for its five-year renewal later this year. Several weeks ago, the ANC gave its blessing to a renewal, with the recommendation that two more available licenses be issued in order to, as ANC 2E05 Bill Starrels put it, “dampen the bidding wars.” Such a comment touches on the larger issue at stake: that any restaurant hoping to sell liquor within the heart of Georgetown must bid for a finite resource. Too finite, in our opinion. Currently, new establishments seeking a license must purchase it at a premium from defunct restaurant owners, who may hold onto their license as long as they like until they get the price they want. You can see where simple economics comes into play. Demand is skyrocketing, while supply remains dismally low, not to mention hoarded for profit. A Georgetown liquor license nowadays goes for $70,000. And insofar that any restaurant larger than a take-out sandwich joint cannot hope to profit without liquor sales, we can expect any prospective eateries to set up shop elsewhere, where they won’t immediately be set back a hundred grand. Which is a shame. As Ginger Laytham of Clyde’s remarks, “This is not just a restaurant issue, it’s a whole community issue.” We agree. With a struggling retail market that seems to only attract national chains, this neighborhood more than ever needs to facilitate the establishment of locally owned restaurants and bars where Georgetowners, their friends, and visitors alike can gather to socialize and enjoy the cachet unique to this community. While we are sensitive to the notion that establishments selling alcohol may be catalysts for disorderly conduct, we also point out that incidents like the recent Philly Pizza fiasco don’t always require getting liquored up. Does all this necessitate a complete repeal of the moratorium, or the handing out of licenses carte blanche? No, but we believe the law could do with a bit of curtailing. We urge ABRA and the city council to issue more liquor licenses to Georgetown, and to enact legislation that would lower the value of those already issued — by adding expiration dates for defunct licenses, for instance — so they are less of a cash cow and more of a transferable, affordable resource.

A New Shade of Gray

Well, city council Chairman Vincent Gray has gone and done it. After months of prodding and speculation in the media and among political types in the District, Gray has decided to take on incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty and run against him. He made his announcement at a spirited rally where the key rhetorical elements were “one city” and “we can do better,” which got the people in attendance at Reeves Municipal Center going, but didn’t give too many clues on substance or policy difference that Gray might have with the mayor. Still, the announcement accomplished at least two things: it ended speculation about Gray and transferred it to speculation about who was going to run for Gray’s chairman position. The one certain thing is that Gray will not be chairman next year, and that’s the big risk in his decision: that he could become Linda Cropp, the sitting council chair four years ago who decided to run for mayor and got soundly trounced by Fenty, managing to lose every precinct and ward in the city. Now that he’s opted to run against Fenty, Gray cannot run for re-election as council chair, an election he was a sure bet to have won. He could be a man without a job if he fails to unseat the sitting mayor. Gray is obviously optimistic about his chances. On the surface, his is in the very least a serious candidacy, although the probabilities for success remain very, very iffy. Gray may have been encouraged by a recent poll that showed a decided unhappiness among voters with Fenty, but it was a poll from which you could extract mixed meanings. Many district voters and residents, many of them in the poorer and majority black areas of the city such as Ward 8, 7, 6, 5 and 4 (Fenty’s own ward), are not happy with the way Fenty has governed, even if quite a few others praise his action-fueled ways, citing favorable homicide and crime stats, a major school takeover and reform effort that’s beginning to show favorable results in some areas and general quality of life improvements. It was a poll that seemed to say “we like some of what you’ve done, but we don’t like how you did it.” Which is to say that Fenty was perceived as distant, somewhat arrogant, a “does not play well with others” (especially the city council) kind of leader, often high-handed, secretive and single-minded. A poll also showed that in a one-on-one race against Fenty, Gray would narrowly win. Yet these objections, while heated, also seem somewhat ephemeral — they’re not the sort of thing you on which you can place a big political bet. More troublesome may be the results of an investigation into Fenty’s bypassing the council in awarding contracts on parks and recreation projects. And just this week, the anger of residents where four people were killed in mass shootings was high after Fenty — rumored to be vacationing in Jamaica — failed to show up at the site. To be fair, the mayor’s presence at scenes of tragedy and trouble has been consistently high in the past. Then there’s the question of how legislation will fare on the council when a number of its members are engaged in running for office, and that would be especially in the case of Gray. It’s budget time, and Fenty last week presented his budget for fiscal year 2011 to the council and to the public, a budget fraught with potential controversy, given its unsightly $500 million-plus deficit. At the meeting with the council, Fenty greeted Gray with a hug, the first time the two men apparently had seen each other or talked in months. Fenty’s relationship with the city council — especially Gray — has deteriorated drastically, beginning with the choice of Michelle Rhee as public schools chancellor, the selection of which the Washington Post knew about before Gray was informed. Rhee’s own drastic reform efforts, which include high doses of national publicity, the mass firing of teachers and stalled contract talks with the teacher’s union, seemed to mimic Fenty’s style. Such treatment obviously rankled Gray, especially after he supported Fenty in his school takeover effort. But Fenty is also a tough, high-energy campaigner with a big war chest of nearly $4 million. This late in the game, that’s a lot to catch up with, although Gray is rumored to be trolling for support with the Cafritz family and folks like Judith Terra, a former Fenty supporter. Then there’s Don Peebles, the bucks-rich developer who may yet run, which might distract the focus of voters, if not the contributors. Gray — now dubbed Vince Gray on his campaign website — is a careful sort who likes building consensus. Fenty, at least if the polls are correct, is seen as someone who likes to act and make decisions and not look back or apologize. Gray’s decision sparked a scramble among candidates looking at his council chairman seat in an increasingly volatile city council. Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans, the council’s longest sitting member, has already unequivocally said he will run. Solid rumors have it that Kwame Brown, the appealing and popular at-large member will also run, and there are speculations about Phil Mendelson, another veteran at-large member who faces a re-election challenge, is also considering a bid for the seat. That speaks to a certain instability on the new council, which recently celebrated its 35th anniversary under Home Rule. Six council members are up for re-election this year, many of them first timers. That makes this year's budget deliberations a possible arena for political combat. In this atmosphere, and with this late start, what are the odds on Gray's run? It remains a long shot, but there are some things he can (and some that he must) do to give himself the best chance. The most difficult might be catching up in the financing sweepstakes. He (and Fenty) must also be careful to not let their differences create a have-and-have-not political climate. But Gray has to do more than complain about Fenty's style. Fenty and Gray represent two different political generations in Washington, something that can favor Gray, who can draw support from folks used to being politically active. But he has to, at some point, make policy distinctions between himself and Fenty. It's one thing to be prickly about Rhee and her methods, or Fenty and his methods. He's got to show how a Gray administration would be different in substance, not just style. Both Vincent and Vince have to show up at the candidate forums which are a hallmark of D.C.'s election campaigns.