In the race for D.C. Council Chair, it seemed that one candidate, Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray, had no chance of winning the enviro nod over Ward 3’s Kathy Patterson. After all, Patterson authored legislation forcing CSX railway to divert toxic shipments through the heart of the city. Patterson’s efforts spurred a lawsuit, a battle with the federal government, and a national debate over the role of localities in protecting citizens from dangerous shipments during the age of terrorism.

Gray won the endorsement with two words: Klingle Road.

In the ultimate gesture of pandering, if elected, Gray agreed to reopen the debate over whether the long-closed Northwest road should be turned into a park. The Sierra Club has pushed to permanently close the road, which was damaged after a 1991 flood, and turn “Klingle Valley” into a path managed by the National Park Service. The mayor went green on the issue and joined the Club, but the council, under pressure from motorists, decided to reopen it to traffic.

Gray, who wasn’t in office when the council voted on the matter, served up what the Club wanted to hear.

Most politicians would take the greeny snub and move on. Not Patterson, who delivered a scolding statement after being informed by Sierra Club members that the endorsement had swung to Gray after the Klingle Road promise. “I declined to make that commitment,” she wrote. “[I] said that the majority vote by the Council should be respected, and the road rebuilt.”

Patterson figured her easy-to-sway enviro friends might benefit from some advice, and so she also took a shot at her east-of-the-river-based opponent. “I am sorry that the Sierra Club is focused on a single roadway in upper northwest,” she wrote, urging the group to “focus attention on…efforts of local anti-poverty organizations to address ‘environmental justice’ issues such as the disproportionate levels of pollution in poor sections of the District.”

The Sierra Club’s Jim Dougherty says Gray’s 100 percent score on the group’s candidate questionnaire could not be overlooked. “He came out with an A-plus. She was an A-minus.”