After watching the speeches and celebrations during Mayor Vince Gray's inauguration, I wondered whether I was seeing a coronation, with hugging rather than bowing to the new monarch. Everybody wanted to embrace the new mayor, especially the city council members. Ward 5 representative Tommy Thomas wrapped Gray in a bear hug. At-large member Michael Brown grabbed him a few times. New council chair Kwame Brown threw his arms around him, too. Marion Barry gave him a hug. Mary Cheh, the Ward 3 representative, bathed him with adoring looks. What a change from the way council members got along with Adrian Fenty! What passed between the former mayor and most city council members for the past four years was venom, cold stares and threats about documents and subpoenas.

The most significant difference between Fenty and Gray with respect to governing could be the relationship between the executive and legislative branches. The majority of council members love Vince. Love him! They worked with him as council chair for the past four years. Most supported his candidacy. Of course they want to embrace Mayor Vince. He's still one of them.

But this begs a few questions: Will Mayor Gray also run the city council? Will council members consult with Gray before every vote? Will they be so eager to please their friend who's now mayor that they forget their role in oversight and counter balance?

"The council could be in danger of becoming a rubber stamp for the mayor," one veteran D.C. politician says. "Too much power in the hands of one individual -- whether it's Marion Barry or Vince Gray -- is always dangerous."

He's referring to Marion Barry's first two terms as mayor, when the council members were known as "Marionettes," more enablers than legislators.

I asked Chairman Brown whether Gray will run the city.

"Mayor Gray is not going to get a free ride," he tells me, "nor does he expect one. Of course we are going to be a counterweight and hold him accountable."

The new chairman promises "serious oversight."

Sounds great, but I'm having a hard time seeing Michael Brown grilling any of Gray's appointees. Gray mentored Brown for the past four years. They have a father-son relationship at this point.

Fenty's attorney general was investigating Thomas' relationship with a nonprofit he used to run. I'll bet Gray kills that probe. Can Thomas then vote against Gray?

Cheh is a Vince Gray ally. Ditto at-large member Phil Mendelson. Gray is extremely tight with Tommy Wells, who represents Capitol Hill.

If Chairman Kwame Brown butts heads with Mayor Gray, can he prevail? I count seven votes for anything Gray desires, including Barry and Yvette Alexander from Ward 7.

As for loyal opposition, we have Muriel Bowser from Ward 4, at-large member David Catania and Jack Evans, whose ward runs from Georgetown through downtown to Shaw. With seniority and spunk, Evans could wind up leading the opposition.

After the coronation, let's hope for some checks and balances; that's how the system is supposed to work.

Harry Jaffe's column appears on Tuesday and Friday. He can be contacted at