In an unprecedented move, Mayor Mark Farrell is lighting up City Hall, Coit Tower, and the San Francisco International Airport to honor his alma mater: St. Ignatius College Preparatory.
The private Jesuit high school’s 2018 graduating class will get a nod from San Francisco’s top official Saturday night when those respective landmarks are all lit red and blue, the school’s colors.
The reveal came courtesy of an email from S.I. sent Thursday that trumpeted Mayor Mark Farrell having graduated from the school in 1992.
So what’s the harm in flicking a switch at City Hall? Perhaps not much, as there’s an entire calendar of causes our dome lights up for: Gold for Emperor Norton’s 200th birthday on Feb. 4, black red and gold on March 8 to honor San Francisco’s new sister city, Kiel, Germany. But this isn’t just City Hall, it’s Coit Tower and the airport too — and there’s some cost associated with coordinating those lighting ceremonies.
The Mayor’s Office declined to provide dollar amounts for the folks involved with the work, and his office argued the cost was negligible because all of those properties are owned by The City. Airport spokesperson Doug Yakel said “we don’t have a way to itemize the cost” as special lighting requests are programmed during normal staff hours by the airport’s electricians.
City Hall ethics watchdog Larry Bush laughed out loud when told of Farrell’s favor to the school.
“That’s where he went to school!” Bush said, between chuckles. “It looks like he’s trying to reach out to the ‘forgotten’ San Francisco … conservative Catholics on the west side of town.”
It very well could be an election strategy for the Nov. 2019 mayor’s race, Bush said. “It looks like he’s trying to strengthen his base.”
The Mayor’s Office shrugged off any idea that lighting up three landmarks for Farrell’s alma mater whiffed of impropriety.
“It is routine to light our City buildings with colors to honor community events, milestones, holidays or accomplishments,” Farrell said in a statement. “This Saturday we are honoring the graduating class of Saint Ignatius. On Friday, we lit up City Hall orange for Gun Violence Prevention Month and just last week we honored the girls basketball and soccer championship teams from Lowell by lighting up City Hall in their school colors.”
Sure, City Hall was lit up cardinal red and white for Lowell, but did he light up Coit Tower and SFO for them too?
Of course, maybe Farrell has a point. It’s not like other mayors haven’t seen their high schools honored. According to city records, just five days after Supervisor London Breed was voted out as mayor, on Jan. 29, City Hall was lit purple and gold to honor her own alma mater: Galileo High School.
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