One day after the unexpected death of Ed Lee, a somber tone permeated City Hall Wednesday while day-to-day duties of running the government continued and plans were announced to honor The City’s first Asian-American mayor.
Flowers and personal notes honoring the mayor in a makeshift memorial that appeared Tuesday, the day of Lee’s death, on the steps of City Hall had grown by midday Wednesday. People walking by or going in and out of City Hall for business stopped to reflect on his passing and take photographs.
Among them was Damien Brister, who works for the Hunters Point Family, a nonprofit that — in partnership with Department of Public Works — supervises the Civic Center Plaza, an area across from City Hall known for drug use and homelessness.
“He’s our main supporter of what we do,” Brister said of the mayor. “He was always for the community.” Brister hopes to use the job “as a stepping stone” to become a drug counselor.
Lee died at 1:11 a.m. Tuesday at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital after suffering a heart attack. He was 65.
San Francisco will hold a closed casket viewing at City Hall on Friday for residents to honor Lee, the Mayor’s Office announced Wednesday afternoon.
As The City carried on with the business of government, Lee’s death remained on the minds of many.
“I just want to express my condolences and acknowledge that it’s tough to weather such a loss that The City is weathering today and I really appreciate that supervisors are carrying on The City’s important business,” said Barbara Hale, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s assistant general manager of power, during Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee hearing.
The committee voted to approve a proposal to expand CleanPowerSF, a community choice aggregation renewable energy program that the mayor helped launch in May 2016.
Supervisor Malia Cohen, chair of the committee, also offered some introspective remarks during the hearing.
“I don’t know what its been like for you, but 2017 has just been incredibly, incredibly difficult — personally with the passing of our mayor but also just politically with the transitions that our country has gone through in this first year under the Trump administration.”
Immediately following Lee’s death, Board of Supervisors President London Breed became acting mayor under the city’s charter. She will continue to hold that position and serve as the District 5 member of the Board of Supervisors until the board votes on whether to appoint an interim mayor.
San Francisco voters will decide in June 2018 who will finish out Lee’s term, which ends Jan. 8, 2020.
The board doesn’t have to vote on an interim mayor, which would leave Breed to hold the dual roles until the June election.
The first meeting where the board could vote on an interim mayor is Jan. 9, which is also the deadline for candidates to file to run for mayor on the June ballot.
Meanwhile, as City Hall mourns, speculation continues to mount about who will file to run for mayor in the June election. There is also growing speculation about who the board might name as an interim mayor, such as Breed or a “caretaker” who wouldn’t run for election in June.
Breed, The City’s first black female mayor, appeared at her first public event as acting mayor Wednesday when she joined Police Chief Bill Scott at the United Playaz anti-violence nonprofit offices at 1039 Howard St. to announce a Dec. 16 event to buy back guns to reduce gun violence — the group’s sixth annual gun buy-back event.
“Think about the difference one gun can make in saving not just one life, but several lives,” Breed said, mentioning specific residents who had died from gun violence in San Francisco. “Just like our late mayor, I hate guns too.”
Rudy Corpuz, Jr., head of the United Playaz, recalled a conversation he had with Lee. “One of his requests, he said, ‘Rudy, I need you to help me make this the safest city in the whole world.’”
Afterward, Breed responded to questions from reporters who pressed her if she would seek the office permanently and what her priorities would be.
“I haven’t thought about that,” Breed said about the prospect of running for mayor. “I am here to do this job and do it well. And that is at the forefront of my thoughts.”
She added that she wanted to assure residents that “I am here to focus on making sure that there is continuity of government. That the buses are still running.”
She said issues like homelessness would be her “top priority.”
One of the duties of the mayor is to propose a balanced city budget by June 1 to the board for approval, which reflects the mayor’s spending priorities for the next two fiscal years. City departments are to submit budget proposals to the Mayor’s Office by Feb. 21.
While Breed has ascended to the most powerful political post at City Hall, she said, “I haven’t felt anything but sad.”
Lee will lie in state for the public to visit and pay their respects Friday between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. in the rotunda at City Hall.
On Sunday, friends, family and elected officials will celebrate Lee’s life in a memorial service beginning at 3 p.m., also at City Hall, which is open to the public.