Dona Spring: Irreplaceable Green, held office
longer than any other
BERKELY - Dona Spring died on July 13, 2008. For the past thirty-five years
she courageously battled rheumatoid arthritis, which progressively took away
her mobility, her stamina, and her health, but never her dignity and integrity.
Dona served on the Berkeley City Council, representing District 4, for 16
years. This is the longest term for any elected Green in the state of California,
and the second longest in the country.
Her longevity in office is attributable to her persistence, intelligence,
and compassion as a representative on state, national, and international issues
and on the day-to-day issues that impacted her constituents in District 4:
street sweeping, stop signs and traffic lights, traffic calming, disability
access, public works, and other city services. She was accessible, available,
intelligent, and responsive. She was a rare public official in so many ways.
We will remember Dona Spring for many things: zipping through her District
4 to attend a neighborhood meeting or to City Hall in her motorized wheelchair
and her tireless advocacy of social justice issues for people with disabilities
and the need for funding a new warm-water therapeutic pool, for a new Berkeley
animal shelter and animal rights, for environmental issues, including strong
and early support for the Berkeley Farmers' Markets.
She authored the resolution strongly condemning U.S. military action in Afghanistan,
and gained national attention and vociferous criticism elsewhere for that resolution,
but not here in Berkeley. She received death threats for that proposal, and
for others she carried and sponsored.
I don't believe she feared death, since she had been facing it for many years.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Dennis Walton, Dona's companion of 25
years, who supported, aided, and more and more cared for Dona over the years.
His commitment to Dona was unwavering. Dona's mother, Paula, had moved to Piedmont,
only 5 miles from Berkeley, to be near her daughter during the last few years
of Dona's life.
My own experience and relationship with Dona goes back over 15 years. We met
first as Green Party activists; she had already been elected to her first term
as a Berkeley City Councilmember in 1992 (she ran against and defeated in a
mild upset a well-known and respected environmentalist in his own right, John
She appointed me to Berkeley's Community Environmental Advisory Commission
in 1995, on which I served for five years, eventually serving two terms as
chair of the commission. I note this as an example of Dona's unerring eye and
ear for placing people in positions where they could succeed, and grow.
From that five-year experience on CEAC, and with my own work in the school
district, I ran for and won a seat on the Berkeley School Board in 2000. I
am currently the President of the Board.
Dona supported the unrepresented, the voiceless, and the hidden amongst us.
She never backed down from a debate, never apologized for taking the side of
the disabled, or homeless, or poor.
She understood and lived the understanding that we are all ultimately judged,
and the society we build is judged, on how we treat and empower those who
have had little or no opportunity in their lives, or have had
hardship and setback. We all need to remember that message in the work
we continue to do.
(Readers can find more memories of Dona Spring from the Lindsay Vurek video, "Courage
in Life & Politics -- The Dona Spring Story." This hour-long portrait
can be found on YouTube.com. Search under "Dona Spring Courage").