A Great American

Dona Spring (1953-2008)

An Exemplary Life of

Service & Advocacy

By Michael Chacko Daniels

I was saddened to read that Berkeley City Councilwoman Dona Spring passed away July 13, 2008 from complications of rheumatoid arthritis.

Ms Spring was the longest-serving Green Party officeholder in the country, according to a Green Party press release July 15, 2008, which added:

Ms Spring was first elected to the Berkeley City Council in 1992, and easily won re-election in 2006. A champion of the rights of the disabled, tenants, animals and the planet, Ms. Spring was known as one of the most outspoken progressives in the city, the state and the nation. Just a month ago she went to the UC Berkeley in her wheelchair to support tree-sitters.

Forced recently to attend city council meetings via teleconference because her disease had so debilitated her that even her wheelchair would not suffice, Ms. Spring was hospitalized last week with pneumonia and never recovered. Her friends said she was in horrible pain from her disease, yet she never ever complained.

I will always remember her as a long-time supporter of the Center for Independent Living, the Jobs for Homeless Consortium, and of oppressed people everywhere.

Hers was an exemplary life of service and advocacy.

Ms Spring grew up on a wheat farm in Plentywood, Mont., and also in Billings, Mont., Denver, and Grand Lake, Colo.

Before moving to the Bay Area, her family lived for a short time in Southern California.

In 1970, she enrolled at UC Berkeley, where she graduated with honors in anthropology and psychology.

In 1972, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

"They said there's no cure," she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2006. "I heard the sound of prison doors clanking down for a life of imprisonment. The only thing worse would be if it was terminal."

But rheumatoid arthritis didn't stop her from going on to becoming, in time, the longest-serving Green Party officeholder in the country and a great American.

In the 1970s, she worked at Berkeley's Center for Independent Living. Her CIL experience developed in her a deep interest in public policy. 

In 1986, she was elected to the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee and in 1990 to the county's Green Party Council.

In 1992, her election to the Berkeley City Council galvanized the newly-qualified Green Party of California. Her representation of her Berkeley constituents was so effective that in 2006 she won her fifth and last term to the Council with 72% of the votes (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dona_Spring).

A sharp mind for budget details

Jill Posener, a member of the Humane Commission, said she worked with Spring not only on animal welfare issues, but also much more.

“She had a steel trap of a mind,” Posener said, recalling that Spring knew details of the budget for 10 years running, so that she was able to point to funding sources for various projects.

--Judith Scherr
The Berkeley Daily Planet, Monday, July 14, 2008

Dona Spring at the park

Berkeley City Manager says:

Dona Spring was

a passionate advocate

Berkeley, California (Monday, July 14, 2008) - I regret to announce the passing of Berkeley City Council Member Dona Spring. A memorial service is being planned for Sunday, August 10 at Civic Center Park from 2-4 p.m., with the event continuing at the North Berkeley Senior Center from 4-8 p.m.

Council Member Spring represented District 4 on the Berkeley City Council for 15 years, but has served the Berkeley community for much longer than that. With her passing, we lose a true public servant who was devoted to her district and to Berkeley. She was a passionate advocate on behalf of her constituents, her City and the people of all walks of life who she cared so deeply about. Her focus, her energy and her commitment have set a high standard for community service, and she will be missed.

Before being elected to the City Council, Council Member Spring worked in the area of nonprofit services to seniors and the disabled, as well as on healthcare, environmental and animal protection issues. A few highlights (although certainly not a comprehensive list of all her accomplishments):

She graduated from UC Berkeley with honors with a B.A. in Anthropology and Psychology.
She was elected to the County Democratic Central Committee 1986-1988 and to the Green Party County Council 1990-1992.
In 1994, Council Member Spring served as the Vice Mayor of Berkeley.
Between 1997 and 2001, she served on the Alameda County Recycling Board and was its president in 2001.
The sympathies of the community and City of Berkeley are with her friends and family during this time.


Phil Kamlarz
City Manager, City of Berkeley
July 14, 2008

Dona Spring's City of Berkeley Web Page, July 2008

I am publishing the following from Dona Spring's City of Berkeley web page as a testament to her 27 years of Community Service:

27 years of Community Service

Neighborhood and Tenant Organizer

Environmental leader

Advocate for Seniors, Disabled, Youth and

Health Care Reform

Dona Spring--Positive Leadership

Increasing municipal services in our neighborhoods with more street lighting, tree trimming, sidewalk and street repair.

A Champion for Our Parks and Recreation facilities:

Dona helped obtain funding for Ohlone Park improvements like additional children's play equipment and a mural to commemorate Ohlone Indians. She is trying to get additional recreational opportunities at our waterfront.

More Affordable Housing: Dona's advocacy is for federal loans for tenants to purchase their units and for loans for lower income people to make home repairs. She has created educational and assistance programs for tenants. Dona is working to prevent the loss of long-time tenants and small businesses.

Protecting the Environment

Protecting our soil, air and water from toxic pollution has been a life time commitment for Dona. She has spent years working for accountability from the University and the city in the use and reduction of toxins. Dona's leadership is reducing the flow of heavy metals into the storm drains.

Dona's advocacy for a healthier environment includes:

1. Combining car trips to reduce automobile use--fossil fuel consumption is a leading polluter of our environment.

2. Eating lower on the food chain to reduce habitat destruction, pollution, water and fossil fuel consumption.

3. Precycling and recycling. For more information contact the Ecology Center 527-5555.

4. My leadership resulted in a successful bond measure to build a new Animal Shelter Call 981-7140 to volunteer.

Confidence in Our Commercial Areas:

Dona's leadership has helped to create:

* Clean Cities Program: which reduces graffiti, increases sidewalk cleaning, and improves trash removal in the commercial areas. (Homeless people were hired to assist with these tasks.)

* More Mixed-Use Development: commercial and residential projects on Shattuck and University Avenues. These projects attract new residents and businesses which result in safer streets, more jobs and a healthier tax base.

* Low interest loans to new small business who hire Berkeley residents.

* Promotion of Arts and Cultural Events: Dona secured funding for major arts groups to move to the downtown Art?s District and doubled funding to arts groups in Berkeley. She has sponsors cultural events such as Indigenous People's Day, Earth Day and Cinco De Mayo in Civic Center Park.

* Downtown Streetscape Improvements: Dona recommends better pedestrian crossings, more trees, increased lighting, building facade improvements and further development of the arts district on Addison Street.

Improving Public Safety:

Voted for additional police officers--Dona wants to apply for federal funds for increasing safety personnel and programs.

Restricting the Sale of Fortified Liquor: Dona has worked with business owners for a more responsible sales of fortified alcohol products. A number of liquor owners have agreed not to sell these after 8pm. (Thanks to Fred's Market on University Ave. for giving up the sale of cheap fortifieds whose main purpose is to get people drunk.)

De-tox and Rehab facilities: Dona will continue to lobby for medical treatment and services to reverse the downward spiral of drug and alcohol addiction. Essential to this effort is the funding for the creation of several detox facilities in the East Bay area. Without such facilities, we will be deprived of a critical component needed to help reduce homelessness, aggressive behavior, addiction-driven panhandling and crimes associated with drug and alcohol addiction.
Dona Spring, Berkeley City Council member

Both photographs on this page are
from the City of Berkeley's official website.
Posted on Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 09:31PM by Registered CommenterMichael Chacko Daniels | Comments Off