I normally blog on art... but today is for my Berkeley councilwoman, Dona Spring. Endurance in politics is an active art. Vision is often tempered by the burden of bureaucracy. Tenacity is required to carry issues from stump speech to the voting floor (often reams of paperwork and many years later). Dona is a rare politician who always votes her conscience and represents her people.
I roll down the hill on bicycle to attend her memorial service in a park across from City Hall. Dona posters are taped up to orange cones. Visitors line up to sign into her book. The traffic din of MLK street backs all activity. I miss my old neighborhood. In the weeks since her passing, I've had time to think about what Dona gave us. I knew her from my advocacy work on smart growth on University Avenue corridor of the city. She always returned my calls and carried issues (regardless of their seeming complexity or un-popularity) to the council floor to be addressed. While most council-folks were quick to dismiss homeowners in exchange for the easy favor of large developers, Dona kept everyone at the table. Over the years, I started to see glimpse that she offered this courtesy to the wide variety of individuals, businesses, and advocacy groups in her district.
In Civic Center Park, neighbors, city reps, friends, and community leaders gathered. There was song and spoken word. Spectators clapped, sought shade under the few trees, and nodded in agreement from time to time. Recurring themes were her strength, integrity, and fair representation of her constituents.
As the speakers continued, I felt increasing admiration for the hard work she did, regardless of a difficult illness. I think of the times when I have balked under lesser problems. I feel grateful that my respect for Dona is growing now, but wish that I had understood the greater scope of her generosity and strength during the time when I worked with her.
Some highlights for me, are her approval of the pedestrian/bike bridge that marks a graceful entrance to the city, and access to the Bay Trail, her push for a Density Bonus committee (to unravel convoluted development standards for large buildings) and her advocacy for open space and city park improvements.
At the event, I saw a few friends from my years of city-meeting-attendance, and felt a refreshed inspiration to improve Central Berkeley quality of life.
Thanks for the inspiration Dona. You are missed.