The Party loses one of its finest members

Contributions by John Selawsky, Green Party of California

Activists across the country mourn the loss of Dona Spring, the longest serving Green Party office holder in California. She held a seat on the Berkeley City Council for 16 years. Despite her long-term struggle with Rheumatoid Arthritis, she was determined to be a voice for the unrepresented and was a formidable force for change in the political arena. Spring died on July 13th at the age of 55.

Spring was first elected to Berkeley City Council in 1992 representing District 4. This was the second longest continuous term for a Green in the entire country. In 2006 she was re-elected by a resounding margin. From the local to the international level, she addressed issues with equal dedication and intelligence. In addition to advocating for tenants, youth, the disabled, and victims of war, she even came out to rally with protesters at the University of California to protect trees despite her worsening health.

“She (was) definitely a role model,” said Pam Webster, Berkeley rent board commissioner and Green, noting Spring helped blaze a trail for Greens in politics.

“The Green Party of California mourns the passing and celebrates the life of one of our finest leaders, Dona Spring. She was a smart and capable politician who remained the conscience of the Berkeley City Council. Her first campaign was galvanizing. She never failed us,” said Hank Chapot, a member of the East Bay Greens.

A documentary film on Spring is available called “Courage in life and Politics: The Dona Spring Story.”

John Selawsky shares his thoughts on Dona Spring:

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, her advocacy for people with disabilities, and a new Berkeley animal shelter. She was a champion for animal rights, environmental issues, including strong and early support for the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets, and tirelessly advocating for the need for the funding and political will for a new warm-water therapeutic pool. She was accessible, available, intelligent, and responsive. She was a rare public official in so many ways.

Dona Spring authored a resolution in Berkeley strongly condemning U.S. military action in Afghanistan, and gained national attention and vociferous criticism for this resolution. Due to her efforts and outspokenness she received death threats for that proposal, as well as for others she carried and sponsored.

My own experience and relationship with Dona goes back over 15 years. We met first as Green Party activists; she was already serving on the Berkeley City Council. She appointed me to Berkeley’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission in 1995, on which I served five years with two terms as commission chair. I note this as an example of Dona’s unerring ability to place people in positions where they could succeed and grow.

Dona never backed down from a debate, never apologized for taking the side of the disabled, or homeless, or poor. She lived with the understanding that we, and the society we build, are all ultimately 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.

For more information go to: www.donaspring.com