Wednesday, July 16, 2008

RIP, Dona Spring

Lots of LA newspapers are reporting the death of disability rights advocate, animal rights activist and Berkeley City Councilmember, Dona Spring. Spring died in Alta Bates hospital on Sunday, July 13, from complications of rheumatoid arthritis. She was 55.

Zelda Bronstein, a Berkeley community activist, has written this tribute to Spring. And this remembrance appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Here is an excerpt from this remembrance in the Mercury News:

Berkeley City Councilmember Dona Spring, a trailblazer for disabled rights who championed for the cause even when she was in such intense pain that she couldn't leave her home to attend council meetings, died Sunday evening at Alta Bates hospital of complications from rheumatoid arthritis. She was 55.

"Most of the progressive causes I've worked on in the last decade I didn't really know about or understand until she talked about them and made it clear why they were important,'' said Councilmember Kriss Worthington, her closest ally on the council for more than a decade.

Spring fought for affordable housing, the environment, recycling, and more services for people battling drug and alcohol addictions.

"She was always very progressive. Her grandmother was very progressive," said Spring's mother, Paula Althoff, on Monday. "She also got interested in animal rights and even appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show on that issue."

Spring was elected to the council in 1993. She was re-elected to represent central Berkeley in November 2006 with 71 percent of the vote.

"She was the first severely disabled person to be elected to any of the Bay Area city councils. She has been a true champion for people with disabilities and for people who are disenfranchised," said Gerald Baptist Sr., deputy director of the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley who knew Spring for 25 years.

Most recently, Spring was advocating to keep the warm water pool open and make sure the tree sitters at UC Berkeley had sufficient food and water.

"It's been a very sad day," Worthington said. "She was a visionary, on the cutting edge and pushing Berkeley to do these things. I've spent years trying to keep up with her. She was always just a fountain of creative policy ideas."