Recently, I wrote about the Gilman sports fields being named the Tom Bates Regional Sports Complex in honor of Berkeley’s mayor, who worked for many years on the project.
It’s not often that you see something _ a building, a street or a field named after a living person.
And that’s too bad.
On Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council _ a board that the late Dona Spring was part of for 16 years _ voted to name the new planned animal shelter at 1 Bolivar Drive after Spring, who died in July at age 55 after a long-time battle with rheumatoid arthritis.
The honor is well deserved and her friends and family will certainly be honored. She defined what it meant to be an animal rights activist and animal lover.
Those who come to the shelter in the years to come will learn of Spring’s role in highlighting animal welfare problems and her work to solve them. They may learn that she was a vegan because of her heartfelt concern for the abuse and suffering of animals for food production
And they may ever learn that she demanded that Berkeley’s adoptable animals not be euthanized.
Spring’s legend will live on in the form of her name on a building, but she will never know it.
It’s important to honor leaders while they are still living. If the honest and true politicians and community leaders are going to continue to do good works, they should be honored _ in some way _ for it.
Last year, the council renamed Old City Hall in honor of longtime City Councilmember Maudelle Shirek. Shirek, who is in her 90s, retired from politics four years ago, but was able to see the building that will forever bear her name. What an honor.
In Oakland, the plaza at City Hall is named for Frank H. Ogawa, the first Asian American elected to the City Council and a man who championed the importance of Asian Pacific American representation and participation in politics.
He died in 1994 after a battle with cancer. Several years later, Oakland renamed the plaza in his honor.
There is also the question of when it’s appropriate to name a building or street after a politician.
In 2002, longtime Alameda Mayor Ralph Appezzato, who was battling prostate cancer, shot himself in the head while his wife was out walking the dog. He was running for a seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors at the time of his death.
Shortly after, the Alameda City Council renamed Atlantic Avenue Ralph Appezzato Parkway. This sparked much talk on the Island about how the move was questionable because Appezzato was honored after taking his own life, which some consider a sin.
While Berkeley moves ahead with its’ plan to build the new animal shelter, funded in part from a 2002 $7.2 million bond measure, it’s important for city leaders to remember to recognize people for the work before it’s too late.