Honoring the Living and the Dead in January

We honor an important achiever as East Bay Person of the Year in January and reflect on the lives of East Bay luminaries lost.


For a few years now, we’ve been selecting an outstanding East Bay citizen in our January issue as the East Bay Person of the Year. This year, that honor goes to State Sen. Nancy Skinner, the accomplished Berkeley legislator known for getting big stuff done.

Patrick Hoge profiles the Democrat, a champion of social justice and the environment who became a political activist and organizer in college and parlayed those skills into a successful run for Berkeley City Council, her platform of recycling and protecting waterfront land cementing her that spot in 1981. After a decade of globetrotting for climate initiatives, Skinner became a state Assembly member and a quick study in Sacramento. She also widened her interest in social issues, has achieved major leadership roles in both houses, and continues to fight hard for constituents in a district covering Richmond, Berkeley, Oakland, Piedmont, Alameda, and San Leandro.

She’s been making a big difference lately in criminal justice reform. Thanks to her doggedness and some creative thinking on SB 1421, records of police misconduct and use of force will be open for public inspection. And her recent efforts on SB 1437 led to reforming the state’s so-called “felony murder rule,” which had allowed inconsequential murder accomplices to also be charged with murder, causing more women, young adults, and minorities to face unfairly harsh sentences.

What also has become something of a tradition is producing an in memoriam piece that reflects on the lives of East Bay residents and luminaries who died the previous year. Mike Rosen-Molina honors some very familiar personalities this go-round, including Ron Dellums, Kent Rosenblum, and Lil Arnerich, as well as some lesser-known sons and daughters. Dellums was the beloved congressional giant who tirelessly opposed all wars and apartheid and advocated for HIV/AIDs research and the poor, and after a long career out of the public eye returned to Oakland and to public service to become its 48th mayor in troubled times. Rosenblum was the Alameda veterinarian-turned-vintner and the King of Zin who essentially invented urban winemaking and put California Zinfandel grapes on the wine-lover’s map. And Lil Arnerich was an Oakland Oaks baseball great and Alameda statesman and parks protector who leveled the playing field for all kids to play ball. Their journeys continue in our memories.

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