Honoring Sanjiv Handa & Ron Bishop through civic engagement

28 Dec

Updated with memorial service information for Sanjiv and Ron at the bottom of this post.

Yesterday I found out that Sanjiv Handa had passed away from this tweet from Chronicle reporter Matthai Kuruvila:

Larry Reid just told me that Sanjiv Handa, a fixture at Oakland Council meetings, passed away. Don’t know much more. #oakmtg

I was in complete shock for several minutes. I had heard that Sanjiv had looked sick at last week’s Council meeting, but I had a hard time grasping that he was gone. I had an even harder time imagining what City Council and other meetings would be like without him.

I was equally saddened and shocked a few weeks ago when I found out that Oakland bicycle advocate Ron Bishop had died. I hadn’t seen him at Oakland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meetings for a few months, which – now that I’m looking back – should have alerted me that something was wrong, as he had been a founding member of the BPAC, was chair for many years, and rarely missed a meeting. But reading the news on Facebook surprised me and brought tears to my eyes.

Oakland is so lucky to have benefited from the watch-dogging and advocacy of these two men. I could write pages about each of them, but I won’t, since others have already done that. I highly recommend reading Dave Campbell’s blog post about Ron Bishop on the East Bay Bicycle Coalition website. For more on Sanjiv Handa, read this 2006 East Bay Express in depth piece about him.

And if you’ve never seen Sanjiv in action at a Council meeting (though I have a hard time believing that’s possible), watch this video of him speaking for 8+ minutes at a Council meeting last year:

What I’ve been thinking about for the past few weeks since Ron passed away and in the past day since hearing the news about Sanjiv is how I and others could honor their lives. I didn’t know either of them very well, but I did spend countless hours with both of them at city and regional meetings. Ron focused on bicycle, pedestrian and transit issues, while Sanjiv focused on transparency. Issues aside, they were both equally passionate about local government and citizen engagement with it. I didn’t always agree with them, but I greatly respected their commitment and persistence.

In just a few days, we will start a new year, a year that will present Oaklanders with nearly limitless opportunities to engage with local government. In honor of Ron and Sanjiv, I hope you will engage. Here are just a few ways you can get involved that I think both of them would approve of:

  • Attend a City Council meeting on the 1st or 3rd Tuesday of the month and speak about an item you care about.
  • Watch a Council meeting from your home on KTOP and tweet or blog about it. (For more on how to watch and understand Council meetings, read this blog post I wrote years ago.)
  • Write an email to the Council about an issue you care about.
  • If you already keep up with and engage with the City Council, start following another local government body. The possibilities are endless, but here are a few suggestions: Oakland Planning Commission, BART Board, AC Transit Board, East Bay MUD Board, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, or East Bay Regional Park District Board.
  • Watch a Council meeting with a friend who doesn’t follow the Council and explain what is happening (meetings can be hard to follow without a guide).
  • Get a friend involved in a local issue you care about by walking them through the steps of writing to their councilmember or speaking at a meeting.

Another easy way to honor the memory of Sanjiv Handa? Bring some pastries or pizza to a meeting. As many people have mused on Twitter, Facebook and blogs in the past day, Sanjiv often brought food to share to Council and other meetings. I usually didn’t partake but at one particularly long Planning Commission meeting (I think it was about one of the Safeway projects), I was so hungry after hours of sitting there and appreciated the pastry he offered me. I hope someone or several people will continue this tradition.

As for Ron, honor him by taking a bike ride around Oakland. Outside of local government and advocacy, he spent much of his time leading bike rides and encouraging folks to ride. He tried and tried to get me to bike in Oakland and I’m sad I never went on one of his rides. Maybe my new year’s resolution will be to finally ride a bike in Oakland.

Sanjiv Handa Memorial Service:

Saturday, December 31st @ 11:00 a.m.

Chapel of the Angels
40842 Fremont Boulevard (just South of Grimmer)
Fremont, California  94538
(510) 656-1226

Transit directions:
BART to Fremont
AC Transit line 350 Clockwise @ 10:13 a.m. (sorry, only runs once an hour)
Alight @ Fremont Blvd @ Papazian Way
Walk to 40842 Fremont Boulevard

If you are going to drive, please car pool.

Ron Bishop Memorial Service & Navy Honors:

Monday, January 2nd at 11am:

Sacramento Valley National Cemetery
5810 Midway Rd.
Dixon, CA

10 Responses to “Honoring Sanjiv Handa & Ron Bishop through civic engagement”

  1. dan cohen December 28, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    Thoughtful stuff. Thanks for posting.

  2. brucenye December 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Becks, agreed on the ways to honor Sanjiv’s and Ron’s memory. But how about these:

    For Sanjiv, what if a large number of people show up for the January 17 council meeting, all sign up on every agenda item, and each speaker bundles their minutes under the Sanjiv rule, talking about transparency and accountability? As Sanjiv always reminded us, there’s plenty for everyone to talk about on those subjecs. Perhaps each speaker begins with “For the record, I’m __________.”

    And for Ron, what if we crank up the public dialog on what is happening with our deteriorating streets? Nobody is impacted more by their horrendous condition than cyclists.

  3. Steven Tavares December 28, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    I think his seat in the front row should be left empty.

  4. Jessica Stewart December 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    As for other government bodies that you can engage with, I’d highly recommend the Oakland school board. Every other Wednesday – Great Oakland Public Schools writes a blog before each mtg sharing what will be discussed and then summarizes the mtg afterwards at http://www.goleadershipcenter.org.

    • Rebecca Saltzman (aka Becks) December 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

      Good suggestion! I really appreciate the blogs GO Public Schools writes about the meetings, since I never get to attend them.

  5. newoaktown December 28, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    I bet the councilmembers are happy to see him gone, as bad as that sounds.

  6. Mario J December 28, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    Sad. Good ideas from Bruce and Steven.

  7. Naomi Schiff December 28, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    Another place to visit in Sanjiv’s memory: port commission meetings, often conducted with few witnesses, and well worth watching closely. And nonbikers might honor Ron’s life by continuing to bug Public Works about researching and then installing some low impact trail surfaces where runners and walkers could work out with less joint damage.

    • Virginia Browning January 2, 2012 at 10:51 am #

      Yea Yea Yea to all of this!!!! I’m very sad about Sanjiv. Thanks for all the comments.

  8. Brian December 29, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    I used to bring snacks to share at BPAC (before your time Becks). I need to start doing that again since I constantly have the munchies. I remember when Sanjiv brought a whole platter of pastries one night. That, plus Ron’s bag of M&M’s and latest crop of figs helped us through many meetings.

    If anyone’s interested in going, Ron’s memorial service and Navy honors are taking place this coming Monday, January 2 at 11am:

    Sacramento Valley National Cemetery
    5810 Midway Rd.
    Dixon, CA

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