Richard represents a good 20 years of my 48 years life, and most of that talking about the politics of Oakland. But that was a subset. A side event.
Richard spontaneously remembered my birthday, and about a few weeks before August 4th, made sure to call, or have his secretary call, me to set his schedule so we could meet.
And we did, and always at 7:30 AM. For anyone who knows how much that time of morning is a pain in the butt to deal with for me, it was a pleasure knowing I was going to meet Richard.
Richard Winnie was one of the few people who actually bothered to take me aside and be a mentor. I didn't have to ask him or approach him, or drop a name. It was just the way he was. See, unknown to me at the time in 1991, Richard wanted me to run a then-new organization called "Oakland - Sharing The Vision."(Or as my friend Phil Tagami called it, "Oakland - Sharing The Ham Sandwich.)
That didn't come to pass, but it was a very small episode in our relationship. I was flattered that, in a city where it seemed I always had to yell to get my point across, someone - Richard - was actually listening.
There are those people who are your friends - you don't have to ask, they just are. That was - is - Richard Winnie.
But beyond this little corner of the World, Richard was a giant in Oakland; someone many of the younger Oakland bloggers don't know, but should know about.
That strong mayor system we have in place, the one that many point to Jerry Brown for installing and called Measure X, had its roots in a push to change from the weak-mayor system we had, one that was spearheaded, for the most part, by two men and one woman: Richsrd Winnie, who was then partner at Wendel Rosen Black, and Dean, and then-Oakland Councilmember Dick Spees, and a then-little-known labor lawyer named Jane Brunner, who's now Oakland's District 2 Councilmember.
The reason I recall this so well is I was recording the doings of what was called The Oakland Charter Review Commitee when I was a Columnist for The Montclarion, and that was between 1993 and 1995. What became of that effort, Measure F, would, if passed in 1996, had given then-Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris the strong mayor power he wanted for so long. But it failed at the ballot box.
But the basic structure of that Measure, one that Richard Winnie played a key role in crafting, found its way into Measure X, Jerry Brown's version of the same system, that really should be called Jerry Brown's version of a plan created to a large degree by Mr. Winnie.
Why? Because Richard just plain cared about Oakland. He was a constant critic of The Port Of Oakland, and in particular the enormous power it held over waterfront land development decisions. But Richard, a keen intellect, was never a rabble-rousing critic; he always expressed his view with sound logic, and activated a good list of political and business contacts to express his view.
Richard, for much of the 21st Century, battled cancer, and for a time it seemed cancer would never return. It's hard to think of an Oakland, or my life the same way, without my friend.