May 072012

Joel Young

He is petty, lacks ideas and beat up his ex-girlfriend.  Why is he running?

Joel  Young was the first candidate for Assembly to reach out to me last year  Until then, I hadn’t really thought much about who was running.  I didn’t know anything about Young, so I did what I’d do before meeting anyone: I googled him.   Young can only hope that voters don’t take that step.  If they do, they will come across story after story about Young’s “altercation” with a former girlfriend, one that left her with injuries to her face and neck deemed consistent with domestic violence.  The story is pretty sordid.  The woman walked into Young’s apartment and found him in bed with another woman.  She yelled and slapped him.  She says he responded by slapping her forcefully and cranking her head on the bed repeatedly.  He says it was self-defense.  According to a sworn statement by the emergency room physician’s assistant who saw her, her injuries were consistent with domestic violence and not self-defense.  Young is a former football player, his ex-girlfriend is 5’2″ and weighs 120 lbs.

When Mike and I met with Young, the story about the extent of her injuries had not yet appeared.  At that point I was prone to see it as a “he said/she said” sort of thing.  I was willing to give Young the benefit of the doubt, and focus on his merits as an Assembly candidate.  I was not impressed.

The first issue had to do with his platform, at the time it was: jobs, education and the environment.  The problem is that that’s everyone’s platform and Young had nothing original to say about those issues, no new solutions to offer.   It sounded to me like these were issues he’d chosen for their appeal to voters and he was reciting a script when talking about them.  I didn’t feel he had any passion for them, or really, for anything, perhaps other than getting elected.  This impression was solidified at a recent candidates’ forum where Young answered almost every question by repeating the mantra “jobs, jobs, jobs” – but never once intimating how he would create more jobs in this economy.

During our meeting, I brought up the issue of the domestic violence allegations.  He was insistent that the woman in question had never been his girlfriend, just someone he casually dated and had broken up with.  He said it was she who beat him, he was just covering himself against her attacks.   Not having read about the hospital records, that seemed plausible.  But then Young said her allegations were politically motivated – which made much less sense.

I let Joel know that I am a human rights activist and that my biggest concern is about protecting civil liberties.  This brought the conversation to the issue of freedom of expression and Joel’s conviction that we should do away with anonymity on the internet.  You see, the story about the domestic violence incident was “broken” by indybay and was not signed.  Joel saw that as reason enough to do away with the first amendment protections on anonymous speech.  I tried to convince him otherwise, explain to him the importance of anonymous speech, the risks that victims and whistleblowers experience if they are forced to reveal their identities.  He didn’t get, he wouldn’t get it, what happened to him was the only thing that mattered.

I’m sure that it will come as no surprise that I will not support someone who is willing to restrict freedom of speech.  But I also will not support someone who will use his power as a legislator to protect his own interests, who puts pettiness ahead of public policy, who see himself as more important than the people he represents.  I won’t support someone who has no principles.

After the scandal, Joel Young lost the support of many of his backers.  He was seen as the heir apparent of termed-out Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, but Swanson quickly distanced himself from Young.  Kathy Neal, another prominent supporter, was so appalled by Young’s behavior that she almost threw her hat into the Assembly race.  His prodigious fundraising, slowed down significantly.  But Young still retains a lot of support from within the African American community and parts of Labor.  Sharon Cornu, the former Secretary-Treasurer at the Alameda Labor Council, has been particularly effective in cajoling endorsements for Young from labor unions and activists.

The issue of the scandal, moreover, has not yet come up in the campaign.  Neither Bonta nor Guillen have brought it up in their literature – though surely they will if Young makes it past June.  The media hasn’t put much of an emphasis on it – though Young’s most recent mishap, when he threatened and spat on a legislative aid, was covered briefly by the Oakland Tribune.

Needless to say, I recommend that you do not vote for Joel  Young.  Rob Bonta and Abel Guillen are by far better choices, and my bet is that they also are much less likely to end up in jail.


  8 Responses to “AD 18: Joel Young – the Candidate I Really Don’t Want to Win”

  1. Interesting that you require people to give their name and email address to post on your site even though you support anonymity on the internet. I would have happily done so anyway because I apply a different standard to political speech, speech that is meant to influence the outcome of an election.

    I believe you’ve deliberately misconstrued Mr. Young’s stance on anonymity, among many other facts. The problem I have with anonymity and political speech on the internet is the same problem I have with Citizens United. Voters need to know the provenance of political speech and the motivations of the speaker to assess its legitimacy. I think that’s pretty important to having a functional democracy. I also think it’s pretty funny that you believe anonymity on the internet is important for defending “whistle-blowers.” Do you read things on the internet? That’s normally not what people use anonymity to do.

    The police, the DA, and an Alameda County judge all disagree with the version of events you lay out here between Mr. Young and the Petitioner. Tavares, who you link to, is transparently biased. I find many of your other comments offensive, but I’m not going to bother since you’ve made up your mind.

    • Thanks for your comment, Mark.

      I can understand your confusion vis a vis my stance with respect to what I consider a fundamental right to anonymous speech, and my insistence that those who want to speak in my forum identify themselves. This is an issue that many people have problems with: separating the rights they have – and everyone should have – vis a vis the government, with those rights they should have vis a vis private individuals. But if you think about it for more than a minute, the differences should jump out at you. Should you be able to go into a park and tell everyone there that you believe the President is a liar? Sure;. Should you be able to come into my house, interrupt my dinner party and say that? Well, no. Public fora are different from private fora. Same thing here, everyone should have the right to say anything in their own space or in the public space – but in my space, I get to make the rules.

      The problem you identify with “anonymity” – that voters have the right to know the provenance of speech (and note that this is not political speech, but it was a news story) – is one that shows a complete lack of trust on the electorate. Do you not believe that voters are smart enough to be able to attribute the appropriate degree of credibility to a news story or political piece? And if they’re not smart enough – can they really be trusted to vote at all? Citizens United, to me, poses a different problem and that’s the one of money in politics. And that problem goes well beyond that particular decision.

      Now, it is true that some people can legitimately believe that anonymous speech is harmful. However, Mr. Young made it clear to me that he believed it was harmful because it harmed him. That, you see, is what shows his pettiness and his lack of qualifications for running.

      And yes, anonymity is important to defend whistleblower. Perhaps you missed the whole Manning/Wikileaks incident?

      Finally, if I indeed made a mistake, please point me to the documents by the police, DA or Alameda County judge that show that. Thanks!

      • I think the Manning case is pretty different than political operatives using blogs to anonymously slam their opponents with personal attacks. I do believe voters are smart. I also believe that established media institutions have crumbled rapidly and that’s really concerning to me. Credible media institutions have an interest in maintaining their reputations and they’ve established behavioral norms and a series of checks and balances to see to that. As you know, they don’t really cover local races anymore and we are now in a new era of political speech.

        As for the documents, I requested investigating notes from Officer Johnna Watson, the media liaison for OPD. The witnesses to the incidents with the Petitioner and Jason Overman presented a very different version of events than what you wrote here. I made clear to Officer Watson that I planned on launching an ethics investigation against Overman, who I believe abused his position working for the council to do a political hit job. He threatened Mr. Young saying, “I know all of the Oakland police officers who can make your life hell.” I spoke with her on the phone and sent several emails but she did not release the notes. I believe that’s OPD policy when they’ve decided not to proceed with an investigation. So I wish I could give you that, but I can’t.

        I can give you a timeline of events. Overman waited several days after the alleged incident to file a police report and a temporary restraining order request. After he filed the report, he obtained an unofficial copy that he distributed to the media. All of this happened the day prior to the SEIU endorsement meeting and while other key unions, CTA, CFT, and CNA were deliberating. He did not serve Mr. Young with the order until two months after the alleged event. The restraining order was served by Olga Bolotina, a staffer for Mr. Guillen, at a Sierra Club fundraiser shortly before they made their endorsement. At the initial hearing, Overman pushed for a June 2nd trial date but the judge declined. A couple of weeks later he withdrew his restraining order request.

        Keep in mind that a temporary restraining order is an emergency injunction granted to prevent immediate harm to the petitioner. The fact that Mr. Overman waited two months after the alleged event to serve the order is pretty telling. Again, you’ll draw your own conclusions.

        • Yes, Mark, the Manning case is different – but that’s exactly the problem with legislating from your hip: you end up with lots of harmful unintended consequences. And that’s something that Young, as a lawyer, should well know. That’s one of the things that really impressed me about Bonta – before taking a position he stops and thinks about what could potentially follow.

          When you challenged my “version of the events”, I thought you were talking about the domestic violence allegations, which are the ones I really take seriously. I’m less interested in exactly what happened between Young and Overman (which, btw, was reported by the Oakland Tribune, though I think those newspapers do little more than report gossip). But clearly something happened, or there wouldn’t be witnesses in the first place 🙂 And while bar fights may be OK among the young, as a mother I want to be represented by grown ups.

          BTW, the witness statements should be in the Police Report, not just in her scribbled notes (assuming that OPD is somewhat competently ran). And you should be able to get a copy of the Police Report by doing a CPRA request. If the investigation has been closed, they have to give you what they have.

          • I could provide you with some documents from the Petitioner’s allegations. I don’t want to do so in a public forum because I don’t want to make her a political football, but I could do so at a private meeting. You can reach me at 510-338-7735.

            Far from a bar fight by the way. It was a bar packed with Jason Overman’s close friends and not a one would back up his outlandish version of events.

            I really disagree with you about anonymity, which I think does far more harm to young people who are not aware of the potentially life-changing consequences of taking photos for instance, than it does to the Mannings of the world. Federal law protects anonymous providers of “sexting” photos, which I think is a problem. At least that is a serious policy discussion, unlike much of the garbage out there about this race.

            I don’t know Mr. Bonta well but I like things about him. Some of his public statements worry me but I think he has potential. He’s certainly a politician, which is not a pejorative for me. I would not support Mr. Guillen under any circumstances. And I think you’ve judged Mr. Young unfairly based on his policy differences with you on the anonymity issue, which I believe are legitimate and worthy of debate. I hope you’re open to further discussion.

          • Mark, I’m always open to further discussions. If you want to get together, please e-mail me at I’ve lost the charger for my phone so I’m phoneless for the moment.

            I don’t mind reading over the woman’s statements, but as I said earlier, for me the cincher is the emergency room report. As for Overman, even if his allegations are untrue – the fact that there was an altercation that led to such allegations is troublesome. Grown ups don’t have altercations in bars. It seems neither Young nor Overman are mature enough to be in office.

            I’m not particularly sure where you see anonymity colliding with “sexting” in a free speech analysis. But I’ll be happy to discuss this issue with you. In any case, Young was clear that his concern with anonymous speech was based on that which harmed him.

            Finally, I am curious as to why you would never support Guillen. And while I recognize that I may be judging Young (and anyone else) unfairly, I try to be as open and honest as possible about my rationale, so people know how much trust they should give my opinions.

          • Sending you an email now so we can meet. I’ve talked with Joel about the anonymity issue, and my point with the nude photo posters is that they use the same federal law used by the posters of anonymous comments to avoid lawsuits. Website owners are not legally responsible for the content posted on their site nor are they compelled to provide a poster’s information for civil action. This means that anyone can do severe harm to someone else’s reputation and the victim has no legal recourse.

            As far as Abel, I wrote at some length about it on Steven’s blog, but the short answer is I think his record as a public official, especially in the area of fiscal responsibility, is very poor. The Peralta District is in the worst financial shape of any community college district in the state. He claims in his literature that he spearheaded financial reforms and that he’ll fix the budget in Sacramento. The reality is that the Board was compelled to act after a critical investigation by BANG led to a grand jury investigation and the threatened removal of the district’s accreditation. Even then, it took them months to act. So I think his literature is pretty dishonest and his record is poor. To top it off, I have numerous problems with his policy positions which I can elaborate on when we meet.

    • All of this is coming from Joel Young’s campaign manager. Whether you believe in Joel Young or not, Mark, Joel is paying you to defend him. With all due respect there is very little credibility in anything you say in his favor.

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