domestic violence

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.


Mar 242012

Yesterday, a young woman was stabbed to death by her boyfriend near downtown San Leandro.  The stabbing was witnessed by a friend and the suspect was quickly caught.  Of course, that doesn’t do the victim any good.  Nor did the quick arrest of another man who also stabbed his 15-yo girlfriend to death earlier this year.

I congratulate the Police for their quick work, but I can’t but wonder if these murders demonstrate a much larger problem of domestic abuse that we are not seeing.  And behind that, a greater problem of men who are growing up without the coping techniques to deal with anger and frustration and know little else but to resort to violence.

Domestic abuse is not a police problem.  Washing our hands and looking at the police to arrest perpetrators is of little use.  At the moment you are hitting your wife or killing your girlfriend, you are not rational enough to be thinking “I better not do this or I’ll go to jail.”  This is a problem that we need to address earlier, from the moment a child enters kindergarten, and we must do it as a community.

I salute our public schools for having initiated the anti-bullying program at the elementary schools.  I know that at Roosevelt it works great, my daughters report that there is very little teasing going on, much less violence.  Things seem to be different at the Middle School and High School, and as the District is forced by a declining budget to cut counselors it will even get worse.

The City, of course, could very well step up. It could fund those counselors as well as early-intervention programs for children who are showing signs of anger problems and violence. It could institute outreach programs to victims of violence, direct them to existing services and so forth.  When he was running for election  Mayor Cassidy listed proudly his seat at the Board of Building Futures for Women and Children, a shelter for victims of domestic violence,  but what we need are programs, not just warm seats.

The City Council and the Mayor will cry that there is no money for social services such as these.  However, they have little trouble finding it to fund needless lawsuits and enriching their employees.   Just last Monday they approved a $500,000 parting gift for four staff members.  Right before I reminded them of their greater obligation to the community – but the vote was still 5 to 2 (with Cutter and Cassidy voting against it).

What we need in this town is leadership.  As a woman, I applaud the fact that four of our Council members are women and that three of our top-level City staff are as well.  But for years, women have been saying that if they were elected to office, if they had positions of responsibility, they would do things differently.  It’s time they follow with those promises.

Councilwomen Joyce Starosciak, Diana Souza, Ursula Reed and Pauline Cutter – show yourselves!  Get off your comfy chairs, take your lips off the butts of City staff (to be fair, this doesn’t apply to Cutter), and show that leadership.  Create programs to help the community, find the funding and don’t whine.  You were elected to do a job, do it!

And the same goes for Assistant City Manager Lianne Marshall and Deputy City Manager Jacqui Diaz.  Justify your six figure salaries!

Of course, leadership is not enough.  There has to be a commitment from the community to address the issue of domestic violence, but few things take place without someone taking that leadership.