Joel Young

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.


Apr 252012

Bonta, Guillen and Young vie for 18th Assembly District Seat

Candidates for CA AD 18

Rob Bonta, Abel Guillen and Joel Young


Who are they and who you should vote for.

*Updated on May 7, 2012*



Any day now, Californian absentee voters will be receiving their mail-in ballots for the June 2012 primary elections.   For years, San Leandro was part of Assembly, Senate and Congressional districts which included our neighbors to the south and east.  Redistricting has changed all that and we now join Alameda and Oakland in a district in which San Leandro has comparably little influence.  It’s thus not surprising that there are no San Leandrans running for state or national office this time around.  As of this year, Barbara Lee will represent us in Congress and Loni Hancock in the California Senate (both need to be re-elected but neither has serious competition).  The 18th District Assembly seat, however, will become vacant because of term limits.  Three candidates – two from Oakland and one from Alameda – are vying for it.

During the last several months I have met and talked extensively with each of the candidates.  I have also heard them at different fora.  Based on what I learned, I have endorsed both Rob Bonta and Abel Guillen.  I’m not usually a fan of dual endorsements, but both these candidates have a lot to offer, in different ways: both are smart and dedicated, but while I see Rob being more methodical and better able to write good legislation, I like Abel’s passion and I think he is more likely to stay true to his progressive ideals.  The third candidate, Joel Young, in my opinion lacks gravitas and seems to have impulse control issues that would not make him a good legislator.

I have written my impressions of each candidate individually.

Rob Bonta is a Yale educated lawyer and a family man.  He is very smart, a quick thinker and able to see the potential consequences of particular legislative decisions.  I think he will be an excellent legislator – I also think he’s smart enough to recognize the perils of the political process and hopefully ethical enough to navigate around them.  If elected, I see Bonta having the potential to go all the way to the Governor’s mansion (or is it an apartment now?)  and even the White House.  Bonta seems to be the front runner so far.

Abel Guillen is the son of Mexican immigrants, a dishwasher and a cook and grew up in the Mission.  He is the American success story, through commitment and hard work he got into Berkeley with the goal of  “doing good, but also doing well”.  As the VP of a school finance firm, he will be able to navigate the State budget better than most and he has creative ideas about how to improve the economy – including the creation of a state bank – that merit consideration.  Guillen’s biggest strength, however, is his commitment to the community and his passion for achieving positive change.  He has a broad base of support, including nurses and teachers.

Joel Young is an African American attorney and also a Berkeley graduate.  He is running on a platform of  “jobs, jobs, jobs” but has little to say as to how to create them.  Some personal scandals and his reaction towards them don’t speak well of his character.  He is supported, however, by a significant segment of labor and the African American community.


Aug 142011

San Leandro has a long history of representation at the state level.  Presently, Ellen Corbett, a former mayor of San Leandro, is the Majority Leader of the California Senate while Bill Lockyer, a former San Leandro School Board member, is the State Treasurer.  Even Pete Stark, our representative in Congress, started his political career in San Leandro.   San Leandro’s influence at the state level may cease, however, as no San Leandran has so far announced a 2012 run for either the California Assembly or Senate.  While the election is not until June, and candidates don’t need to file until next March, anyone seriously considering a run needs to start fundraising and coalescing political and grass-root support right now.  So far, there seem to be only four candidates for the Assembly district that will include San Leandro, and two candidates for that Senate district.

Redistricting is almost finalized at the state level, and most of San Leandro has been grouped with Alameda and most of Oakland in a new Assembly district.  The new Senate district goes from San Leandro as far north as Rodeo, while the congressional district ends in north Berkeley.  Previously, we were part of an Assembly district that included Hayward and Pleasanton, and a Senate district that goes from San Leandro as far south as north San Jose.  This all means that San Leandro will encounter a new batch of politicians aiming to represent it.  Currently, three of the declared candidates for Assembly are from Oakland and one is from Alameda.   While the Senate race will be very competitive, posing former Berkeley mayor and current state senator Loni Hancock against Oakland Assembly member Sandré Swanson, the field of candidates for the Assembly seems rather weak, and there is still room for a San Leandran to jump into the race.  While I haven’t heard any rumors of anyone considering this move, there are several past or current elected officials who could be strong candidates if they decided to run.

The current candidates for the Aseembly are:

Rob Bonta, a Filipino lawyer, works as a deputy DA in San Francisco.  After holding a couple of commission seats, he was elected to the Alameda City Council in November 2010.  His feet are not yet wet, but he’s ready to jump ship into bigger things.  His website doesn’t offer a platform or indications as to what his views are, but he is a democrat and said in an interview he’s interested in education and social services.  He is married, with 3 children.

Abel Guillen: Guillén is a young man who runs a school finance firm.  He was elected to the Peralta Community College Board of Trustees in 2006, and re-elected in 2010.  He’s running in a general “make California better” platform.  He is a democrat and seems to be single.

Kathy Neal: Neal is an African American businesswoman and Democratic Party operative.  She’s currently a member of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee.  She is divorced from former Oakland mayor Elihu Harris. She doesn’t seem to have a webpage, so I don’t know what her platform will be.

Joel Young: Young is a young African American lawyer, appointed to the AC Transit Board in 2009 and re-elected in 2010.  His past political experience consists of working on Loni Hancock and Joan Buchanan’s campaigns.  He is running on a platform of “jobs, education and the environment”. He is a democrat.  He is single with no children.

I hope to meet with all the candidates and report back on my opinion of them and their platforms.  I also hope to see someone with more experience and specific goals arise, ideally from San Leandro.