SUNDAY COLUMN | Let me start by saying, I know more about AC Transit Board Director Joel Young than care to know. From covering his campaign last year for the State Assembly to his latest transgressions leading to his censure this week, reporting on the man is easily least fun activity for me, by a longshot. Those who read the East Bay Citizen know my editorial style views the news through characters like a playwrights sees a three-act drama. You would think someone like Young would fascinate me, but he doesn’t. And the reason why? He lacks any ounce of empathy. That is a scary proposition. A public official without the requisite ability to care about others. The only thing worse is someone who can’t say sorry and Young apparently cannot produce either emotion.
Fellow AC Transit Board Director Jeff Davis referenced this shortcoming this week when voicing displeasure over Young’s absence and inability to offer exactly what was going through his head while attempting to essentially act as a mole in pilfering the district’s confidential legal files and strategy for his own gain in private practice. “I would like to hear some contrition and I’m not hearing it,” said Davis.
Having to never say you’re sorry is common theme for Young. For crissakes, an Alameda County Superior Court judge last year said he believed Young struck his girlfriend in the face. The case was later dismissed, but Young never should any compassion over the incident. In fact, Young was more intent over parading around town a ridiculously tiny cut suffered on his torso, allegedly by the same ex.
The same penchant to attack his accusers rather than own up his misdeeds has a common thread through Young’s public pratfalls. It’s always someone else’s fault. AC Transit Board President Greg Harper summed up Young’s modus operendi two weeks ago when Young chose to attack him and Board Director Elsa Ortiz rather than confront the allegations against him. ““It’s a little bit symptomatic of his style. Rather than address the issues, he wants to say, ‘I’m not worse than anybody else.’ He counterpunches and he thinks that’s effective and then kind of flails away.” said Harper, and he is totally right.
There were some indications that if Young would showed some sorrow over his actions, he may have received some sympathy from his colleagues. Instead, the seven-page response to the internal investigation was a typical mishmash of disparate allegations against his accusers and taunts, such as saying the rest of board had “filthy hands.” Making matter worse, Young chose to cowardly jettison himself away from the board’s public discussion and when he returned chose to duck questions on the matter.
The AC Transit Board of Director, however, deserves a tremendous amount of credit for swiftly and without hesitation throwing down the gauntlet on Young. Those who know him personally all say it is always better to avoid confrontation with him, rather than to face his incessant wrath and physical threats. This week the AC Transit board stood up to a bully and found him to be a paper tiger. Another equally intimidating public official in the East Bay may be next to stand before a censure hearing later this month. Here’s hoping the Oakland City Council is inspired by the righteousness of their colleagues on Franklin Street.
“If we’re going to really change Oakland, it’s critical to have a candidate and eventual mayor who gets the details right. I am a detail-oriented person. You’ll have my answer in less than two weeks.”
–Joe Tuman, the former and now-likely Oakland mayoral candidate, July 8, telling supporters he’ll give them an answer whether his running in 2014 in a few weeks. Logically speaking, his comment more than suggests he’s in it to win it.
The Week That Was
>>>Khanna’s cool million: Forget about what a week it was for 17th Congressional District candidate Ro Khanna, how about the last 90 days? Khanna blew away political observers in the South Bay and the Beltway this week with campaign finance reports showing over $1 million in contributions since last April. It’s not even his personal best for a quarterly filing period. You might remember in 2011, Khanna burst upon the scene with a whopping $1.2 million in donations. At that time, it wasn’t clear whether he would challenge Pete Stark in the 15th District or was positioning himself as heir apparent in 2014. Fate may be on his side against the popular, but aging Rep. Mike Honda in a district where old is just an update to your app away.
>>>Transportation beat: Federal officials continue to sort through exactly what happened when an Boeing 777 fell short of the runway and crashed killing two. The transportation beat in the Bay Area has been in the spotlight for about the last month starting with the BART strike. On that front, following a one-month renewal of the contract, BART union leaders apparently got the hint to start protecting themselves from management and the media’s attempts to vilifying middle class wage earners. The spotlight this week turned to how much BART’s upper management earns and a report detailing a union-busting negotiator hired by the elected BART Board of Directors. The same negotiator then notified officials that he is going on vacation for five days later this month.
>>>Oakland City Council: Affordable housing and privacy advocates will likely have their time at the bully pulpit later this month at the Oakland City Council, both centered on Councilman Dan Kalb. An ordinance proposed by the freshman member setting aside 25 percent of the state boomerang fund for affordable housing passed a council committee this week, although two council members registered some opposition. A more controversial resolution on privacy, though, might make Kalb’s liberal constituents scratch their heads. Another council committee moved an item approving the allocation of $2 million in federal stimulus funds for an all-inclusive center that will pull in extensive data and video feeds from all over the city at the pleasure of the city’s public safety officials.
>>>Another censure? Joel Young is the only elected official in the East Bay to face down the threat of censure. The Oakland City Council will debate whether to formally rebuke, or even censure, Councilmember Desley Brooks after the city auditor accused her of violating the City Charter on 12 occasions. The report alleged Brooks interfered with city staff in the handling of a new teen center in her district. Courtney Ruby’s findings and an Alameda County civil grand jury charged Brooks and other council members acting as mayors of their own district. The hearing, sure to be contentious, is scheduled for July 25.
Tweet of the Week
“If Napolitano thought homeland security, disaster relief & immigration were contentious issues, wait until she tries to update the UC logo.”
-@aewright, tweeting July 12 on the naming of former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to head the University of California system.
>>>The new Alameda County public defender is trying to own up to his job description. In this excellent profile, Brendon Woods describes how he hopes to look out for interests. (East Bay Express, July 10.)
Voice of the People
“Swalwell made a big mistake in trying to cut Social Security benefits for Seniors, Veterans and the Disabled. He will pay for that on 2014, and Ellen Corbett will reap the benefits.”
–Anonymous, commenting July 11 on “S-p-p-p-pit It Out, Junior!”