Joel’s passion for holding government accountable and advocating for people who don’t feel heard goes back to his journalism roots and upbringing. Joel was raised by his mom and grandmother in the General Motors factory town of Saginaw, Michigan. They didn’t have much money, education or connections. But they taught Joel how to get things done by using resources smartly.
Joel is a product of public schools. He attended Michigan State University on a journalism scholarship and has won multiple awards for his reports, essays and documentaries in outlets like USA Today, San Francisco Weekly and PBS. Since 2013, Joel has written a prize-winning column for the San Francisco Examiner that analyzes local issues.
Eventually, Joel felt it was not enough to only report on the issues. He became part of the story by working to advance equality for all people at the American Civil Liberties Union. His contributions at the ACLU were recognized by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy with a scholarship to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he earned his Master’s in Public Administration.
Joel arrived in San Francisco in 1998. He married Lionel Hsu soon after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it. Lionel is a software engineer and avid gardener who moved to the Bay Area from Taiwan in 2000. They own a home near Lake Merced.
Joel serves on the boards of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and the United Democratic Club. He also served on the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee and the board of the Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood Association.