CalOptima Abruptly Fires Entire Legal Team As Concerns Mount Over Agency’s Direction — Orange County’s Health Care Plan For Poor And Disabled Residents Is Drawing Scrutiny, With High Turnover Among Agency Leaders

The board for CalOptima, which provides publicly funded health coverage for nearly 900,000 needy Orange County residents, abruptly fired its entire in-house legal team of attorneys and support staff late last week. Some had been with the agency for more than 20 years, according to records.

The agency instead will rely on a contract with Sacramento firm Kennaday Leavitt for legal services.

The board approved a $1 million contract with that firm in November, for two outside attorneys to support CalOptima’s nine-member legal team, whose salaries totaled roughly $1.5 million. The agency said at the time that additional help was needed as demands for legal services increased. CalOptima now says the decision during a closed session meeting Thursday night to fire the in-house team was about “improved efficiency.”

The move comes amid increasing concerns about how the agency is operating under the direction of its board chair, Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do, with substantial turnover in key positions over the past two years while salary levels for newly created or replacement positions have jumped significantly.

The agency’s chief medical officer, executive director of quality initiatives, communications director and other key staff members all have left in recent months. The last chief executive officer stayed only a year, with an interim CEO in his place. And the salary for that job jumped in September from a minimum of $400,000 to at least $560,000.

Do could not be reached for comment Monday.

A CalOptima spokesperson didn’t respond to a request about these concerns or additional information on the legal team’s departure. She instead emailed a statement that said: “CalOptima has taken action to utilize external legal resources to improve efficiency of the agency in support of its mission and to better serve our members.”

CalOptima is the health care insurer for poor and disabled O.C. residents, a majority who qualify for Medi-Cal coverage. The agency has an annual budget of $3.7 billion and operates under the direction of an eight-member board of directors.

The board started discussing the idea of contracting for outside legal services in late 2020. Do led an ad hoc committee that formed Dec. 3, 2020, to consider getting help to “address the substantial and increasing demand for legal services.”

During its Sept. 2 meeting, the eight-member board unanimously voted to request proposals from outside law firms to “augment, and integrate with, the legal services currently provided by the agency’s employed and contracted lawyers,” according to a board report.

Two months later, at the Nov. 4 meeting, the board approved using up to $1.05 million in reserves to contract for a year with Kennaday Leavitt, which has attorneys specializing in health care law, for general counsel to “work with internal lawyers.” The contract includes two additional one-year extension options and covers two full-time attorneys at $70,000 per month plus up to $210,000 in business expenses.

When the request for proposals went out, it included a requirement that the firm must have its main office in the Southern California area. But that requirement was dropped when the committee came back to the board with a recommendation to contract with Kennaday Leavitt, with veteran healthcare attorney James Novello in the top post.

During the Dec. 20 meeting, the board met behind closed doors to discuss Kennaday Leavitt’s job performance. Then, on Thursday, Feb. 3, the agenda listed a closed-door session to discuss “public employee discipline/dismissal/release.” Following that meeting, a clerk reported the board had “approved the closed session item.” The Register learned all seven in-house attorneys plus a supporting paralegal and office staff member were let go.

Supervisor Doug Chaffee, who said he recently moved from alternate to full board member and has only attended a couple CalOptima meetings, said the process of changing the legal staff started before his tenure. But he said the current interim CEO, Michael Hunn, reviewed the situation “and concluded that it was not very efficient,” Chaffee said, so Hunn asked the board to “make an organizational change” to exclusively use the new outside counsel.

Chaffee said the dismissed legal staff will receive severance packages per the agency’s policy, but he didn’t have details on the amount. As to using a contracted firm instead of in-house staff for legal services, he said, “I think there is a cost savings; time will tell exactly how much.”

In recent years CalOptima has weathered its share of criticism. In 2013, the county’s Grand Jury raised flags about a wave of CalOptima staff departures and issues with leadership.

The agency seemed to have course-corrected, with little controversy for several years. But since Do took the helm of the agency, some local healthcare officials have started to criticize recent changes.

In December, a past chairman of CalOptima’s board raised concerns with the recent appointment of Do’s deputy chief of staff to a newly created position at the agency, pointing to the staffer’s lack of experience in the healthcare industry and starting salary of $282,000, the Voice of OC reported.

The month before that, the Hospital Association of Southern California expressed dismay that a majority of the OC Board of Supervisors ignored its recommendation on whom to appoint to a vacant CalOptima board seat, picking someone from Los Angeles County instead of someone with local experience, according to another Voice of OC story.

Source: OC Register

Van Lathan And Vlad Argue About Los Angeles Being “Fake”

In this clip, Van Lathan spoke about moving to Los Angeles in 2005 and being determined to make his own way. When Vlad spoke about his experience living in L.A. for the first time and feeling like it was fake, Van explained that he sees a lot of people falling into the same trap because they get caught up in what they believe is the L.A. lifestyle. Van then detailed how he took the bus to his first job at a video game company, and he added that he met a lot of real L.A. people by interacting in his community. From there, Van spoke about how people succeed in L.A. by sticking it out and figuring out their own way. To hear more, including Van speaking about celebrities tricking him into not being filmed for TMZ, hit the above clip.

Mexico’s Secret Chinese Underworld 🇲🇽 Mexicali, Mexico

Mexicali, Mexico – This is the capital of Baja California, Mexicali, and it has such a unique history to the fabric of Mexico, Gareth Leonard had to add this place as the last stop on his first Northern Baja road trip. Between the mid-1800s and the 1940s, Mexicali, became Mexico’s largest Chinatown.

By 1920, Mexicali’s Chinese population outnumbered the Mexican population 10,000 to 700, and yet, many people still didn’t even realize how many were here.

We meet up with our local guide Diego, to get the full story.

Now here’s the most interesting part for Gareth about La Chinesca.

Just beneath the surface of central old town, in the neighborhood of La Chinesca, there’s a labyrinth of basements and tunnels that once were home to an entire population of Chinese immigrants. During Prohibition in the United States, La Chinesca in Mexicali housed just about all of the city’s casinos and bars, and established a tunnel system to connect bordellos and opium dens to neighboring Calexico on the U.S. side.

Along with being a passageway for bootleggers into the United States, this underground world was also where Chinese people would live here in Mexicali.

Orange Coast College Professor Emeritus John Upton, Noted Photography Icon, Dies

John Upton, one of the founders of the well-respected photography department at Orange Coast College who taught there for more than 40 years, died on Dec. 7 in Petaluma. He was 88.

Upton died due to complications from lung cancer, the school announced.

A former San Clemente and Laguna Woods resident, Upton had moved to Petaluma two years ago to be closer to his family, his daughter, Sean, said.

“He always had an eye for photography,” Sean Upton said. “The day that I drove him to the hospital, which was just two weeks ago, he was looking out the window appreciating places that he may photograph someday. So, he was always looking through the eye of the lens of the photographer.”

John Upton was born in Iowa and moved to the San Fernando Valley when he was 5 years old, his daughter said. He went to art school in San Francisco, at the California School of the Fine Arts, studying with contemporaries like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston before he was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War in 1953.

Upton came back to Southern California and became a faculty member at Orange Coast College in 1960. He retired in 1999 but continued to teach a gallery class part time for several years.

Upton and his then-wife, Barbara London, published the influential college textbook “Photography” in 1976. There are more than 1.5 million copies in print.

“Things that other people see as common knowledge, John would sort of miss,” said OCC Photography Department Chair Blade Gillissen, a student of Upton’s at the junior college in the 1990s. “He was so tuned into photography. I remember one day trying to talk to him, back when the [Los Angeles] Lakers started doing better again with Kobe [Bryant] and [Shaquille O’Neal]. And he had no idea who I was talking about.”

The gallery class provided joy for Upton later in his life. Gillissen said he and Upton would each drive a van full of students to art galleries and museums throughout Southern California on Saturdays, with Upton acting as a docent.

“I haven’t offered it since he stopped teaching it,” Gillissen said. “I don’t know anyone off the top of my head that could teach it like he did it.”

Sean Upton called her father one of the premier art historians in the U.S. Last January, Orange Coast College opened a survey exhibition of his fine art work at the Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion on campus. The exhibit ran until mid-March, when the school was shut down due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The survey had selections from four main bodies of work: early work, “Japanalia,” “Jungle Road” and the more recent “Petaluma.” John Upton was an avid fan of Asian art and culture and would visit Japan yearly for decades, Sean Upton said.

The exhibition was curated by Tyler Stallings, director/senior curator at the Doyle.

“He was mainly known as an educator, for the book and what he did for the photography department at OCC,” Stallings said. “He’s always been making work, but as a busy teacher, he didn’t always have the time to get his work out there. That was the angle of the show.”

Later in his life, Upton also collaborated with longtime friend and part-time OCC Photography Department instructor John Hesketh, who would print his photography.

“John was one of the sweetest and most giving people around,” Hesketh said. “I had a commercial father of photography [Dean], and John was kind of my fine art father of photography. He was very, very dedicated to photography itself and what it meant to be a fine art photographer, or an artist that was lens-based … He was like this elder statesman that represented photography in its best, kindest way. He was very generous in encouraging other people to do what they could do.”

Source: LA Times

NASM Certified Personal Trainer Brian Kranz Of Red Fitness (Irvine CA) Follows, Hurls Racist Remarks At Asian Woman; Says Recording Him Won’t Do Anything And ‘Thanks For Bringing COVID To My Country’

A woman shopping in Orange County, California has become the latest target of anti-Asian racism amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The incident, which was caught on video, reportedly occurred outside a Sephora store at The Market Place in Tustin and Irvine.

In the video posted on Instagram and Reddit, a man can be seen hurling anti-Asian racial slurs while a female companion sarcastically says “bye” to the camera.

The man has since reportedly been identified as Brian Kranz, a fitness instructor in Irvine, California who runs Red Fitness. His female partner—who is seen smirking throughout the incident and even smugly taunts the victim with a “bye”—has been identified as Janelle Hinshaw.

The Asian woman reportedly recalled how the incident started inside the store after the staff asked the pair to wear face masks.

“These people were standing after me in the line at Sephora. They didn’t have masks on before the staff requested so. But then [they] refused to keep social distancing from me. Sephora staff was doing a good job directing me to stand in another line,” a Nextdoor user, who claims to be the woman behind the camera, wrote.

The woman eventually finished shopping and returned to her car. That’s when Kranz followed and began making racist remarks.

“Why don’t you stay at home? Are you that dumb? You want to photograph me?” he says before charging toward the woman, who then retreats in her car.

“Exactly! Get in your car, stupid g**k. Go back to f**king [unintelligible].”

Brian Kranz returns to his Jeep and continues his tirade before driving away.

“Are you really that stupid? You know that recording doesn’t do anything,” he tells the woman. “Stay home. And thanks for giving my country COVID. Have a great day.”

Kranz is a trainer licensed by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and many on social media called for his license to be revoked. Many also tagged Hinshaw’s current masters’ program at Azusa Pacific University to revoke her license as a psychologist working with teens.

Given both Kranz and Hinshaw’s work requires working with the public at large, it was of concern to many how they would treat their clients of Asian descent. 

The backlash has been immense. After reportedly deactivating their LinkedIn and Instagram pages, they faced backlash on other platforms. 

Source: The Daily Dot, NextShark

How Chinese-Canadian Division One Basketball Player Ben Li (Lehigh University) Silences Racist Trash-Talkers On The Court

Chinese-Canadian NCAA division one basketball prospect Ben Li has received all the Asian-related racist jibes under the sun.

“I’ve heard all the names right when I step onto the court. From the players it’d be all comparisons to any Asian thing – soy sauce, Jackie Chan, Yao Ming, small eyes. Like I’d be shooting free throws and another team would be standing right there saying ‘can you even see the rim?’ and all that,” the 19-year-old Lehigh University, Pennsylvania first-year said.

Born in Toronto to native Chinese parents, Li defied the odds, stereotypes and stigma to make history as the first ethnic-Chinese player to make the All-Canadian game last year. It is but only the beginning of the forward’s mission to reach the NBA and the Chinese national team.

Already touted as the “Chinese Zion Williamson” by adoring media, Li hoped his unconventionally large physical presence on the court would help rid the arena of any prejudices. Otherwise he will have to take into his own hands.

“It’s definitely annoying but over time, their words didn’t matter to me. Most of the time they were trash-talking and all that, they were usually down. So any time they’d say anything, most of the time I don’t say anything back and just point at the scoreboard,” said Li, all 1.98m, 105kg of him.

“It’s actually pretty fun to get to prove people wrong or when they expect me to not really do anything. Then I showcase my game. Sometimes they start talking trash and I’d get my stuff going and dominate the game. That’s pretty fun sometimes.”

Li regularly seeks advice – be it basketball or identity related, or both – from hero-turned-friend Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese-American who famously graced the NBA with the “Linsanity” era of 2012. That he is now exchanging texts with the man he watched on TV is another “pinch me” moment in his fledgling career so far.

“I definitely want to shout out Jeremy Lin,” said Li, who he featured alongside on a Chinese basketball TV show in 2019.

“This year, he gave me his number and offered me an outlet to ask questions if I’m struggling or need any advice. I look up to him like a bigger bro. That’s kind of surreal to me because he was my role model.”

“When I first met him, I told him I was just trying to get scholarships and play division one basketball so my parents wouldn’t need to pay a cent for me at university. I think that’s where it kicked off because he could relate to me and had to go through a lot of things. He’s even been kind enough to offer to get a workout in together. That’s surreal. That person you watched, that got you into the sport I’m in now. Now I can just to talk to him. It’s just crazy.”

No racial slur is justifiable, but the ignorance may be partly to do with the lack of Asian faces in the game. That applies throughout all age groups, from little leagues to the NBA, where you could count the number of Asian players on your fingers.

Li’s athletic talent had grown to the point that he would need to head south from his native Canada. The path to a division one scholarship offer was meticulously planned and it was only a matter of time before calls came flooding in.

“I had to do what was best for me and expose myself to more schools and coaches. When I got to Virginia, my coach started calling schools in to come watch. Over time, my stock grew and my coach even told me that people were calling asking ‘is the big Asian guy still available? Can I come watch him work out?’” he said.

“I do this for the younger generation looking for knowledge from anyone in my situation. They’ll read this as the next Asian guy who wants to play division one basketball. My goal on top of playing in the NBA and the national team is to inspire the next generation of Asians to break out of their comfort zones.”

“I feel like there’s a stigma that we’re less than other people in a sport just because of the colour of our skin – and I think that’s kind of bulls***. If you just put in the work and screw what other people think, you can go wherever you want to go in your sport. I don’t want other people thinking they can’t get past something if they’re Asian.”

Source: South China Morning Post

The Dual Album Design Of Kendrick Lamar’s Major Label Debut Offers A Glimpse Into An Alternative Future

The two albums’ early 90s photographs are highly personal to Lamar, but have a familiarity to the beholder as well

In 2012, good kid, m.A.A.d city brought hip hop’s finest new storyteller to the attention of the masses. Kendrick Lamar’s major label debut tells the story of a kid growing up in Compton, Los Angeles, circumnavigating the pitfalls of gang life, whether by accident or design. The cover art meanwhile provides two stories, perhaps offering us a glimpse into an alternative future. 

It’s a cinematic roman-à-clef that comes at you out of sequence—memory isn’t linear, after all—and the two photographs chosen for two editions of the album conjure up different but connected memories from the immediate past: one is a family scene from a kitchen, and the other, a van sitting in the driveway of Lamar’s old house. While personal to the artist, these pictures from the early ’90s have a familiarity to the beholder too, even if they’re not our own memories.

Exhibit one, for the initial 12-track release, is a picture we’re to assume is of the baby Kendrick surrounded by three older figures who may be relatives. According to Marcus J. Moore’s excellent new biography The Butterfly Effect: How Kendrick Lamar Ignited The Soul Of Black America, that is indeed Lamar in diminutive form, with two teenage uncles and his grandfather sitting to his left. In an interesting visual twist, the eyes of these other figures are blacked out with identity-obscuring oblongs, while the toddler—who you’d expect to be the protected party here—stares into the lens. A few years after this photo was taken, Kendrick, aged just five, would witness a teenage drug dealer gunned down before his eyes, and the year before, he’d seen mass rioting in the streets following the infamous attack on Rodney King by LAPD officers. 

On closer inspection, the photograph is communicating dangers via signifiers, such as a bottle of alcohol sitting on the table—something he’ll addressed on ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)”; meanwhile, the uncle whose lap young Kendrick is sitting on is throwing a surreptitious gang sign with his left hand. Potential downfalls are hiding in plain sight in a picture as symbolically rich as Holbein’s The Ambassadors. “That photo says so much about my life and about how I was raised in Compton and the things I’ve seen,” said Lamar. 

Exhibit two, mounted on the cover for the deluxe version of good kid, m.A.A.d city, is not as easy to read. Lamar’s mother’s van, parked on the street in front of their family home, appears on the cover, shot through a fisheye lens. Intriguingly, while this photo offers less in the way of visual portents, the house itself has become a shrine to fans. Type “Good Kid M.A.A.D City House” into Google Earth and you’ll find the rapper’s childhood home in Compton, and pictures of fans assembled outside like they’re at Graceland. Furthermore, scrawled under the battered Chrysler are the words “a short film by Kendrick Lamar,” adding to the hauntological vibrations.  

“I fought not to have that on the cover!” says designer Don Clark on a Zoom call from his Seattle office. Clark set up the design agency Invisible Creature with his brother Ryan in 2006. “At the beginning I felt a photo of a minivan wasn’t worthy of an album cover, but I’m not always right. Because then his art creates this thing that becomes greater than any of us. That’s the sweet spot I love when working with other artists, when it takes on a life of its own.” 

Clark was initially reluctant to talk about good kid, m.A.A.d city because of his lack of conceptual input into the design. Invisible Creature took 4×6 photos supplied by Lamar and scanned them, adding crease marks to the corners to give the packaging a more distressed appearance, and then superimposed the pictures onto various textures until they found a background that most resembled an old Polaroid. But otherwise, the direction all came from Lamar himself. Within the space of a five-minute conference call, the musician, who was just making a name for himself at the time, had laid out exactly what he wanted in fine detail. His objectives were clear for every inch of good kid, m.A.A.d city, visually and audibly.

There are ten polaroid photos laid out across the deluxe gatefold edition, again all chosen in sequence by Lamar. Clark also disapproved of the graffiti-style font at the base of the sleeve, but he’s willing to concede that that cover has become a fan favorite, and that it has an enigmatic quality, too: mystery, after all, is in short supply these days as cover art becomes utilitarian and avatar-like, a one inch box on a tiny smartphone screen to click on or swipe away. 

The alternative 12-track cover still makes more sense to Clark though, and a couple of serendipitous details add to its ability to communicate: the Parental Advisory sticker is analogous to the photo’s message, and use of the black strips across the eyes of the adults was actually at the insistence of the label. “That was more of a legal thing,” says Clark. “Interscope and the family wanted to do that to obscure their likenesses.” 

Other than obfuscating the identities of the grownups in the room, Interscope was happy to allow their new signing complete artistic freedom to unleash his vision, a gamble that obviously paid off given that Kendrick Lamar is one of the most acclaimed rappers of all time, a state of affairs that really began with good kid, m.A.A.d city

“From the beginning they let him do what he wanted,” says Clark. “He was also [Dr.] Dre’s guy and I think that had a lot to do with it. That’s another amazing thing about him in that he doesn’t care what people will think and his art speaks for itself, and I appreciate that audacity.”

Source: AIGA Eye On Design

Al Pastor Papi – The Al Pastor King Of San Francisco (Street Food Icons)

Miguel Escobedo loves three things: San Francisco, DJing, and al pastor, a spit-roasted pork popular in Mexican cuisine. Originally from Mexico City, Miguel’s passions have spawned a career making some of the best Mexican food in the Bay Area, and his current project, Al Pastor Papi, focuses on perfecting the al pastor experience. Miguel talks about his journey deep into the history of al pastor, where he learned about the food’s roots in Lebanon, and about how giving back to the community he loves has made his culinary career even richer.

Only 10 Cities Have Won Multiple Titles In A Year – Los Angeles Now Tied With New York For The Most

Since 1903, 10 cities in the United States have had their clubs win multiple titles. This includes teams from seven major leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, WNBA, NWSL).

A good deal of Los Angeles’ multiple titles were won by basketball teams. The Lakers and the Sparks won titles in 2001 and 2002.

The Galaxy have contributed the most of any Los Angeles team, with titles in 2002, 2012 and 2014 in such years. The NHL’s Kings also won championships in 2012 and 2014.

Los Angeles is the only city to have three teams win a championships in a single year – with the Lakers, Sparks and Galaxy capturing crowns in 2002.

Much of New York’s success can be attributed to its baseball teams, with the Yankees contributing four titles to multiple-title years. Since championships in 1986 by the Mets and the NFL’s Giants, New York has been dormant.

Source: LA Times