California health reform is accelerating change

By Deborah Schoch and Lauren M. Whaley, CHCF Center for Health Reporting

Dr. Hector Flores marvels at the impact of health reform on his Montebello family practice. The number of uninsured patients, he said, has been cut almost in half.

For Flores, who describes himself as “a Latino who grew up uninsured and knowing what it’s like to live one illness away from the poorhouse,” the federal law nicknamed “Obamacare” is a huge success.

Not all Californians agree, especially those who found their premiums going up or their favorite doctors not covered under new policies. But as the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) enters its second year, few dispute that it is swiftly changing how health care works statewide.

The story of health reform in the Golden State is one of accelerating change, with both ominous and hopeful aspects.

California leads the nation in embracing the ACA. It enrolled more people than any other state this year, approximately 3.6 million, driving down the state’s uninsured rate from 17 percent to 11 percent.

Covered California — the state’s new marketplace, where health insurers compete for customers and the federal government offers subsidies on premiums — expects to enroll another 500,000 people by the time the current signup period ends Feb. 15.

Read more in HEALTH.

Ling Ling Chang named Assembly Republican Whip

Assembly Member Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar) has been appointed by Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen to the position of Assembly Republican Whip for the 2015-16 Legislative Session.

“I’m very excited that Republican Leader Olsen has asked me to take on this new role,” said Chang. “I came to Sacramento ready to take on many challenges for California and my community.  Having the opportunity to serve as a Republican Whip will enable me to better serve my constituents as I work with my colleagues to advance Republican solutions to provide better schools for every student, encourage more job opportunities in every community, and reform state government.”

As Republican Whip, Chang will be charged with mobilizing member votes on important legislation, acting as a liaison between members and leadership, and helping to coordinate strategy within the Caucus.

Chang, the first Taiwanese-American Republican woman to be elected to the State Assembly, was first elected to the Diamond Bar City Council in November 2009 and served as the Mayor from 2011-2012. Before her election to the CityCouncil, she held a variety of positions in local government, including service as President of the Walnut Valley Water District, and as a member of the Diamond Bar Parks & Recreation Commission. Chang brings business sector experience as well, developing software products for the health information management industry.

“Ling-Ling Chang is politically savvy, intelligent, and hard-working,” said Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen, of Modesto.  “She has a proven track record of success in local government and community activities.   She will be an effective advocate in advancing our message.”

Steve Tye named mayor of Diamond Bar, candidates sought

Steve Tye has been selected as the new mayor by the City Council, which also has decided to appoint someone to fill Ling-Ling Chang’s seat since she has been sworn into the California Assembly.

Councilman Tye was nominated by Nancy Lyons and unanimously approved by his fellow council members. Lyons was named mayor pro tem.

Diamond Bar Mayor Steve Tye

Diamond Bar Mayor Steve Tye

The council thanked outgoing mayor Carol Herrera, who has served as mayor five times. “You exhibit great leadership and we’re grateful for it,” said Mayor Tye.

“You were a wonderful leader for us this year and we really appreciate it,” agreed Lyons.

“You did a great job this past year in leading our city,” Councilman Jack Tanaka said.

The council had 60 days to take action to fill the remaining three years in Chang’s term, which expires in November 2017. It discussed the matter at Tuesday’s council meeting.

“We could appoint someone to fill her seat or call for a special election,” said Mayor Tye.

The city has faced similar situations five previous occasions. It decided to appoint a replacement four times, while calling for a special election in 2005.

Since Los Angeles County will not be holding an election in June, Diamond Bar can’t consolidate the special election with the county as it does with the regular municipal elections in November. The city would have to pay for all the costs, including election materials and equipment, ballots, precinct workers and vote tabulations.

“Should the City Council choose to call an election to fill the seat vacated by former council member Chang, it is estimated the city would incur election-related costs of approximately $150,000,” said Deputy City Manager Ryan McLean in a report.

Diamond Bar seeks applicants for city council seat

The Diamond Bar City Clerk’s Office is now accepting applications to fill a vacancy on the Diamond Bar City Council.

This vacancy resulted from the recent resignation of Ling-Ling Chang, who last month was elected to represent the California Assembly District 55.

During its regular meeting of December 2, 2014, the City Council voted to start to the process to fill the vacancy by appointment by soliciting applications from qualifying candidates. To qualify, candidates must be a United States citizen, a Diamond Bar resident and a registered voter 18 years of age or older.

City Council interviews with selected candidates followed by Council deliberation and discussion is tentatively planned for the week of January 5, 2015, followed by a vote on the appointment any time before January 30, 2015.

Applications are available on the City website www.DiamondBarCa.gov/councilvacancy and at City Hall (21810 Copley Drive). For more information or to request an application by mail, call the City Clerk’s Office at 909.839.7010. The deadline for applications is 4:30 p.m. on Friday, December 19, 2014.

Los Altos High lineman hit by car isn’t Superman

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By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer

There’s not too many people who can take on a car moving at 30 miles per hour and win. Los Altos High School lineman David Tolmachoff is one of the exceptions.

The experience wasn’t by choice. It certainly provided a scare and lots of pain. Yet the unintended consequences like adding to Tolmachoff’s almost folklorish presence at school have been priceless for his teammates and coaches.

Tolmachoff will get one last chance to add to his legacy Saturday when the two-way standout lineman leads Los Altos against Colony in the CIF-Southern Section Central Division championship.

“We really just keep him around for the entertainment value,” Los Altos head coach Dale Ziola said of Tolmachoff. “But he’s a huge asset to the team. We’re glad he’s on our side and not someone else’s side.”

And yet despite all of the big sacks while playing defense and opening huge holes for running backs while playing offense, the thing Tolmachoff’s coaches and teammates are likely to share are the time he took on a moving car and won.

On May 21, the day after Los Altos’ school year ended. Tolmachoff and teammate David Jimenez were on campus to meet with University of Colorado recruiter Jim Jeffcoat. Following the meeting, Tolmachoff headed home on his bicycle. What happened next could have been tragic.

 

 

“I was right in front of the school, normally I cross (the street) right in the same spot and I guess I didn’t see the car because once I pulled out, there was a (Toyota) Scion and I took it head on,” Tolmachoff said. “After that, I just remember being airlifted and the lights in the hospital. I don’t remember anything beside that.”

Scoreboard: Tolmachoff 1, Scion 0.

Box score: Tolmachoff: Concussion, broken jaw, scrapes, bumps and bruises. Scion: Totaled.

The photo of the dented and cracked Scion are in Ziola’s phone and he shows them as a story prop. Whomever hears the story and sees the picture of the car usually laughs in amazement. But the day of the accident still haunts Ziola.

Read more in Aram Tolegian’s story LINEMAN.

Whoville comes to Walnut on Dec. 13

Walnut will turn into a wintery “Whoville” Wonderland this holiday season. The parking lot at Walnut Senior Center Parking Lot will be filled with snow on Dec. 13 from 6 to 10 pm.

For $8, residents can enjoy unlimited sled rides, ice skating, games, snow ball battlefield and live entertainment. This year’s entertainment includes community groups as well as the Filharmonic, featured in NBC’s “Sing Off” competition, at 8 p.m.

Families should bring blankets for a showing of the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at 8:30 p.m. with hot cocoa.

For more information, call the Walnut Senior Center at 909-598-6200. The center is located at 21215 La Puente Road in Walnut.

 

Diamond Bar has to fill Chang’s vacant council seat

Bye-bye Ling-Ling. Diamond Bar City Council has to decide how to fill Ling-Ling Chang’s seat now that she has been sworn into the California Assembly.

Council has 60 days to take action to fill the remaining three years in Chang’s term, which expires in November of 2017. They plan to discuss the matter in tonight’s council meeting.

“We can appoint someone to fill her seat or call for a special election,” explained Mayor Pro Tem Steve Tye.

The city has faced similar situations on five previous occasions. It decided to appoint a replacement four times, while calling for a special election in 2005.

Since Los Angeles County will not be holding an election in June, Diamond Bar can’t consolidate the special election with the county as it does with the regular municipal elections in November. The city would have to pay for all the costs, including election materials and equipment, ballots, precinct workers and vote tabulations.

“Should the city council choose to call an election to fill the seat vacated by former council member Chang, it is estimated the city would incur election-related costs of approximately $150,000,” said Deputy City Manager Ryan McLean in a report.

These costs would be in addition to the costs for the regular election in November.

“I’m leaning toward appointing someone to fill the position because of the high costs for a special election,” Tye said. “People elect us to make difficult decisions, so I think we should interview candidates and appoint someone ourselves.”

City council isn’t legally obligated to even advertise the vacancy, seek applicants or interview them before appointing someone to fill the council seat. Council may choose any process it feels is appropriate.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story VACANCY.

Rowland Heights man hurt in home-invasion robbery

Three masked robbers forced their way into a home in Rowland Heights and pepper sprayed one of two brothers inside before fleeing with valuables late Friday, authorities said.

The three robbers smashed a rear sliding-glass door about 7:40 p.m. to get into the home in the 17800 block of Calle Barcelona, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Steven Tousey said.

The home-invasion robbers encountered a 21-year-old man and his teenage brother, who were upstairs when the intruders broke in, the sergeant said.

A robber pepper-sprayed one of the brothers before the three bandits fled with cash, jewelry and an iPhone, Tousey said. No other injuries were reported.

A detailed description of the robbers was not available, Tousey said. All three wore ski-masks during the crime.

Tousey said the robbers were last seen running from the home. It was unclear if a getaway car was involved.

Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar Station at 909-595-2264.

Archer surrenders at standoff in Rowland Heights

Deputies surrounded a home Sunday, after a man armed with a crossbow holed-up inside for more than four hours before ultimately surrendering, officials said.

The incident began just before 10 a.m. Sunday with a report of a fight between a father and son in the 18000 block of Mescal Street, Sgt. Pauline Panis of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau said.

When deputies arrived, the son — initially described only as a man — retreated into the home and displayed a crossbow to deputies, Panis said.

It was not believed that he had fired the weapon at anyone. In a written statement, sheriff’s officials described the holed-up man as a suspect involved in an assault with a deadly weapon involving a crossbow, though further details of the alleged assault were not available.

Deputies summoned a sheriff’s SWAT team to the home to take over the standoff, officials said.

“The suspect is believed to be the sole occupant in the residence,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. “For the safety of the public, surrounding homes in the area have been evacuated.”

After slightly more than four hours, officials persuaded the suspect to exit the home and surrender about 2:05 p.m., deputy Amber Smith of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau said. The crossbow was recovered.

His identity was not immediately available, nor were the charges he was expected to be booked for. Officials at the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar Station declined to comment, referring all inquiries to the Sheriff’s Information Bureau. No further details were released.