Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Josh Announces A Two Budget System

I went to the "Special Joint Meeting of the City Council, Boards and Commissions" get together last night at City Hall. I was a full 50% of the unappointed public in attendance, which meant that I had lots of room to put my iPad, laptop, notebooks, backpack and other assorted possessions. I was also able to get a parking spot right in front of City Hall. Which was nice. Police Chief Giannoni greeted me by name, as did the Mayor. I have never felt so very much at home in that place. They even have free wifi. Maybe I'll just move in.

The front of the room, or as Mayor Moran put it more than once, the extended dais, was packed with all sorts of commissioners and board members. The City Manager going so far as to declare it the best turnout of appointed officials she'd ever seen for an event such as this. And when you consider that this meeting was competing with the final presidential debate, the seventh game of the Giants and Cardinals league playoff series, an NFL football game, plus a whole new episode of The Voice (which has some devoted fans at my house), it really was quite an achievement.

As a matter of fact, the only invited grouping that did not show up were the dudes from the Green Committee. Not a single one of them came down to mingle with their fellow volunteers. I guess a burden like saving the planet can sometimes wear a body down, and the prospect of having to attend something like last night's soiree was asking just a little too much. Hopefully they'll be back on their feet for a moment of glory at tonight's City Council get together.

The meeting mostly consisted of Karin Schnaider giving her grand tour of the City's finances. I have heard this talk so often now that I was surprised at how little I didn't already know. It was like taking an updated refresher course. The news Karin supplied was not good, of course. The City's financial picture is bleak, and the sunsetting of the UUT, along with the disappearance of the CRA, is apparently at the heart of all this darkness. Employees are not paid very well, jobs are being eliminated, and things are just going to have to change if more revenue can't be found. Change in this case not being presented as being such a good thing.

Elaine Aguilar had kicked things off with the "we're a full service city" speech. This kind of worn out little marketing spiel has now gone way past its freshness dating in my opinion. According to Elaine we are just about the only "full service" city of its kind left. Which, when you consider the many financial woes facing Sierra Madre, does make you wonder what all those other cities know that we don't. Can it really be that everyone is wrong except us?

But I also don't think this is completely true. How can we be a full service city when we contract out for aquatics, pool operations, YMCA run after school care, park maintenance, grass cutting, janitorial services in all city buildings, dog catching, the round about bus, dial a rides, jails, detective services, building inspectors, fire dispatchers, structural engineers, computer maintenance, some development services and, of course, all those darn consultants?

The answer is we are no more a "full service city" than anybody else. We're just the only one that says we are. I really think that Elaine, and Josh for that matter, should just drop it. It plainly isn't true.

After Karin got done sharing all of the dismal financial news about lost CRA and UUT moneys, and how painful all of that can be for those who have to live with such unhappy numbers, the members of the Commissions and Boards were invited to ask questions. There were a handful of inquiries, but none were quite up to Tattler standards, I'm afraid. But they were well-intentioned, and in some ways that counts for a lot, too.

After that Mayor Moran declared the proceedings open to any members of the public who might wish to comment. It was the first time in my memory that this has ever happened at the end of a meeting. Perhaps he was saving the best for last. Both members of the public in attendance were eager to speak their minds anyway, and accepted Josh's belated invitation. I went second, or last, and what I had was the following question:

Will the finished 2013-2015 budget reflect the loss of UUT funding starting with the sunset date in July of 2014, or will the City hold off on factoring that in (or out) of the budget until after the UUT has gone to a vote for a second time? And if the loss of that UUT money is factored into the budget, will it be a balanced one, and how exactly would you do that?

Since Mayor Moran is convinced that he is the only member of the City Council who is equipped to answer questions, he fielded this one. And I have to admit that I was more than a little surprised by his answer. Apparently the City will be preparing two different budgets for this upcoming two year cycle. One that will take into account the will of the voters in our April 2012 municipal elections by including the loss of much of our UUT funding, and a second budget that does not.

What this indicates to me is that the Mayor, along with whomever at City Hall agrees with him, is set to challenge the 67% of the voting Sierra Madre public that said "No" to extending the 2008 UUT rate increases last April. It also indicates that last night's meeting had a political intent in addition to a budgetary one. The purpose apparently being to line up the support of commission and board members behind restoring the UUT back up to 10 (or 12) percent.

I guess this means that after giving themselves a nice utility tax cut, two years later the voting public is going to be asked to take that all away and give itself a tax increase. All without the rates ever actually changing. Kind of surreal if you think about it.

What this looks like to me is that the first salvo of the 2014 City Council race has now been shot. Josh is going to run for re-election on a campaign of raising the UUT rate back up to 10 (or 12) percent, making it once the highest in California. And he is going to do so in order to save our not quite full service city from becoming like all of those other not quite so full service cities.

Tax me, Josh?

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

85 comments:

  1. Was there any talk of asking all employs to take a 10% across the board cut in pay and also pay more of their pension costs? How many employs in the PD and what were there numbers 10 years ago? How much revenue is being generated with all the ticket writing and how much does defending this writing in court cost, is it extra pay for officers going to court, how much does the city make on all that? Is it really worth it? How much has the city made or lost on the farmers market? It appears some members of city hall have sold their sole, what did that cost the city?

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    1. Fillet of sole that you buy at the farmer's market, or soul that you and I wish the city really had one of.

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    2. The Faux Farmers bring in $5,000 a year, I think Nancy Walsh announced with glee not too long ago. Never mind that the money spent there would be better spent supporting a real local business, Taylors.

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    3. A 10% cut? Not a whisper.
      What the staff always emphasizes is how little they make.
      Schneider said that the city manager could make 100% more in another city, and that she herself makes half of what her colleagues in other cities make.
      They are sacrificing themselves to work here.

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    4. You've got to listen to 1630 on the AM dial (I was monitoring it during the Great Shakeout and there was NOTHING to indicate that the city is using this radio opportunity, which was produced with great effort by the Fire Safe Council and the Kiwaniis for public safety) announcement of the wonderful array of fresh food items for sale at the Farmer's Market, inclusing pies made from the fruit on sale there. Moreover, you can come and talk with the farmer's who produced the fresh food items before trucking them into our fair town.

      Please!!!!!!!!!! How much do you get to pay for the fuel surcharge just to go toddle around on a bit of city tarmack and feel good about paying more for fresh that was grown nowhere near here? I am cycling my way through Whole Foods, TJ, Howies, the name changed store that once was Henrys and Ralphs. And one or two Mexican markets. Never Fresh and Easy Plastic Food nor Wally Mart, either. Read the labels. Wash the produce. Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup and all its derivatives. Avoid Palm Oil and all the name changes. It can take some time but it can be done.

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    5. The other complaint I have heard from bricks and motar food purveyors in town is that the "Farmer's" Market has some prepared foods and that this compeats for their dining clients. They have made a big investment in doing restaurant business in town and it is undermined by this asphalt enterprise. Don't get me started about the food truck pop up that was supposed to put us on the map. Where is the Chamber of Commerce when the city really wants to do business with the folks with some coin?

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    6. The Chamber last I heard was broke.

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    7. Yes that is true.

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  2. Hmmm, let's see. Pencil to paper now. We lose $1,000,000 when the UUT sunsets. We pick up $1,500,000 when we contract our public safety services with the Sheriffs. The UUT stays at 6% and we get a cop upgrade. Problem solved!

    Time for a cup of coffee.

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    1. If only the city's populace was that rational. Some of them believe in unicorns, you know.

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    2. Josh runs his office through the help of Charlie the Unicorn.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yJCNNwHUOE

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Now is that the way you want to start your day?

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    2. I am up too late to catch these bits of nastiness. I wonder if the moderator could create a "censored" click here so we could read that mash and have a good laugh at the sad sacks who vulgerize the blog in the early morning light.

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    3. It would be pretty disappointing. Kind of like the graffiti in a high school lavatory.

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  4. What did the budget breakdown look like in 2000, 1990, 1980, 1970...? Isn't there some sort of historical perspective we can glean by analyzing what percentages were allotted to our various services, etc? With the population remaining mostly constant over the last half century, it shouldn't be too hard to realign our budget honestly.

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    1. Not with this much chicanery in play.

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  5. There are still members of the original Finance Ad Hoc committee who should be heard from. I wonder why they have never told the story that when they were sat down to work up what has now become the UUT extension (it had been 6%) up to the 12% and sunset backslide, they never mentioned the staff report, written by Elaine (?), delivered by Inmann (?), that they were NOT to look for cuts, just look for ways to generate money. Back to bite us now, sadly. That was a good group with a thankless job.

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    1. Not to look for cuts? That's crazy.

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    2. It was offensive and malicious.It will continue until concerned citizens change it.

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  6. The cure for a lot of this city's problems is sunsetting the UUT. We'd get a better police department and a city government that would need to bring costs into line with modern city government practices. The irony here is that the city government we had in the 80s and early 90s would be far better thing than what we have now. And quite a bit cheaper.

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  7. Enjoyed last night when our director of finance commentted how under paid she is along with our city manager. How they would make 30 % more working in glendora. As they say in John Wayne movies " It's time to move along little (and not so little) doggies!

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    1. 100% for the city manager - 100% more in Glendora.

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    2. That was basically the same line the SMPOA used in their mailer a couple of weeks back. We train them, and then they leave. So how come every time I go to City Hall it is always the same faces? I'll bet there are a lot of qualified people living in Sierra Madre who would jump for the opportunity to take one of those jobs. Jobs that are always offered to people who live someplace else. We should use our tax money to hire our own people.

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    3. Excellent idea 7:56. Maybe if all the staff actually lived here, they'd think about the residents.

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    4. Righto.. They would have to pay the taxes like the rest of us!

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  8. How about Bill Tice's "Training School City Hall"? We hire young people starting out, train them in our city hall for a few years, and then be prepared to have them move on. We'd have to have a Council of Volunteers to guide them, but Sierra Madreans are up to that task.

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    1. I must admit, Bill does have his moments of brilliance. Remember Elaine did go from an administrator position to CM to here in SM. If she is unhappy with the bucks she is making, and is ready to move on to the "big time", we can easily find a replacement from the ranks of administrators wanting the chance to show their stuff.
      More power to her...
      You need to listen to Old Wild (Eagle) Bill, he has his gems of wisdom...

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    2. 2006 was Bill's year. People elected Joe Mosca instead. Think how much better things would be here if they'd voted for Mr. Tice.

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  9. Last night, Josh also announced that the people at the extended dais were voting in favor of the Kensington. Was there a vote taken off-camera?

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    1. This was all politics last night. The commissions were used as a prop in a dog and pony show.

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  10. Love the BS that we could make more money somewhere else, why are you still here? Bell has openings!

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    1. Bell has undergone some recent pay cuts.

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  11. I voted myself a tax cut. Now Josh wants to take my tax cut away? What is it about voting that Josh doesn't understand?

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    1. Josh doesn't recognize the results of an election until the results are what he wants.

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    2. Then this UUT might take 4 or 5 votes. I don;t see how all those people are going to forget how they felt last April.

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  12. 7:33 you have some good points that could be looked at. Some of the problems we have now are because of the 80 and 90's city government. Any one involved at that time can mention a few of the then concerns. At some meeting I heard it said that the city misspent $ collected from the water dept. wish you were involved at that time 7:33. It is not cheap to provide safety like we would all like to have, now is a good time to evaluate where we were and where do we want to be. The agenda should be taking care of business but with no hidden agendas. The fire department seems to be not that expensive, what is going on there that could work in other departments? Seems like the city has a lot of options, lets hope they pick the right road. There is no reason in the world why Sierra Madre cant make this work.

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    1. We are living with a model of government adopted by Bart Doyle. We need to go back to the way things were before he wrecked the place.

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    2. Oh Wise One, the fire department's secret is volunteers! If you could convince all of the 60+ paid city employees to work for pancake breakfasts and lots of corny photographs, it would go a long way toward balancing the budgetj.

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    3. Saving a mil and a half with the Sherif couldn't hurt either.

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  13. Did the CM take any money from the FD for the pancake breakfasts?

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  14. How dare the City ask all of the commissioners to sell this to their friends! The City is really campaigning early for a UUT YES vote in 2014. The City is probably really going to whack back starting in July 2013 at services that will be noticed by the public.

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    1. Human shields.

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    2. I didn't volunteer to be a commissioner to be a shill for Josh Moran or Elaine Aguliar. And I won't be.

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    3. Free the Captive Commissioners!

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    4. How foolish of the City Manager and the Mayor and Mayor Pro-tem to think they could coerce their commissioners to do their bidding for a UUT increase and the end of time scenario on the budget.

      We were a captive audience but they cannot read our minds nor can they imagine what we had to say to each other after the meeting.

      Ha!

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    5. It had to have been a Buchanan idea.

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  15. The problem can be solved by getting rid of the police and their union. The pensions in this City are killing us.

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  16. How about fewer paid holidays for City employees? If they are getting paid they need to be working. 16 paid holidays a year...that is ridiculous.

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  17. The SKY IS FALLING again.

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  18. Give Josh another chance (in 2014.) And raise the UUT to 12% (in 2014.)

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  19. the UUT was based on lies and now the UUT propaganda is fueled by BS methane

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  20. Story up on KPCC:
    "Layoffs and a salary freeze: Up to 209 layoffs and a salary freeze are possible for the City of Los Angeles as part of the 2012-13 fiscal year budget plan."

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  21. From the KPCC site:
    "The mayor also called for the final approval of a pension plan that would roll back benefits for employees hired on or after July 1, 2013.

    Under the new pension tier, the retirement age would increase to 65 and cost-of-living adjustments would be capped. Retirement benefits would also be based on 75 percent of an employee’s final compensation, and health benefits for dependents would be eliminated."

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    1. A cop strike in LA would be interesting.

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  22. No time limit for Mr. Stockly's remarks?

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    1. He's special.

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    2. Ah, give Josh his due - he cut him off after 10 minutes.

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  23. Council member Koerber is a marvel.
    Makes me wonder why council people have not been asking as many questions on warrants all these years.

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  24. Barbara Leigh made some great remarks about the behemoth Kensington.

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  25. I haven't heard the "31 cities of the San Gabriel Valley" hit so hard since Joe left.
    The interim director is not persuasive. I'd lie him to explain how four felony counts have directly benefited Sierra Madre, how Nock Conway's legal bills have benefited Sierra Madre.

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  26. Yes, the COG is an environmental organization that is an extension of our staff.

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  27. The Interim Executive Director of the SGVCOG just made the statement that the Conflict of Interest law was complicated and that it is "not difficult for someone to step out of bounds."
    Yes.

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    1. Conway danced out of bounds, and the governing board rewarded him.

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  28. In light of the current and future sgvCOG legal problems with Nick Conway and each member's obligations.

    Not a peep was said by Gene Murabito or his second, Joseph Santoro nor Chris Jeffers (city manager) of and for Glendora, Caliornia.

    This evenings (10/23/2012) City Council meeting was handled as if these two had nothing to report to the residents of Glendora, California.

    Buckets of sand must be passed around before each city council meeting to handle those Nick Conway or sgvCOG problems.

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  29. Everybody kissed and made up.

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  30. Thank you Mr. Cappocia for asking about how the public trust can be regained.
    Of course, it cannot.

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  31. Did you catch how cavalier the interim director was about the $500,000 in reserves the COG has to shell out for Conway? No surprise he was a city manager. What's half a million anyway.

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  32. Everything that j. Carlson is mentioning that the green committee should do sounds exactly like what the smenviromental action committee has been doing for several years. All this is is creating more bureaucracy.

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  33. Alva is a creepy gut. I don't trust him! he keeps talking about the "experts" on the committee. Are they really experts and will they always be on the committee? alva is using faulty logic. alva thinks we are a progressive city. where does he think he lives?

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    1. Pointed questions Alva is asked, he responds with "We are experts." Doesn't answer the question at all.

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  34. Well looks like we have a Green commission, with the most vapid speech and invisible work product possible. Emptiness produced by experts.

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  35. As Harabedian said, it would be cheaper to have it be volunteer, but....
    Heaven forbid the council majority make a choice for cheaper.

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    1. How would the cheaper option square with Walsh's desire for status?

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  36. Hey looks like the Mayor is telling us that the Green Commission will be solving the water problems! Great!

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    1. There will be plenty of water that 'bubbles up' from their ideas.

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  37. John Capoccia just made a brilliant rebuttal speech to each point that was given as a reason to spend more staff time on a Green Commission. Brilliant.

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    1. The best part? He said if it's clear that the majority wants it, he himself is not going to change his mind on it, so let's just vote on it and move on. Too efficient by far.

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  38. One of the Green experts is talking about billions of dollars that we'll be able to get next year.

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  39. The more accurate name: Environmental and Natural Resource Philosophical Commission

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  40. Argh! Moran is insisting that there be 2 more discussions on the global science commission, instead of just voting on it now when it's clear that the majority will win. Argh!

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    1. Yeah, why should we express our opinions if the City Council has already made up their minds. Shouldn't it be that the council listens to the citizens before they vote? As Pat Alcorn said, it looks like the council has made up their minds, so any audience participation is moot.

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