Thursday, January 3, 2013

How is that CRA Successor Agency Oversight Board Working Out for Us?

CRA Board representatives in action
Now here is a topic we haven't heard a whole lot about recently. This CRA Board, upon which we are represented by the likes of Bart "El Monte" Doyle and John "Whatever Bart Says" Buchanan (click here), is the place where we as a city would go to plead our case in hopes that the almost 3 million of dollars in Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) money the City of Sierra Madre spent in the spring of 2011 somehow won't end up coming out of our hides. Rather it would be paid for out of CRA funds, or so the theory went.

On April 11 of 2011 we posted an article here on The Tattler called "Sierra Madre City Council Redevelopment Agency Spend-A-Thon." This is how we explained it all back then (click here):

Sacramento, finding itself awash in $26 billion dollars of debt, can no longer afford to have vast quantities of its property tax grab placed into the hands of individual cities so that they can help local developers build strip malls and mixed use condominium projects. When the state was flush with cash such things could exist. Back then there was cash enough for everything. Even development slush fund reserves were considered affordable. But things have changed and that time has now passed us by. There is no more money left for such things.

With the bitter end of Redevelopment Agencies only a matter of time now, many cities across California have taken it upon themselves to spend as much of their remaining CRA cash as possible before Sacramento takes it all away. The hope being that by "encumbering" this money each City will be able to use it before they lose it. There are no guarantees that this will work, however, as the State has generated some legislation designed to short circuit such a stratagem. But whatever the circumstances may eventually be, Tuesday evening more than $2,900,000 million big ones will be approved for 11 CRA projects in Sierra Madre. Some worthy, some marginally so, but others flat out ridiculous.

Stalwart, brave and true City Council watchers may recall this particular meeting. It was the one where Councilman Moran kept repeating the word "encumber" over and over again like Polly who wanted a cracker. You may also recall that MaryAnn MacGillivray let her four colleagues on the City Council know that they would have to be plain nuts to spend nearly $3 million dollars in money the State of California was planning on taking away. Just because it was all spent in one big old meeting rush was not a good reason to believe that Sacramento would no longer want their cut. To do so being, to use the nicer word for it, delusional.

Of course, when did John Buchanan, Josh Moran, Joe Mosca or Nancy Walsh ever listen to anything MaryAnn had to say? Which is why we could now be in a whole lot of trouble on this CRA mess.

The reason I am bringing this up today is that there is a disturbing article posted on the California Planning & Development Report (CP&DR) site called "DOF Puts Post-Redevelopment Coal In Cities Stockings" (click here). It came out on Tuesday, New Year's Day, so this is pretty fresh news for we the people. Here is an exerpt:

The holiday season continues to be a cruel time of year for California's redevelopment community. Last year, the state Supreme Court struck a blow on Dec. 29, allowing the state to abolish redevelopment agencies.  And this year, on Dec. 18, the state Department of Finance denied funding to many of the 240 of the 400 successor agencies who had appealed earlier rejections. 

The latest denial included funding for such high profile projects as site acquisition for a new downtown stadium for the San Diego Chargers football team, and $30 million to be used for a new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers, which is already under construction in Santa Clara. 

It's all added up to more pain for California cities who want to continue projects planned before redevelopment ended on Feb. 1. Cities are forced to confront the Department of Finance, which is tasked with taking money out of redevelopment and into other pressing state needs, such as schools. 

The Dec. 18 news from the Department of Finance followed appeals by 240 of the state's 400 successor agencies. Finance released its list just before the holidays, bringing little holiday cheer to many.  Up and down the state, the news was grim. In Ventura County, the city of Oxnard lost out on a $15.3 million loan for a $40 million affordable housing project, while nearby in Thousand Oaks, the city denied $7.7 million for improvements to its auto mall.

In case you need a refresher on all of this, here is what the City Council hoped to spend almost $3 million dollars in CRA money on during their April 2011 Encumber-A-Thon. This is all taken from the same April 2011 Tattler article we quoted from above.

1) Pave and Re-stripe City Parking Lots within the CRA Area: An enormous amount of money would be spent to pave and paint 7 parking lots. We're talking $28,500 for a consultant to do a study on the matter, then half a million dollars for the actual work. An additional $54,000 in "In-Lieu" parking funds would also be thrown into the kitty, bringing the total spend to $582,500. The lots designated as beneficiaries of this largess are North Baldwin/East Montecito, Auburn, City Hall, South Baldwin, Sierra Vista, the Rose Float lot and driveway, and Mariposa. Maybe they plan to use gold paint for the striping, and melted silver ingot for the slurry?

2) Conduct Downtown Parking Utilization Study: Here the spend is $50,000 for a consultant who would do an "inventory of the existing parking demand, the appraisal of a new parking in-lieu fee which is more closely equivalent to the actual cost for providing new downtown public parking spaces, and other downtown parking strategies." Apparently the goal here is to help provide "an enjoyable parking experience" for those coming to Sierra Madre to shop. An absolutely absurd squandering of money in my opinion.

3) Hart Park House/Senior Center Remodel: $244,300 has been allocated for this project. This one has been talked half to death by the City Council already, with bids scheduled to be received in early June and the lucky winner picked on June 28. Green visors, color coordinated felt top bingo tables and energy efficient hokey poky strobe lights are apparently not included. How those items were missed I do not know.

4) Re-roof City Hall and the Public Safety Building: The City claims both are in dire need of brand new lids, and that the cost for doing so is estimated at $250,000. A price that seems steep. Is this work that actually needs to be done? Couldn't we just have some routine maintenance performed, therefore undoing the need to spend a quarter of a million dollars? When the object is to spend money and not save money, the rules change. This could be one of those instances.

5) Memorial Park Restrooms: We're talking a new john here. A "CXT Kodiak" restroom facility would be built somewhere behind City Hall. The Hart Park House johns would then be turned into storage space. The total hit to the CRA kitty being $145,500. My question here being wouldn't it be a lot cheaper to just paint the old restrooms, maybe replace the steel pots and urinals, and then make sure someone actually washes the place every now and again? Occasional soap and water can really work miracles in places like that. Trust me, they haven't been cleaned since C.W. Jones was Mayor.

6) Resurface East Montecito between North Baldwin and North Mountain Trail Avenue: Why this street has been chosen for a $125,000 make over, with $14,750 for a consultant thrown into the mix, will be a matter of some controversy here. Long designated as a redevelopment target, East Montecito would apparently become just about the most nicely paved street in the entire town. Not bad for an area that has been selected for homeless housing, and an indication that when it comes to allocating funds for street paving, the City of Sierra Madre will not let hobophobia stand in its way. Also jumbled in here is the "undergrounding of utilities," to be done with the aid of our dear friends at Edison. So not only would this street be among the most poshly paved in town, you will not have to look at unsightly power lines while driving it. You really can't help wondering what it is that they're planning for this place.

7) Replace Sierra Madre Boulevard Water Main from Maintenance Yard to Lima Street: We're talking a cool $750,000 for this one, with an additional $18,300 for the inevitable design consultant. And here I thought this kind of thing was supposed to have been taken care of by the water rate increase. Oh yeah, that's right. That tall tale is no longer operative. Gee, do you think that maybe The Gang knew they'd be spending CRA money on pipe repair all along?

8) Replace Municipal Pool Equipment and Equipment Building: When money is no object you can do almost anything. Including the spending of $650,000 for pool equipment. My suggestion is inflatable yellow floaties in the shapes of happy ducks. You'll be glad to know that by spending this money the pool and associated facilities will be brought up to Health Department standards. As one who swims there with the family from time to time, I was delighted by the information that this is not the case now.

9) Conduct Market Demand Study for Downtown: Of all the projects listed, this is perhaps the most idiotic and poorly conceived. We're talking $30,000 for a consultant to figure out what exactly it is that Sierra Madreans purchase when doing their shopping. And once this important work is completed a bound book would then be created to better inform Sierra Madre's merchants on how they can fine tune their inventories and better serve the needs of their customers. The upshot being that Happy's would then know that they could improve their financial performance by stocking toilet paper and toothpaste.

10) Memorial Park Playground Equipment: As someone who spent quite a lot of time watching my kids romp around Memorial Park not all that long ago, I cannot see how the current playground equipment needs replacing. It still looks new, quite safe, and certainly serves the needs of the under 5 set to climb up and down stuff. The spaceship is particularly popular, as is the train. My guess here is The Gang must have run out of other things to spend CRA money on.

11) Development of 186 W. Highland: Only slightly less beloved than a toothache, this redevelopment project has apparently unified an entire neighborhood in its desire to tar and feather our City government. The malarkey in the City Staff report runs about as deep as any document that I have ever seen, but the CRA consequence here is the spending of $25,000 on a consultant to determine there is a lot of traffic in that neighborhood. And that if you add a complex of low to moderate income housing next to Sierra Madre Elementary School, the traffic situation will not improve. Nor will the already scarce parking situation for that matter. This has to be an attempt to soft soap some of the consequences of an unpopular redevelopment project.

When you consider that cities far larger than ours, places such as San Diego, Oxnard and Thousand Oaks, got schmeissed by Sacramento, what chance do our spends on things such as playground equipment, the $30,000 Buxton "market demand" fiasco, or the Kodiak outhouse in Memorial Park stand? We could now end up having to pay for at least some of these projects out of the General Fund, which is not the result anyone here had hoped for.

You want to know what I think? My guess is that the City of Sierra Madre must have already been shot down by the Department of Finance on some of these, and we haven't been told about it yet. Bad news always travels slowly at City Hall.

But if you are looking for one of the reasons why the UUT 3 wants to raise our utility taxes up to 12% all of a sudden, this could be as good as any.

Encumbered or not.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

53 comments:

  1. build a nice little complex on west highland. put NO PARKING SPACES on it. let's test the train and bus theory for Sierra Madre. Besides the fun of leaving half of the SME staff no where to illegaly park, it will be even MORE FUN to drive highland ave. Golly, with Highland jammed up, and Sierra Madre (soon to be renamed ALF BLVD.) all backed up in both directions with people who haven't figured out that they WANT to walk and be carless, it should amount to a great deal of fun.

    if i can get those college kids who always spray numbers on the curbs and try grifting me to pay for it to spray those parking lines, and do it for thirty bucks, can i keep the balance?

    btw, who is running this city again? oh, that's right. Moe, Larry, and Curly. I guess they haven't figured it that it isn't really a gorilla, but just a guy in a gorilla suit.

    good grief, someone save us.

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    1. The City couldn't build that place now if they tried. Uncle Jerry took all the play money away.

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    2. Had the Heritage Housing Partners gone ahead with developing the old church into low/low-mod income housing, there would have been a perfect storm of traffic snarls on Highland and Hermosa. Think school traffic, think narrow streets - and of course, one of the local pervs needs some room to navigate while cruising the school.

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    3. True to the spirit of anti-volunteerism that so pervades city hall, when Bill Tice offered to repair part of the church, himself, at no cost to the city, they weren't interested.

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    4. City Staff would prefer not to have to deal with residents at all.

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  2. i bet none of this calamity happens in crawforville

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    1. In Crawfordville we've perfected the idea of low density. There are only three houses.

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  3. I,m sorry was that Encumber us all?

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    1. Isn't it always?

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    2. Would you let Josh encumber you? Apparently many have.

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  4. Where does the City get all the magic money? I want some. Where is the money coming from to pay back the CRA funds, not to mention all of the attorneys fees being paid on these lawsuits? I don't believe our general fund has $3MM to pay back the CRA! It looks like we will not have a choice regarding a "full service" city. Cutbacks MUST be made! When you consider that we have a chance of losing more than one lawsuit in this city due to bad management and decision making... you would think that the City would stop digging the vast financial hole that they have put us in. The City has to learn to live within their means and stop the bleeding NOW!

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    1. The "magic money" comes from your tax dollars. And yes, you want some, but what you really want is to keep more of what you have already earned. If we collect less in taxes we will have less spending by government and the private citizen will have the ability to make his own decisions about his very own private property (i.e. your money)

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    2. How did we lose control of our government in this town?

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    3. The answer 10:25 am is that "we" never had control. For more than 10 years "we" have been reacting to attempts to circumvent the will of the people by unprincipaled, immoral self-interest. "We've" accomplished some mighty wins with a small, but growing, group of dedicated voters and a miraculous little blog. Not every cause and every injustice was triumphantly resolved in the name of the people, but not for a lack of trying. Some of the worst of the carpet baggers packed up and left town. Hooray! Many of the worst example of immoral self-interest have been exposed. Hip Hip Hooray! And slowly but surely "we" are gaining in influence.

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    4. 10:56, hear hear!

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    5. I find it maddening that not one person has been 'let go' from city hall. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only thing that has happened is a 'reshuffling' of departments and personnel. Well and good if we weren't facing financial crises. Our single greatest cost is personnel. What would any responsible business person do?

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    6. 2:47, you obviously are heartless and do not realize that taking a job in Sierra Madre municipal government means being taken care of like you are family. Yes, we are all one big extended family, and the fact that just a few of us are guaranteed salaries and benefits that plenty of others can' afford? Oh well. It's family.

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    7. City Hall is a hothouse for exotic imported flowers. They need a special climate and feeding to survive here.

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  5. I'm very thankful that the CRA was done away with.
    It was an evil organization. It hurt everyone but developers and their greedy politician partners, people like the downtown dirts....or are they now known as the pink unicorns?

    Rob Stockley, Doyle, Childs and the rest of you....I'm glad you lost your greecy evil investment.

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  6. As Desi might have said to City Hall, "You got a lot of 'splainin to do."

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  7. I believe the Troll and some of his trollish minions own property on East Montecito as part of the "dirt club" investment portfolio. Another conflict of interest concerning Bart, the infamous Troll Leader!

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  8. I feel that the "Residents" of Sierras Madre should propose a "Ballot & Initiative" and appeal "all UUT Taxes"...

    Anyone got any b_lls?

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    1. The City is going to put it back on the April 2014 ballot. They're pretending that the overwhelming defeat the UUT extension received last April either didn't happen or wasn't legitimate. That is where we make our stand. Beat it again and they are out of time.

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    2. 11:00 AM, if you feel so strongly about it, organize it! Make it happen.

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    3. I would like to see 11:00 in Kersting Court with a sign and a petition. Once that happens I will take him seriously.

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

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    1. Look, I sense your frustration, but we live in California....a failed economy and a crazy population that suffers from moral leprosy.
      People are leaving this state by the thousands every year.
      The people who control California are INSANE...they keep doing the same stupid things over and over and over that don't work and worse are destroying business and our quality of life.
      The current Sierra Madre city council majority are no different from the lunatics up in Sacramento.....they are one of more of the following:
      1. STUPID
      2. GREEDY
      3. CRIMINALS
      4. GREENIES
      5. SOCIAL JUSTICE MORONS
      6. SOCIALISTS/MARXISTS

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    2. I'm in agreement with that list for 1, 2, and 3.
      If we could elect politicians who are not stupid, greedy and criminal, it wouldn't matter so much whether they were politically one way or the other. Honest, smart and in balance with give and take gets my vote.

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  10. The ICE just arrested 57 pedofiles. Maybe Bob Matheson is part of the round up. John Crawford should put together some research on this. Just saw it on Yahoo.

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    1. I saw that. Daily News has an article up as well. The people who were arrested are either out of state or international. Only 2 in CA. Who knows, maybe Matheson is snitching on these guys.

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    2. 12:10 Why don't YOU do the research and share it with everyone? Join the research team in 2013. Go Tattlers!!!

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    3. Robert W Matheson as an informant would explain why he's been treated so kindly by the Sierra Madre Police and civic leaders!
      Two sides to every story, indeed.

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    4. The Kilt a squealer? How far has our brave Scot fallen? Does he dream of redemption? Forgiveness?

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    5. Maybe he dreams of staying out of jail where his kind is not treated with much consideration.....and where access to the innocent is severely curtailed.

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    6. In prison at the very bottom of the social pecking order are the pedophiles. Having done time in Canada our Mr. Matheson must be very aware of that.

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  11. The now defunct CRA, California Redevelopment Agency was much like the current sgvCOG in all of it's illegal ways and means activity.

    Besides brown act violations, money laundrying and lying to and cheating local residents out of there day in court to resolve actions taken by members of the RDA.

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  12. I'm really tired of John Buchanan.

    He doesn't care one bit about our city - he moved in here and started his SoCalEdison game plan of joining high profile civic organizations, touting that he was an "attorney" when in fact he was just a lawyer in their human resources dept but was really a marketing rep for SoCal Edison who is given all the free time he wants as long as he does SoCal Edison's bidding at our expense.

    He's one icky con artist.

    What a waste of a law degree.

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    1. Buchanan spent 8 years on the City Council and despite his claims of being a friend to development nothing ever got built. Even One Carter, which was supposed to be a housing development for McMansion lovers, still hasn't seen a single house built after all those years.

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    2. Don't underestimate Buchy. He's no slouch at politicking and he did take over the Big Daddy role for the opposition.

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    3. I remember well the night the shameful Gang o'4 spent all that money, and the weak rationalizations they used to justify it. On the other hand, the whole CRA hustle was a lie from the beginning. Sierra Madre had no blight and should never have been in the program at all, like plenty of other cities.

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    4. This is just ghastly. How could they have been that stupid?

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  13. but Mayor Green John Jeans said everything would be OK.

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    1. Actually Buchanan had a revealing slip of the tongue on one of the CRA "we really need this and we are really honest" wastes of money. Can't remember which item (his voice is mercifully blurred and indistinct in memory) but he made the point that "This one really qualifies."

      What does that say about the others?

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    2. At the time Buchanan and his bobble heads believed that the League of California Cities was leading a fight to save the CRA and win. Johnny B was very confident and based his assumptions on the mighty League pulling everyone through. They failed, and now we have to pay the penalty.

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    3. Another Buchanan failure. How many have there been?

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  14. When do the condictions of One Carter revert back to the city? anyone remember the safe guards? Trolls planning to buld on the east side of Montecito in the future; how about the west side? Heritage Housing could not convince the neighbor on the east to sell her property; so no tearing down of the old church for now. How sad that Doyle allowed the teenagers of town access to that structure, while he ok'ed the YAC eyesore to be built. The Kodiak toilets, was that a two year contract that Nancy fought so hard for? or is that a permanate fixture hidding behind city hall? No UUT extensions.

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    1. Beating City Hall's UUT Extension Redo Vote in 2014 will be a tremendous victory for the people of Sierra Madre.

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  15. Patch has an article up on Sierra Madre's Award winning Rose Parade float. Unfortunately the picture they used is of the Taiwan float.

    They should just pull the plug on that site.

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    1. Oh that's lovely.
      Very AOL hyper local.

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    2. I just looked at the article. The photo seems to have kites and a young woman. Exactly what I saw watching the parade. Are you sure?

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    3. Whoever monitors that site may have read the comments that pointed out the error, and corrected it.

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  16. BURBANK (CBSLA.com) — Burbank police officers say they pulled over a driver, and registered sex offender, for not wearing his seat belt and found child porn and young girls clothing in his vehicle.

    Donald Cowan had been driving in the 1900 block of North Ontario Street, near an elementary school, shortly before 3 p.m. Wednesday, the Burbank Police Department reported.



    Upon learning the 69-year-old was a registered sex offender, the officers searched Cowan’s 2000 gold Toyota Camry and allegedly found young girls clothing in the trunk. Further investigation revealed Cowan was in possession of pornographic pictures of young girls, police said.

    The Moreno Valley resident was arrested for allegedly possessing child porn. His bail was set at $380,000.

    His arraignment was scheduled for Friday in Burbank Superior Court.

    Cowan is described as white, with short brown hair and blue eyes, around 5 feet 4 inches tall and approximately 115 pounds. When he was arrested he was wearing a denim long-sleeved shirt and jeans.

    Investigators ask that anyone who recognizes the suspect’s vehicle or has come in contact with Cowan to call Detective Lamoureaux at (818) 238-3246.

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