Wednesday, April 20, 2016

District Voting, Police Contract, Medical Marijuana And More

OK... this is going to be a long one, but no complaining.  It was a big night at the Costa Mesa City Council - and it even ended earlier than most expected.

For the first time in my memory folks actually spoke during Public Comments prior to the council adjourning to the 5th Floor bunker for the Closed Session.  For members of the public - Mary Spadoni, Beth Refakes, Anna Vrska and Flo Martin addressed Item #3, the apparent land swap between Vanguard University and The City of Costa Mesa involving our Civic Center Park.  I say "apparent" because nobody's talking about it - even after the four women spoke and Spadoni asked some very pointed questions, like who initiated it?; What's the purpose?; will money change hands?; what about the deed restrictions?, and more.  The council decamped to the 5th floor and, when they returned, there was no "report out" by the City Attorney - so we're still in the dark.
Before we get down to the details, a couple observations about this meeting.  First, Mayor Steve Mensinger demonstrated - maybe that's the wrong term - that he cannot control a meeting without pounding his gavel and calling out individuals by name, regardless how inappropriate it is.  And, his pal, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer seems to find it necessary to whine about what sacrifices he makes to "serve the community".  He cited his 4 years on the Planning Commission and "8 years on the City Council".  Well, wishful thinking, Jimbo.  You have not made those 8 years yet - you've still got more than two years left as a lame duck - a term that perfectly fits you.
Early on in the meeting - as Public Comments wound down and Mensinger agreed to trail Councilmember comments until the end to make space for the public comments before Public Hearings, he found it necessary to pound that gavel and call for a time-out because there had been clapping for a speaker.  He and Righeimer left the room and folks began to mingle, chatting.  Katrina Foley, Sandra Genis and Gary Monahan remained in the room and, since they had a quorum, decided to go ahead with THEIR comments, so Monahan called the meeting back to order.  When the mayor and his pal straggled back Righeimer refused to trail his comments - took a moment of "personal privilege" and launched into a tirade about how poorly he had been treated by speakers and whined about his sacrifices - again.  He then said, "The normal person who comes to this meeting is not a normal person."  He launched into a screed about how they are old and don't have anything else to do, unlike "normal people" who have jobs and families.  Again, he's termed out, so he doesn't have to worry about losing votes.  I thought his timing was curious since there was a gaggle of CMPSrs in the audience - it looked like most of the payroll was represented, including the High Priestess, Julie Mercurio.  Yep, Righeimer started out with a low water mark and kept on trying to find a way to sink back to that level all night.  He's obviously stayed too long at the dance.  Perhaps he should resign so he can spend time making money and enjoying his family.

Back to the meeting...
After Mensinger did another ham-handed presentation to Debbie Nichols, recognizing April as the Month of the Military Child, the meeting turned to Public Comments.  Eighteen (18) people spoke on a variety of issues.
Two speakers, David Twiss and Sheryl Hoffman, spoke about their concerns for aerial spraying by the Orange County Vector Control District, and expressed hope that our representative - Genis - would look into it.
Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce's Kyle Woolsely complained about Smart Growth Initiative in vague terms.
CMPSer Julie Fowler, who apparently has been a Westside homeowner since 1997, gave us a history about how terrible it was to live there until the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem took office, and regaled us with how nice and safe it is now.  Funny, I guess she doesn't read the newspapers.  Anyhow, she lavished praise on them - this is how it's going to be until the election.  I expect each meeting will have a designated fanny-smoocher from the CMPS to praise the power elite - no matter that the city is much less safe as a direct result of their actions.

Ralph Taboada, a member of the Pension Committee, chairman of the Bike Committee and regular attendee of the Finance Committee spoke of State Senator John Moolach's concern about governmental debt and expressed his own concern that it appears the City will place on the ballot bonds that will amount to over $50 million in debt.
Beth Refakes complained that the reverse side of the new monument sign at the terminous of the 55 Freeway is unreadable when leaving that part of town.  She also wondered if the city is doing anything to help find a new home for the Costa Mesa Playhouse, observed about dead pine trees in the median near the 405 Freeway and on 18th Street and hoped we would be moving forward with the rebuilding of Fire Station #1.
(This is a good spot to stop and note that a half-dozen off-duty Costa Mesa firefighters were sitting in the back row of the auditorium and stayed through the CMPA contract issue.)

The ever-entertaining Terry Koken sang a little ditty for the council.

Greg Thunnel provided instruction on the value of CalPERS benefits to the entire state, citing specific statistics regarding jobs directly attributable to that organization and money being spent by recipients of the benefits.  Mensinger mocked him as he stepped away from the podium.  What a classy guy.

Kathy Esfahani, representing the Costa Mesa Affordable Housing Coalition, reminded the council that just because a Bond may be on the ballot doesn't mean they should stop looking for options.  It takes a 2/3 vote to pass a bond, so it's certainly no slam-dunk.  She cited that, if all the "problem motels" were shuttered to make way for high density housing without an affordable element it would mean a loss of nearly 800 de facto affordable housing units.  She said she can't address the details of the bond because nobody knows what they are.
Chuck Perry stepped up and spoke up with his smiley face, praising the council for their wonderful work.

Wendy Leece spoke about Irvine and Huntington Beach parks, then cited the Fairview Park Preservation Alliance petition that's being circulated and showed a photograph by Ron Gomez of a sunset over the park and encouraged the council and others to sign the petition.

Mary Spadoni reminded Fowler about Crime on the Eastside - citing that there's plenty to go around, mentioning two stabbings on the Eastside this past week.  She then addressed the Solid Landings settlement, calling it a sweet deal for Solid Landings, who - even with the most conservative estimates - will probably rake in more than $10 million before they finally have to shut down the last 18 facilities in 3 years.  She said THEIR negotiator should probably get a bonus because he did such a good job for them.  (Righeimer was our negotiator).

 (At this point Mensinger was persuaded to permit all the speakers to complete their presentations and that the Council Member Comments would be trailed to the end.  It didn't work out that way.)

An unidentified woman spoke about what it means to be an American.
John LaVere spoke again about the inaccessibility of Lions Park due to the locking of the restrooms and fences being erected to deter homeless folks.  He hoped to be included in the Homeless Task Force, but it's been morphed into a semi-secret group within City Hall and apparently doesn't welcome any outsiders - even those with close working knowledge of the issue.

A young man stepped up and asked to have a ticket he received for driving without headlights after dark fixed.  Mensinger referred him to Captain Mark Manley, in the audience for Chief Sharpnack, then made a backhanded remark about the fact that he would talk about bogus traffic tickets - that wasn't his word, but it was his meaning.

Ann Parker also spoke about the  Solid Landings Settlement and thanked Council Candidate John Stephens - in the audience - and Planning Commissioner Stephan Andranian for their legal advice during the lawsuit.  She emphasized what a good deal it is for Solid Landings, who apparently is selling off their real estate at premium prices
Finally, an unidentified man who has spoken before just ripped the council majority for what they're doing to the city.  He used the word "shit" several times in his monologue, which didn't make the council happy.  He also compared their actions to Nazis, which I'm sure didn't make them happy.  When he finished many in the crowd clapped and cheered, causing Mensinger to throw a hissy fit and pound his gavel and called for a break - blaming it on Parker by name.  As Mensinger and Righeimer wandered out of the auditorium Parker took loud, vocal exception to his accusation and threatened to get a lawyer as friends tried to calm her down on the Council Chambers porch.
During her Council Member Comments - while awaiting the return of Mensinger and Righeimer, Foley asked for an update on the feasibility study for Costa Mesa High School.  As Mensinger returned she told him he shouldn't be calling out individuals because his actions just exacerbated the situation.  She also told us that her husband's Costa Mesa High School Golf Team finally defeated Estancia.

The Consent Calendar was passed on a mass vote, 5-0, with only the Warrant pulled for separate discussion at the end of the meeting.

Then Righeimer launched into his tirade, mentioned above.
Genis addressed the concern about the aerial spraying, telling the audience that there are NO plans for aerial spraying over Costa Mesa.  She also addressed the Smart Growth Initiative, mentioning that there had been misinformation spread at their last meeting - that would have been Righeimer.  She mentioned speaking with a Malibu council member about their group home issues.  She also said she was looking for signs that nothing the State does will prevent us from managing the issue locally.
Monahan thanked Righeimer for his tirade, then he observed that the fellow I mentioned above used the word "shit" several times then said this," I don't need to take your crap at a public meeting."  Ironic, huh?  He told the man to come to his bar and use that language and he'd throw his butt out.  Yes sir, we've got a real classy bunch up there on the dais.
Mensinger, during his comments mentioned, among other things, that the Smart Growth Initiative would take the welcome mat out - meaning it would be removed.  Of course, there's no evidence of that "fact".
And, once again, Mensinger forgot to have Hatch speak.  When reminded, Hatch said he had nothing to report - but I think that's not true.  I think he was just intimidated by Mensinger.  See that little blue item in the photo?  Well, that's the award the City received last week for being a Mega Water Saver and it sure looked to me like Hatch was going to tell the public about it.  Either that or he was using it for a paper weight on the dais.
Finally, at about 7:15, they got around to the first Public Hearing - the required second consideration of the proposed labor contract with the Costa Mesa Police Association.  Mensinger and Righeimer left the room.  Assistant CEO Tammy Letourneau, with support by Human Resources Director Lance Nakamoto, made a very brief report and explained that - in response to a previous question about using an actuary to evaluate the contract - a lawyer determined it was not necessary.  The council then deferred further comments until the public spoke.
First up was Tea Party Tom Pollitt, who jumped up and displayed his partisan, fact-free view on the issue.  He called out, by name, each of the council members who would be voting on the issue, citing that the CMPD is the highest paid police department in the county, the state and probably the world.  Yes, sir - the man's ignorance knows no bounds!  He chided Genis for not returning his phone calls since the last meeting.  Genis, near tears, took a point of personal privilege to tell Pollitt that her mother had been in hospice and died during that time, so she didn't have time to call him.  Pollitt is one clueless buffoon.
Next up was his running buddy, Gene Hutchins.  Old Gene has one thing on his mind - unfunded pension liability and, even though the staff has a qualified opinion that the contract will NOT result in an increase in the Pension Liability, he just cannot let it go.  It's truly sad to see him wrestle with that issue.
Mary Spadoni spoke and corrected Pollitt's blatant misstatement of facts, citing actual numbers of other law enforcement agencies.  She reminded us that the CMPD is suffering in recruitment and retention of officers due to the lack of a contract.

Ralph Taboada spoke, referring to the CalPERS staffer that is Costa Mesa's representative and affirmed his view that the contract will not increase the pension liability.  He expressed concern, though, about the size of the increase provided in the contract.

The contract was approved, 3-0.... finally!

Mensinger juggled the agenda, chosing to go to New Business #2, the appointments of individuals to committees, instead of the second public hearing - voting by districts, because the lawyers were not in the room yet, and New Business #1 - Livescanning of committee and commissioners - just because he wanted to.
Three members of the public spoke before the selections were made.  Susan Tuchler, a fairly new resident to Costa Mesa, introduced herself and explained her background and that she was eager to serve the city as she had in a previous city in the past.  Mary Spadoni spoke on behalf of Russell Baldwin, citing his interests and qualifications.  Cindy Brenneman introduced herself and explained why she wished to be appointed to the Bikeways and Walkability Committee.

The following are the appointments by committee:

Bikeways and Walkability Committee (1 year terms)
Russell Baldwin
Maggine Gallagher
Cindy Brenneman
  4-1, with Mensinger voting NO

Cultural Arts Committee (2 year terms)
Jason Komala
Anthony S. Manrique
Chrystal Swope
Charlene Ashendorf (Alt.)

Finance Advisory Committee (5, 2 year terms, 4, 1year terms)
Jeff Arthur (2)
Robert Juneman (2)
Robert Riva (2)
Ralph Taboada (2)
Tom Pollitt (1)
Susan Tuchler (1)
Steve Young (1)
Foley refused to nominate Howard Hull and Jim Fisler and threatened to resign as liaison if the council appointed them.  On a second vote Hull (2) and Fisler (1) were appointed on a 3-2 vote.  Foley and Genis voted NO.  Foley immediately resigned as liaison of that committee.

Historical Preservation Committee ( 2 year terms)
All applicants appointed:
Christopher Garniere
Mary Ellen Goddard
Dave Goodman
Matthew Fletcher
George S. Nakai
Garrett Peterson
Susan Tuchler

Housing and Public Service Grant Committee (3, 2 year terms, 1, 1 year term)
Leah Ersoylu (2)
Phil Morello (2)
Dave Goodman (2)
Rebecca Trahan (1)

Pension Oversight Committee
Lee Ramos (1)
Next up was New Business #4, the consideration of a Medical Marijuana issue to be placed on the November ballot.  Deputy City Attorney Tarquin Preziosi guided the discussion.  The main concern seemed to be that, because there WILL be two competing Medical Marijuana issues on the November ballot, if we don't place one on the ballot that provides a management structure for this "product", we could be saddled with one of the others.  Even if we DO place a Medical Marijuana issue on the ballot it MUST be marketed hard to defeat the other two.  And, the elephant in the room is the possibility/probability of a Recreational Marijuana issue on the statewide ballot.
Gary Monahan's earlier ordinance - that failed to be adopted - forms the foundation of the new effort.  In response to Monahan's inquiry, Preziosi affirmed that any state initiative could make a city measure moot.
Righeimer expressed his view that he felt any Medical Marijuana operations should be restricted to north of the I-405 and West of Harbor Boulevard and that he hoped the state would create something like the ABC for controlling quality of the product.  City Clerk Brenda Green affirmed that the deadline for placement of an issue on the November ballot is August 12, 2016.

Four speakers addressed this issue.  Wendy Leece agreed with Righeimer's ideas, adding that 8 dispensaries are too many.  Some cities have only 1.  Locations near schools must be avoided.
Harold Weitzberg said it's important that the City has an ordinance so we can control the product.  He felt the restriction to north of the I-405 is too restrictive and that each facility needs to be more like a doctor's office and less like a "pot shop".
Susan Iwamoto said she and her husband hope to be one of the vendors.  She suggested creating a special district to manage the product.
Anna Vrska wanted to know who decides who gets to be an operator.

During the subsequent discussion Monahan said it should be treated just like any other business, and be restricted to a commercial/industrial zone.  He suggested treating it like a liquor license.
Righeimer, citing the vast amounts of money involved in this business, said, "You are going to see elected officials go to jail."  Well, that's encouraging!  He said he's looking for a plan for an ordinance that gets the most votes.  He also said it should have a tax element included.  He moved to direct staff to bring back an ordinance that includes the following elements:
1 - Facilities to be located north of the I-405 and West of Harbor Boulevard
2 - Canabinoids and manufacturing could "go" right away.
3 - The ordinance should be drafted to accommodate state-mandated changes.
4 - A tax component should be included.

Genis wondered about a Conditional Use Permit, which follows the land.

Monahan offered a substitute motion taking the I-405 component out.  It received no second.  The original item passed, 5-0.
Following the vote Foley asked to see the polling that Righeimer had mentioned, and asked Duarte to follow through to get it to the other council members, since the mention of it was now part of a public record.  One suspects Righeimer just made that up... we'll see.
Next up was Foley's request to have all commissioners and committee members subjected to the LiveScan fingerprint screening.  Early in the discussion it was clear that this proposal was Dead on Arrival.  Righeimer was dead set against it.  Four of the five members of the public that spoke to the issue supported it.  Concerns were expressed about who controls the information, and what would it be used for.  At the end the council majority voted, 3-2, to receive and file the report.

This rolled us around to New Business #3, the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance proposal by Foley.  After a brief staff report by Willa Bowens-Killeen members of the public spoke on the issue.
Wendy Leece said "In the oldend days we used to have study sessions to discuss this kind of an issue, where it could be thoroughly vetted but not voted on.  She said there's a need for affordable housing for Seniors and Veterans, and suggested the Finance Committee could look at it.

Jay Humphrey agreed with Leece and indicated this i
ssue needed more community input and stated that the State has a dearth of affordable housing.
Margaret Mooney cited the existing motel people and wondered where they will go when the motels are torn down.
Foley said she asked for this to come forward last December and it's finally here now.  She said the owner of the Harbor Center suggested this as an option.  She also observed that the staff report began by suggesting that the staff wasn't sure how to proceed because there seemed to not be support by the council.  Foley said it's not the staff's job to try to read the minds of the council.
Righeimer said he didn't have a problem with a study session, but he only wanted it when he could learn something new.  He then went on an elitest rant about how only 1% of the country's population lives in Orange County - everyone else lives somewhere else.  He condescendingly talked of waiving a magic wand to produce affordable housing.  He said he's completely against this idea.
UH, HUH...
Mensinger finally participated in a discussion and told us of a city with which he was familiar - he'd worked with the city - who HAD an inclusionary ordinance and it added $29,000 to the price of every house.
After some spirited conversation in which Foley reminded Righeimer that a study session is "not about you", but is an opportunity to gather and share information to help make decisions.  Monahan moved to receive and file the report, which passed on a 4-1 vote, with Genis voting NO.
At 9:15 we began hearing about the Voting by Districts issue.  Former City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow made the presentation, joined by David Ely, a consultant who has experience in facilitating the drawing of voter district maps.  They defined the process.  The following slides give you a sense of this process, which involves many meetings with the community to attempt to draw accurate maps of voting districts.
Be clear here - we have NO choice but to do this!  As part of the settlement with the lawyer that threatened to sue the City  we MUST create voter districts and we MUST place it before the electorate on the November ballott.  And, we MUST do a good job of marketing the plan because if the item fails at the ballot box it's probable a judge will impose districts upon us.
This issue revolves around the presumption that the Latino populace of our city is not being properly represented, hence the need to vote by districts so they can have a chance to "vote for one of their own."  There is NO proof that this is actually happening, but we're still saddled with the responsibility to go through this process or fight it in court.  Few cities ever win this kind of suit.
During Public Comments a couple young Latino men spoke to the issue.  Oswaldo Farias told us that the Latino community historically doesn't trust the elected leaders because of Allan Mansoor.  He said there must be significant outreach - not just flyers placed in the locations of organizations like MIKA, SOY and others.  He said we need to meet in homes.  Foley suggested schools.

Mary Spadoni suggested this is a HUGE issue because it affects every single one of us, and that litigation is guaranteed if it fails to pass.

Jay Humphrey said it should be done "the right way".
 John LeVere echoed Jay's thoughts.
Luis Bravo, a Costa Mesa High School graduate, echoed Farias' comments above
Righeimer said he'll be termed out and "I'm for whoever wants to run for office, but just know what you're asking for."  He then, again, went into a little "woe is me" rant about the time it takes to be on the council.  At one point he said, "I think everyone of us up here don't like to be told what to do."  Wow!  What a revelation!  Jim Righeimer doesn't like to be told what to do!  I'd have never guessed!
At 10:00 the council - minus Monahan who had stepped out for a minute - voted 4-0 to move forward with the plan.  This is going to be a whirlwind event because of the need to place it on the ballot.  May and June will be a blur of meetings all over town and reports back on those meetings.  It ain't gonna be purty!
Finally, New Business #5, the funding of Newport Harbor High School and the increased funding for both Estancia and Costa Mesa High Schools was discussed.  It took all of 10 minutes and the upshot was that the council voted to INCREASE the funding of all three schools to $75,000, some of which will be spread over the next fiscal year.
The last item on the agenda was the Warrant, pulled from the Consent Calendar by Anna Vrska to observe that not enough information is provided on the legal costs, which routinely just show a lump amount with no detail on how it was spent.  The council passed the Warrant, 5-0 and Mensinger adjourned the meeting at 10:12 p.m.

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Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

How terrible that affordable housing might increase the price of new housing! The cost of new housing should only include hefty profits for the developer and a nice commission for the real estate agent.

The developer often creates a separate LLC for each project, which enables him to rake in the profits while minimizing the risk. After all, if the project doesn't make money, he can declare bankruptcy after paying himself a big salary. Now don't you all go out and try this yourself!

4/20/2016 11:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

We believe that a lot of the little Dicktator's unhappiness and agitation is due to his buddy Scott Baugh trying to take Rohrabacher's seatin Congress. This means one of three things will happen: It will stay as is, go to Scotty, or go to a Democratic challenger.

With Harper being firmly entrenched as Assemblyman, this means nothing new for Jimbo, just more builder and developer bootlicking in his forseeable future.

4/20/2016 02:01:00 PM  
Anonymous zennymoon said...

Last night's meeting looked like a rerun of Jerry Springer. The mayor and by mayor I mean Mensinger not Righeimer, could not keep order, could not move the meeting on, was really lacking leadership. The districting discussion was laced with anti Latino references from the Rigranter. I was amazed at a couple of speakers on the issue were passionate about the districting and their Westside paticipation. Let the 2016 election begin...barbs flying, lies flowing like wine....stand by to stand by. This is not the year to remain passive. And as Mensinger said "the people here are not normal" (council attendees), what a lovely sentiment toward a group of dedicated residents.

4/20/2016 02:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Last night's meeting was a total embarrassment. Righeimer made two comments that I considered to be highly racist while discussing the districting. This man should not be on the counsel. He should not be anywhere near government. I am sickened that there are people in town that share his views and vote for him.

Its sickening to hear Righeimer rant about how much he is sacrificing to be a councilman. He could quite at any time, and no one would object. He's so abused that he had to build himself a mansion to quell his stress. Yeah, developers don't make much money, do they Rig? Then can you explain how the new McMansion with 5 car subterranean garage is being paid for?

Good for Foley resigning the liaison position on the committee that now included Howard Hull. So rather than have him Live Scan like everyone else, they eliminate the requirement for his benefit. Always looking out for their buddies, right? Makes one wonder, doesn't it?

4/20/2016 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

As always, the meeting was a depressing display of incompetence stomping on intelligence.

November can't come soon enough. The best thing about district elections is that it would guarantee we would never again have Righeimer and Mensinger together on the dais.

One of the most depressing things about the meetings is the imposition of total silence on everyone who doesn't have the floor. When there was scattered applause for about 5 seconds, Mensinger threw a hissy fit. What a tinpot dictator!

4/20/2016 08:15:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Like most other wannabe rulers, Riggy needs power and attention like the rest of us need air and water. The Newport bosses have decreed that there's no "promotion" in store for him after his council term ends. His abrasive personality and whiny voice have alienated too many of the party faithful and donors over the last five years.

So what we see today is the 4 year old who never got enough attention from Mommy and Daddy acting out by throwing tantrums at every meeting. Minorities, public safety personnel, and even other Republican leaders will be scapegoated by little Jimmy. It will worsen as his tenure continues winding down.

4/20/2016 09:28:00 PM  
Blogger OC Public Square said...

So much hubris! If you can't afford to live here then move. No, he should move. People at council meetings aren't normal? Hes not normal. That's because the rest of the people are deceived and lulled into thinking all is well and just let him ruin our city. He doesnt need a study session about affordable housing. Right. He knows it all and we're a bunch of dummies. We need a new majority!Soon!

4/20/2016 10:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Heart for Costa Mesa said...

Geoff, Thank you for the commentary, If it weren't for you we stay-at-homes wouldn't know that Gary, Katina and Sandy just kept on keeping on after Mensinger had one of his little fits and stomped off with Righeimer to "punish" the unruly crowd. So funny! Ol' Gary can be a right cutie sometimes.

4/21/2016 01:36:00 AM  
Anonymous davidonlorenzo said...

Why is the city installing gates at the entryways around the baseball fields at Tewinkle Park? Is this the new holding cell for unruly council meeting attendees?

4/21/2016 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Muffin Top Bob said...

Gary must have bought and taken some tough guy pills, because he really was playing the tough guy bar owner the other night. What a joke this guy is.

4/21/2016 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

No doubt Monahan felt the slap when his his substituted motion did not get a second, and his ability to sell/manufacture weed south of the 405, went south with the vote. He got up and walked out of the meeting, pissed. Did he really believe that Jim and Steve were going to vote so he could limp in with his property. Fitzzy probably knows for sure he has lost in every way possible now. I would speculate that Monahan voting for the Islamist group a few weeks back, and to allow the train set another long use, sealed his fate. Dana will probably move his office from over the peephole now. I speculate that Princess Pinocchio will have an herb garden growing soon now that the vote is in for north of the 405...

4/21/2016 08:33:00 PM  

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