Wednesday, April 30, 2014

ELECTION?

Word coming down from Queen's Park that an election may be called as soon as tomorrow, May 1. (Oops! Election will be called; NDP does not support Liberal Budget. Stay tuned.)

What do you think this will mean for Fort Erie if anything?

BREAKING NEWS:

Finally, embattled Toronto mayor Rob Ford will be going to rehab for "substance abuse."  Story HERE. If he comes through this issue, he should have no trouble getting re-elected. Everyone loves a tale of redemption.

Correction: On further examination of the claims made from the latest round of audios/videos, it appears that Rob Ford is finished. Put a fork in him; he's done. If he does survive rehab, his alleged remarks about his wife and a mayoral challenger will finish him. INHO, there is no way he can overcome this in just a few months. 

Update:  Ford took a 30 Day leave. If he thinks he can overcome his demons in a month, he is even more delusional than I thought. He is such a fame whore that he'll probably make a TV series out of his rehab. If there are no consequences from his addiction, instead he gains more fame and attention, he will never recover. He will die or cause the deaths of others. Just observe the pattern in other addicts.

For the good of the people of Toronto and Canada as well, Ford should resign and go quietly off to do the hard work of healing his life and his family.  But, I don't think he will. He is being enabled by his "Ford Nation" supporters. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

TO THE FUTURE

It's all gone now, except for the cement pad and a portion of wall. Time to start planning for the future and how the whole property can be beautified and made user friendly.

It's what many of us wanted for a long time. Not the demo of the snack bar, but the sign that this property is back in the hands of the people and not up for grabs to a developer.

We can only hope that the property is no longer in jeopardy of being taken over by a high rise developer. It is the last piece of good public beachfront property in Crystal Beach. The Town of Fort Erie almost made the biggest mistake in its history. Put a fork in it; it's done.

The struggle to retain the beachfront property for the people has cost a lot of people in this town dearly. They were only trying to do the right thing but they attracted all kinds of trouble for their efforts: compliance audits, lawsuits, harassment and a silly blog that is written by puerile twelve-year-olds.

LOOKING FORWARD TO THE MUNICIPAL ELECTION

Well, doesn't Ms. Kett get her well-used nose out of joint when questioned about the upcoming election procedure?  Hey, the guys were just trying to make sure that the integrity of the ballots is maintained from the voter to the tally. In the past, certain events have raised questions about that.  Always good to let the people who run the election that "we have our eyes on you."  No need to get sniffy about it. Odd she doesn't do what many communities do: swap with another community to run their election while someone from another community runs our election. 

Kudos to the people on Buffalo Road and the councillors who supported their effort to have the proposed sidewalks changed from east to west thus saving money for the taxpayers.


REGARDING THE INTEGRITY COMMISSIONER'S DECISION:

Let's go to the Way Back Machine HERE.  

It's from 2008. Please read it carefully. This was the dysfunctional council of the day.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S: THE END


Kind of fitting that the last thing you see here that is recognizable is the sign for "Weekend at Bernie's" the last incarnation/name for the Bay Beach Snack Bar. This picture was taken earlier this morning as the victim of Engineered Blight was razed. 

It is indeed fitting that this image has the sign in place when you consider that the snack bar's namesake, Bernie Polino is awaiting trial on the serious charge of cheese smuggling along with his "business partner" Scott Heron of the NRP.  He wrestled the contract away from long-term snack bar operator Charlie of Charlie Boy's with the help of then councillor Martha Lockwood who later went on to install her then girlfriend in the building under Bernie's license to operate a tee shirt shop. Nice little conflict of interest there.

Now, when are they going to get rid of the Molinaro Sales Trailer?  I'm sure some want to wait until after the October elections as they're hoping for a new council which will OK the high rise on our public beachfront land.

They just don't get it, do they?

Friday, April 18, 2014

WILL SOMEONE EXPLAIN THIS TO ME?

The headline reads:

Fort Erie on Verge of Major Industrial Land Purchase

Huh? Why is the Town of Fort Erie purchasing a parcel of land that belongs to foreign-based race track owner Nordic El-Ad? It is unused industrial land near the race track. Although it has been described as not being part of the new deal to keep the horse track going for at least another year, it makes one wonder why the town is purchasing the land.

Of course, the whole deal is cloaked in secrecy by closed meetings with the GM of Fort Erie's Economic and Tourism Development Corporation and head of the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, Jim Thibert.  The latest closed session was concluded on Monday, April 14, 2014, with council directing staff to bring forward a by-law for purchase of the property.

Again, it is being stressed that the purchase of the property from El-Ad "does not concern the 117 year-old racing facilities or the stables which are currently leased from Nordic by the FELRC." (From the Niagara This Week article)

I have to give props to James Culic for his coverage of the story. He makes a point to draw the connections between Thibert, Mayor Martin and David Kompson, a local developer who is representing the still un-named party who is rumoured to be interested in purchasing the race track. Seems that Kompson is a good friend of the two as well as a campaign donor to Martin's 2010 election campaign. I believe that these connections may play a big role in the town's desire to purchase the property. As warned by Ward 5 Councillor Don Lubberts, such actions can be interpreted as bonusing.



Here is what has been said about bonusing:

"This restriction is set out in section 106 of the Municipal Act and states:Despite any Act, a municipality shall not assist directly or indirectly any manufacturing business or other industrial or commercial enterprise through the granting of bonuses for that purpose.Section 106(2) defines the specific activities that municipalities may not conduct. The prohibited activities include:(a) Giving or lending any property of the municipality, including money;(b) Guaranteeing borrowing;(c) Leasing or selling any property of the municipality at below fair market value; or(d) Giving a total or partial exemption from any levy, charge or fee.The restriction on municipal bonusing was implemented in 1962. The prohibition on the ability of municipalities to grant bonuses to industrial or commercial enterprises was caused by municipalities placing themselves in dire financial circumstances resulting from excessive assistance and tax relief to certain companies. It is reasonable to state that as a general rule the public is opposed to municipal bonuses for private businesses. Public opinion is that municipal spending of taxpayer dollars should be utilized towards public services and improvements to the municipality and should not be used to bonus private interests."


So I will ask again: What is going on here? Why is the cash-strapped town that just gave $500,000. to the race track to keep it afloat for another year, now buying a piece of industrial property from the race track owner?


And what benefit will this purchase be for the taxpayers of Fort Erie?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

THE SAGA OF PORT PLACE CONTINUES

Just before the Bay Beach Issue, there was a planned development for Port Dalhousie that was causing angst within the lakefront tourist village that is now part of St. Catharines. The similarities between the Port Place development and the multiple-name project on public waterfront land in Crystal Beach. 

Opponents to the Port Dalhousie project went through the same process that was followed in the Bay Beach situation: OMB, citizen activism and a campaign to vote out those who supported the plan. Five years have passed since the OMB gave approval to the original developer to build a high rise containing a hotel, condos, a theatre and commercial businesses on the property where the Welland Canal meets lake Ontario. 

Port Dalhousie was once a thriving tourist location and party town. Although there were challenges surrounding the popular bar area, the other businesses in town enjoyed a steady trade of locals and tourists almost year 'round. The councillors who voted to allow the Port Place development to proceed either did not take the current business situation in to account or they were enthralled with the presentation by the developer who promised great things for the community when the project was completed. (Campaign donations by the developer may have helped as well.)

In the Comments section, Andrew Watts said it quite succinctly


"In Niagara Region the 'developer' is king!
Incompetent regional and municipal governments continue to listen to their staff, unelected planners and finance 'experts', who only want to build because they believe if you do 'they(and lots of additional taxes) will come'.
The developer(s)just sit back and waits to be 'bribed'...!!! Anyone listen to the increasing demands for breaks on development fees, breaks on property taxes, breaks on energy bills? All are part of the increasing 'corporate welfare' that politicians continue to approve. 
Any development application used to involve a 'business plan' to show a profit for the builder after all other application and development costs, after the construction is completed, after the properties are sold and including all other costs along the way....!!!!
Nowadays they just throw away the business plan knowing incompetent politicians, advised by incompetent unelected staff, will push badly thought out projects in order to show they know what they are doing and maybe even pick up a couple of votes in the process............... :-( :-( :-(
If a developer runs out of cash or sees his 'profit' declining he is quite likely to flip his share and walk away............. :-)
Follow the money, much of which is our tax dollars, and research the background to your 'local' developers, many of whom probably have ties to Toronto 'investors' and Bay Street law firms.............
Two that spring to mind are Lakewood Properties in Wainfleet and the PD Tower project in PD.
A few years back Lakewood ran into a cash problem and were bailed out by one of the PD developers. That same developer no longer has any financial interest in either PD or Lakewood.... :-) :-) :-)
And coincidentally, what is the address of Lakewood Properties now? I think you will find it is not only in PD but not a million miles away from the address of the original PD Tower project company?
Surprise! Surprise!
Don't just blame Andy P. All of our politicians continue to claim they are experts on everything and vote for a whole host of things they really know little if anything about!
But when you have the promise of big tax bucks, when you have unelected staff who work on a daily basis with those developers with the big ideas it doesn't take much to approve the wrong projects!!!!
And don't forget these planners put all their ducks in a row first. They get approval or at least no objections from the necessary provincial and regional agencies, plus from another agency we all hear so much about, the NPCA...!!!! :-)
Don't just blame a politician because he doesn't vote the way you do!
Few if any approvals are ever by just a single politician! And often time the majority do so because their staff have advised them they can't vote against................ :-)
Blame you elected Councilors for abdicating their responsibilities as the sole Planning Authority in their municipality!
The elected councilors should be the first ones to see any applications, particularly large projects, for them to first assess if they may be contentious!
Once the planners get hold of an application and go through the entire process before presenting them for approval it is far too late!"
Andrew Watts:

Couldn't have said it better myself. (I probably have. Just substitute Bay Beach for Port Dalhousie.)

TRACK UPDATE:  According to a published report, the Year of the Horse festivities at the Fort Erie Race Track have been put out to pasture. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

ANOTHER LOOK AT THE LEGAL MARIJUANA GROW-OP ON JARVIS STREET

UPDATE: While Fort Erie Council listened but did nothing about residents' concerns over a marijuana grow-op in a former pharmaceutical plant on Jarvis Street, the town of Port Colborne passed a by-law that such facilities must be 150 meters set-back from residences. It also passed requirements for screening to make such facilities less visible.  It was the best that the town council could do since the licensing and regulations for legal pot growing are controlled federally by Health Canada. Port Colborne joins a number of other communities that have issues with marijuana grow-ops' locations near residential areas and schools. So far, the federal government has been vague about such problems. From the article:

 “You hear both sides, try to be fair, try to strike a balance  "between concerned residents and new business," said Port Colborne mayor Vance Badaway. he said,  "but that's made difficult when an issue is 'dumped' in the lap of municipalities that are given little to no control by the federal government."

Fred Braken presented the clerk with a petition signed by over forty residents in the Jarvis Street area where the planned grow-op will be located, but he failed to make his point clearly in his delegation because of his confrontational attitude and annoying snorting noises. Too bad that there isn't a more articulate and reasonable person willing to plead the case for the neighbours of the plant site.

FURTHER UPDATE: An additional planning meeting will be held for the public in early May regarding the property on Jarvis Street. Council did take notice. It appears that the petition handed in by Fred Brasken at council on Monday, April 14 was taken seriously. From The Times article:

Brady said council required more clarification on this guideline and asked staff to have 
another look it before a bylaw was passed to allow the medical marijuana facility to 
move forward. The planning director also said the Town has given proper public notice 
to make residents aware of the development, as well as holding an open house and 
public meeting.There will be another public meeting, likely in May, to clear up any 
concerns the public may have, although a second meeting isn't required under the 
planning act, said Brady.

(Editor's Note: The original public meeting that was held with the hope that no one 
would attend. Happens a lot when a planner wants to push something through that 
might not pass the smell test.)



Sunday: 

I have to admit that I was put off by the attitude of one Fred Braken who spoke in front of town council last month regarding the potential legal marijuana (Yeah, that's how I spell it; get over it) grow-op in the former pharmaceutical manufacturing plant on Jarvis Street. He railed on that the plant/grow-op was going to be near residences and children and devalue the neighbourhood. 

He lost the argument right there with me because the plant was already in place for years. It is about to be re-purposed/rezoned to allow a medical marijuana grow operation. He was right however that the neighbourhood community was not given adequate notice nor consulted on the proposed site for the operation.

Which is what some residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake are upset about. There is already one such greenhouse on Lakeshore Road in NOTL which has nearby residents begging for the local town council to impose restraints on the location of these medical marijuana grow-ops.

"At the committee-of-the-whole Monday, Carone asked councillors to enact legislation to limit the number of grow-ops allowed and prevent them from locating within 1,000 meters of a residential area, a school, a park or a church. He also suggested that the operations be designated as a pharmaceutical use, not agricultural, so they would only be permitted in industrial zones." (St. Catharines Standard April 9, 2014)

Residents also remarked about the smell of "vegetative marijuana" in the neighbourhood on warm days. In a recent radio interview, Councillor Martin Mazza remarked that chain-link fences, security cameras and barbed wire makes the greenhouse look more like the Thorold Detention Centre.

Further from the article: 


Lord Mayor Dave Eke sent a letter to Health Minister Rona Ambrose Monday expressing the town’s concern about the federal license review process for grow-op applications.
“Our community is experiencing a great deal of angst with this one site in particular,” he wrote, “ which could have been effectively addressed much sooner in the process if our community had first been allowed to express its support or concerns about such a facility.”
“We were not given that opportunity through the current process.”
So too, it seems that the residents in the lower end of Jarvis Street area were not given the opportunity to let their feelings be known on the planned grow-op in the former Pharma plant.
It also seems that residents have to constantly be aware of what their government is doing because these kind of things happen with alarming frequency. (I could offer the Bay Beach situation as an example of a local government trying to push something through that was anathema to the people, but I won't. LOL)

So at Monday, April 14's Regular Council Meeting the passage of By-law No. 7-2014 will be discussed with a presentation by Fred Braken. If he were smart, he would approach the problem citing the similarity in NOTL and how a smelly, barbed wire encased security enhanced grow op will impact the entire neighbourhood, not just himself. He would be wise to contact the people mentioned in the NOTL article for information and tips on how best to respond to this problem. Steady and carefully as a responsible citizen might do. It takes holding the local council members' feet to the fire and presenting a well-prepared and reasoned argument before the council and the public. It will be televised. 

And be prepared to fight this for a good, long time. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Got to thinking about past elections and the election of 2006 came to mind. Wayne Redekop decided to not seek re-election so the mayor's chain was up for grabs.

Doug Martin threw his hat in the ring, supported by business people and well-established fellow Conservatives. We all know how that turned out.

John Papadakis registered for the mayoral election. He had served as a councillor in East York (Toronto) in the early 1990s and had been a permanent resident of Fort Erie for several years.

Tom Lewis, elected to Ward 5 in 2003 when he was only nineteen, decided to try to set a record for being the youngest mayor in the province, perhaps all of Canada.

There was a spirited give-and-take and it seemed like Martin might fall, but, at the last minute, extra funding and support pushed Martin to victory.

So, where are John and Tom now?

John Papdakis moved back to Toronto to continue his career as a paralegal. He is now running for Toronto councillor in Ward 29 in his old riding in East York.

Tom Lewis has moved to Mississauga and is administrative aide to a Mississauga MPP.

Both have continued their work in the political sphere and both hope to make a difference.

Of course, the victor, Doug Martin went on to make a deadly mistake fostered by former town planner Rino Mostacci to give away the public waterfront property in Bay Beach. In 2010, he came within five votes of being defeated by former Ward 6 Councillor Ann Marie Noyes.

Ann Marie Noyes has continued her work as a physical therapist. She recently won a FOI case where she requested certain documents and information from the Fort Erie EDTC and had been refused by Jim Thibert, the GM of the EDTC. Claims that she already had the information were dismissed and the EDTC was ordered to provide her the information originally requested.

It is rumoured that Wayne Redekop will throw his hat in the ring to run again for mayor of Fort Erie.

Rino Mostacci has taken his lofty dreams to Markham where a controversial arena is on the planning table.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

EXCLUSIVE!

Exclusive to the Strand Blog


A Class Action lawsuit is being considered by a local group of taxpayers.

The revelation that certain participants, supporters and those who assisted in the Conflict of Interest against four councillors are recipients of taxpayer funding in one form or another has prompted a local woman to speak to officials about filing a class action lawsuit for misuse of public tax dollars.

She believes that certain people who funded the lawsuit against the four, by their actions, have violated public trust and should be forced to relinquish all monies received as salaries from the public. This would include those employed by not-for-profit corporations receiving taxpayer assistance whether they're arm's length or not.

When advised of the situation in Fort Erie, a official contacted about the class action possibility, said that a group of taxpayers can file a Class Action Claim for wages that were paid while the person was involved in the lawsuit.  

The names on the list of financiers of the lawsuit is very interesting, but not surprising. So far I have one winner in my bracket. For reference, you might want to see who donated to Doug Martin's 2010 mayoral campaign.  You know, the one he won by five votes.

Background Information:  The recent arrest of former Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau brings attention to a case of fraud and breach of trust that has brought a great deal of attention to the people. The scandal had to do with the misuse of taxpayer money for expenses of three senators. It has to do with the repayment of monies taken for expenses that were not covered or appropriate. It has to do with the fraudulent misuse of taxpayer dollars. You can see the relevance of the scandal to Fort Erie. In coming weeks, revelations that taxpayer money was misused will be coming forward. Stay tuned and stay informed.

Don't believe me? Research it for yourselves. It's all there; just needs to have the common thread highlighted.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

OK, BUT ....

BREAKING NEWS:  New town lawyer admits that it was highly unusual that the town would file for Absolute Title to be paid by the Molinaros. (Translation: our former town lawyer screwed up.)


MONDAY NIGHT: OK, I'm listening to council in committee meeting and the mayor just shut a woman down because she wanted to speak about the Spears Road area. He told her it was off-topic and to bring it up at the regular council meeting of next week.  Shortly thereafter Nick Russell (husband of Mia) to complain about people parking in his lot on Erie Road. WTF? What did that have to do with the zoning changes in another area of town?  Gobsmacking. (Later the woman did bring up her concerns about the high rate of cancer and Parkinson's Disease in a cluster of Spears.)

More to follow

Read the report generated by Rick Brady as to a request from council for some update/plan regarding the future of the Bay Beach Properties.

Something jumped right out at me 

(d) Part 4, being the existing public beach and water lot, remain in Town ownership for continued use as a municipal beach in conjunction with the adjacent Crystal Beach public lands;

(from Bay Beach Special Site Specific Policy Area in Section 4.14.4 of the Town’s Official Plan)

There it is in black and white. Approved in September, 2006 and pushed aside in 2007 when Doug Martin entertained an idea from then town Carpetbagger/Planner Rino Mostacci to sell off the property to "balance the budget." And there began the latest attempt to give over the property to a developer. A similar move to sell off the upland North side properties was quashed by activists who put together a petition and elected a new councillor for Ward 5 Crystal Beach. Then mayor, Wayne Redekop was wise enough to realize that the people did wanted the Bay Beach Properties to remain in public hands. (Yes, that's what is says on all those yellow signs.) So he voted to accept the Official Plan amendment. 

And we thought that would be the end of it. The Bay Beach Properties would remain in public hands.

We did not take into account a high-rise hungry town planner and a malleable new town councillor. And a mayor who thinks he can do what he damned-well pleases. Remember Martin's, "Mind your own f&#king business" said to a regional councillor when he was asked about the controversy at Bay Beach. 

So, Brady has put forth his recommendations and most are quite reasonable. 

Except one:

Land Titles Application

With regards to the alleged north-south road allowance, if the Deputy Director of Land 
Titles were to rule in favor of the objector, the road allowance could be closed by the 
Town if proposed development includes any part of the road allowance. Therefore, this 
part of the LTA objections is not seen as a major restriction to any future development 
of the Bay Beach lands that Council approves.
As indicated in the Background section of this Report, Land Titles Absolute is required 
for Plan of Condominium approval. LTA is not required for other forms of possible future 
development. However, should a decision be rendered by the Deputy Director of Land 
Titles in favor of the objectors claiming ownership of the purported east - west private 
road and overlying easement, any future planned development/enhancements of the 
Bay Beach lands would be significantly restricted and access to the beach could be 
restricted entirely to the eastern edge of the Bay Beach property. For this reason 
consideration should be given to withdrawing the LTA application as it was only 
necessary for Plan of Condominium approval. This would also ensure a Plan of 
Condominium development could not occur in accordance with the existing zoning on 
the site without a new application being made with Council’s authorization, should that 
be Council's desire.

Not so fast, Mr. Brady. There is a case awaiting a verdict from the Land Titles Director. For over a year. Something must be keeping the director from making a decision.

Why not wait it out and see what the decision is?  Could it be that the town bought the property in 2001 without a proper title search? Yes, indeed they did.

OOPS! Another mistake that will cost the town thousands. It already has cost thousands.  This was partially to blame for Heather Salter losing her job. She refused to give information about the title and the possible road allowance running straight through the property to the lake as well as land that used to be a boardwalk running along the sand parallel to the shoreline.  She obstructed certain members of council from vital information that was requested of her because she may have wanted to protect the developer who was hoping to build a twelve story condo on the property. She also copied incorrect information from the developer regarding PINs. The pay-out to Salter may be a direct result of the title discrepancy. To stop and cover it up now would do a disservice to the people who spent thousands of dollars to file their information on the title.

It's Spring. Clean out all the cobwebs and trash regarding the Bay Beach Properties, including its proper title.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

OUR EDTC IS FUELED BY HORSE MANURE!!!

Thanks to a loyal reader for the title of this post. 

UPDATE: Fort Erie Race Track Season to start on May 27 and end on September 30. 37 days of racing brought to you by your provincial tax money. Do the math: close to $6 million, divided by 37 race days. 

Thibert was interviewed this morning on CKTB. Did not mention The Year of the Horse festival. Earlier, an opinion posted by CKTB's Tim Denis contained this:

However, Jim Thibert, CEO of the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, said the announcement of additional funding has still not produced enough cash for the track to host a full season…instead a Readers Digest version of a season that totals about 37 dates.  The number of race dates held at Fort Erie has been steadily declining for years, and took a significant hit last year. After running 80 race dates in 2012, the track dropped to 50 in 2013, and could end up as low as 40 this year so you’ll forgive the people of Fort Erie and the people in the industry, who feel like political footballs, if they call BS on this announcement.

Monday, March 31, at town council, according to Kris DubĂ© from Niagara Bullet

"The municipality was forced to make a decision to approve pitching in $500,000 to support the track."

Don Lubberts called it what it really is: Bonusing. (Had to add that word to my dictionary)


Here is what the Municipal Act of 2001 cites regarding bonusing:

2.1 Section 106 - Municipal Act, 2001

Section 106(1) and (2) of the Municipal Act, 2001 prohibits municipalities from directly or indirectly assisting any manufacturing business or other industrial or commercial enterprise through the granting of bonuses. Prohibited actions include:
  1. Giving or lending money or municipal property
  2. Guaranteeing borrowing
  3. Leasing or selling any municipal property at below fair market value
  4. Giving a total or partial exemption from any levy, charge or fee
Section 106(3) of the Municipal Act, 2001 provides an exception to this bonusing rule for municipalities exercising powers under the provisions of Section 28(6), (7) or (7.2) of the Planning Act or Section 365.1 of the Municipal Act, 2001.

On Monday (03/31/2014) night, Council voted to give $500,000. from its reserve fund to the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium. It would help the FELRC to purchase some industrial property from racetrack owner El-Ad as part of a deal for a new owner to purchase the track. It has also been reported that the money would pay the $400,000. lease cost for the track for the year. This was rammed through council last night on the demand of Jim Thibert, general manager of the Fort Erie Economic Development and Tourism Corporation who also heads up the FELRC.
The property in question has an interesting history. It is currently assessed at $152,000.  Of course this does not add up. More to come on this later.
Don Lubberts did a brave thing by voting against this $500,000. gift to the FELRC. This council has worked hard to keep taxes down and save money. The reserve fund had well over a million due to these efficiencies. Now, because Jim Thibert was able to bully the council into ponying up a half a million, the reserve fund is lessened.
Millions of taxpayer dollars going to save a horse racing track that has been bleeding red ink for decades.
If it were any other industry, it would have closed down long ago.

(Donnie Lubberts does not expect to be invited to the opening day festivities.)


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