A Legislator Pulled into this Mess?

Ah, so the plot thickens.

A reader alerted us to a story in the Seattle PI online about lobbying that Silas Potter did at the State Legislature for more leeway in running business development programs. In the Auditor's work documents, it notes a couple of times that Potter had been told not to go to the Legislature and lobby (but he apparently didn't stop). As well, a former legislator, Velma Veloria, was paid by his office to lobby as well (even though lobbying for the district is strictly limited and must go through Legal and neither person did).

Apparently there was little opposition to the bill (which passed) but:

Larry Stevens of the Mechanical Contractors of Western Washington and National Electrical Contractors Association, testified on March 15, 2007 that he was concerned about a lack of oversight. "There needs to be some parameters around it. This bill...is a little too wide open," he said. "It just throws it open....there are no public works police out there."

Right, nobody but us gadflies.

So perhaps who else seems to need to be questioned in this case? Rep. Sharon Tamiko Santos. According to the story:

The measure was sponsored by Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle. Santos told seattlepi.com on Monday that the legislation evolved from discussions she had over many years about how to increase government contract opportunities for minority-owned businesses.

"This particular approach was , in part, drafted upon a model of success that was brought to me by constituents," she said. "They did point to the Seattle Public Schools as a model of success."

Really? And who might those constituents be? And did she check with anyone on the Board or in upper management to see if this program was really "a model of success"?

Astonishingly, in light of what is now happening, she still says:

Santos said she didn't think the law need to be changed in light of the ongoing criminal investigation into the Seattle Public Schools program. She said local governments should have their own, rigid review process for how public monies are spent. "The state shouldn't micromanage. We expect their (sic) to be tight oversight," she said.

And the fact that there wasn't in this case doesn't tell you anything?

In January she pleaded guilty to negligent driving charges stemming from a July DUI arrest.


peonypower said…
oh this soup is getting steamier and steamier
seattle citizen said…
Start with Our Schools Coalition and work backward to find who knows who and worked with who for what benefit.
Here's the coalition:
African American Parent Community Coalition

African American Men's Group

African American Parent Community Coalition

Alliance for Education

Central Area Motivation Program

(Coalition for Equal Education Rights)

(Community Center for Education Results)

Cheryl Chow, former Seattle School Board President

Councilmember Mike O’Brien

Councilmember Richard Conlin

Councilmember Sally Clark

Councilmember Tim Burgess

East African Community Services

El Centro de la Raza

Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce

Horn of Africa Services

Kevin C. Washington, Chair, Tabor 100 Education Committee

King County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

League of Education Voters

Mona H. Bailey, Retired Seattle Public Schools District Administrator

The New School Foundation

Partnership For Learning

Powerful Schools

Rainier Scholars

Seattle Breakfast Group

Somali Community Services of Seattle

Stand for Children

Technology Access Foundation

Technology Alliance

Urban Enterprise Center

Urban Impact

Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle

Washington Policy Center

( Washington Technology Industry Association)

Youth Ambassadors
seattle citizen said…
From the Our Schools Coalition "Materials" section, their "case study" on how their efforts on influencing the contract negotiations went. This is the OSC history (note - who IS the "Seattle Community Organizers" group named below? I'd bet there are names in THAT group connected to names in Silas' little empire):

A citywide conversation about teacher quality started in earnest in Seattle in the fall of 2009. This was spurred predominantly by
three separate but related efforts:
a) The 2009 legislative session resulted in passage of Race to the Top legislation, which included a multi-tiered evaluation
system for teachers and principals and a lengthening of teacher tenure but omitted such items as teacher performance and
professional development;
b) The Alliance for Education commissioned the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the 2004-2009 and 2009-2010 SPS/SEA collective bargaining agreements. Following publication, a series of public events were held to discuss the findings and recommendations;
c) The Seattle Community Organizers formed to advocate for greater transparency in the bargaining process, further raising
awareness of the issue, particularly among parents. These efforts combined to produce a level of public discourse around the issues of teacher quality and evaluation that had not previously existed. With the contract set to expire in August, 2010, there was a clear opportunity to harness this interest and energy around a specific set of outcomes.

The Alliance for Education led the formation of the coalition in partnership with the League of Education Voters and the Technology
Alliance. These three groups, functioning as an informal steering committee, established the coalition’s basic premise, guiding principles and policy platform:

Premise: A coalition broadly representative of parents, students, local employers and the community at large is
reflective of the District’s constituency and therefore has a legitimate voice in the process (although not a place at the bargaining table)...
From there, coalition build-out began in earnest, ultimately resulting in 35 different groups and individuals formally signing onto the effort."
mirmac1 said…
In case you lost that link to the petition calling for MGJ's dismissal, cut and paste this in your browser.

Joanna said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joanna said…
Sharon's involvement in this just brings back memories of her involvement in ensuring state money for anyone who bought MLK with not a word or care regarding the school closure and assignment process here. In the meantime, the 43rd District representatives touted that no schools in their District closed. Is the message here that she will help sell our schools, divert state money to those who buy them, and support school money going to an organization without vetting their appropriate involvement in education? Where is her caring for the students and families in her District? I guess she wasn't alone. It just seems more personal when every school that was closed was in the 37th.
Observer said…
Holy crap. According to something I just read over in the Seattle Times comments section, Rep. Santos was one of the three legislators that arranged for the hasty $2.4 million dollar grant from the Dept. of Commerce. This grant was used by First AME to purchase the MLK school property with little to no money out of their own pocket. The same church that Fred Stephens was/is a member of.

The other two state reps involved are Pettigrew and Kline. If you want to start digging around campaign contributions, I would start with those three. I would also look at any and all connections to the Department of Commerce as well.

I would also try and discover who specifically decided to close down MLK in the first place, and see if Stephens was involved. Ron English was on the School Use Advisory Committee (SUAC) committee, which put together the RFP for the sale.

Another point to note -- all this went down a year or two after the small business program was created. And Stephens came to SPS with a huge Rolodex if state contacts, given his previous tenure with Gary Locke, the DOL and DSHS. By 2007, he'd have the state contacts, the authority at SPS, and the money to push through the transfer of the 2.5 million dollar MLK property to his own church at nearly no out of pocket cost to them.
wseadawg said…
Sounds like she's as out of touch as Rep Pettigrew sounded on KUOW a couple weeks ago, along with the Stand For Children rep shilling for the RIF/Anti-seniority legislation he sponsored in Olympia on behalf of SFC. Not only did he have no idea what the legislation proposed, but he was clearly the coyote Stand used to smuggle their anti union dope into Olympia with. We live in a time when no legislators hesitate to sponsor any legislation if they think it will garner them support and votes the next time around. I don't know Pettigrew from Adam. But he should be embarrassed at how little he knew about the incredibly damaging legislation he agreed to sponsor. It didn't appear from his inability to answer questions on the radio that he'd even read it.
Anonymous said…
Santos, Pettigrew and Kline, interestingly enough, are behind every corporate reform bill that has been proposed in this legislative session.

I wonder who has been paying for their campaigns.
Anonymous said…
Sorry, but I hate that so many African American's seem to be involved in this scandel.

I am being racist, as a white person, or just noting what seems to be so obvious?

dan dempsey said…
Hey.... Let us look a bit deeper into House Education Committee Chair Sharon Tamiko Santos' recent actions in the 2011 legislative session.

Look HERE.

Washington's possible adoption of the $183+ million dollar CCSS is not receiving a thoughtful discussion. .. Why??

Why? Because that is the way Santos wants it and laws are for others not for Rep. Santos or SPI Randy Dorn.

Rep. Santos needs to now be supporting students in the 37th and the processes of a republic NOT Mr. Dorn's violation of the LAW.
Guichon said…
I read somewhere in those papers that a rep named Hasegawa knew Silas. Is this true? Anyone know?
Observer said…
po3, I think so many African Americans are involved has to do with the crowd that was corrupted this time, not with anything inherent in the politics or skin color. This is hardly the first time a financial scandal involving a group of tight-knit movers and shakers has occurred. Democrats, republicans, blacks, whites, Irish, Italians, Chinese - all groups have experienced their fair share of corruption.

It seems that greed is color blind and gender neutral, and cares little about race, orientation, or national origin, either.
Unknown said…
Hit! Hbr 1328 has Silas Potter written all over it.

Brief Summary of Substitute Bill

Allows a state agency or authorized local government to use the limited public
works process to solicit and award small works roster contracts to certain small
businesses, and to adopt procedures to encourage small businesses to submit
quotations or bids on small works roster contracts.

Allows the alternative procedure for submission of an intent to pay prevailing
wages to be used for projects using the limited public works process.

Allows public entities to retain 50 percent of a public works contract in lieu of a
bond on contracts up to $35,000.

Requires public entities to notify the Department of Revenue of completion of
public works contracts for contracts totaling $35,000 and over.
ConcernedTeacher said…
Just recently a small group of teachers met with Ruth Kagi to voice concerns about the RIF bill. She had initially agreed to sign on as a sponsor because one of the other legislators (she did not name the person) fed her a line about what the bill would cover vs. what it didn't. It turned out she had been given some erroneous information - a fact she discovered with the outcry from the teachers. I'm curious if one of these suspect legislators were also pushing the false information. Additionally, I'm hearing rumors that Tomiko-Santos is among the major backers (if not THE one) behind the HB 1593 - let anyone be a principal bill - and has been preventing discussion on this bill while trying to ram it through. Not verified as of yet, but what a coup - get some more small business people with managerial experience through a Bush principal training program so they can make at least double many teacher salaries and contribute back to their favorite candidate. Just think how much fun would it be to then let those pseudo-instructional leaders evaluate teachers even though none of them have had classroom experience and wouldn't know an anticipatory set (activating background knowledge) from a golf set.
ArchStanton said…
Sorry, but I hate that so many African American's seem to be involved in this scandal.

I hate that so many African-Americans are involved because a few self-serving African-Americans worked the system for their own gain without regard to the long-term damage they were doing to the greater African-American community. How much help can truly deserving minority-owned small businesses expect to recieve after this debacle? Pottergate will hurt most the people it was touted as helping.

I am being racist, as a white person, or just noting what seems to be so obvious?

It is notable that so many of the players are African-American, if only because white-collar crime is usually the purview of European-Americans. What would be racist would be to think that all African-Americans (or all European-Americans) are white-collar criminals. But, it would be wrong to ignore the ethnicity of the players for fear of being labeled a racist - because that kind of fear was a big factor in this mess.
Moose said…
And the plot thickens yet again...the PI is reporting tonight that the Board was kept in the dark by MGJ, Stephens and Kennedy.

Here's the link: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/436264_solar28.html

WV: toxic!
gavroche said…
A possible dot....

Rolland, who benefited from Potter's little business, was the president of CPPS at the time MG-J announced her Capacity Management Plan (2008/09).

CPPS opposed school closures in the past -- but did not oppose them in 2008/09. Why was that?

Some of us found it strange that almost no organizations or community leaders were opposing Goodloe-Johnson's Capacity Management Plan.

That is why ESP Vision was formed, a group of parents and teachers across the District who opposed the Plan. (Remember the online petition that got over 1,700 signatures? http://blog.seattlepi.com/schoolzone/2009/01/02/anti-school-closure-petition-gaining-steam/)

The majority of kids affected by the closures were kids of color.

Why didn't Rolland oppose the closures?

Was it because of the money he got from Potter?

Was it because of the money CPPS once got from the Gates Foundation, which also supports MG-J's brand of Ed Reform (or is it the other way around)?

Or did CPPS always support MGJ-style Ed Reform? The PPS organizations elsewhere in the country are all pretty much pro-reform.

Look at CPPS's weak commentary about the closures: http://www.seattlepi.com/opinion/387559_schoolclose13.html
Closure plan must assure goal of quality neighborhood schools

Look at Rolland's support of Ed Reform -- merit pay, high stakes testing: http://www.cppsofseattle.org/News/Aug09/07-28-09letter.html

Did CPPS leadership get some kind of incentive not to fight MG-J's agenda?

Or did she agree to push an agenda they supported in exchange for their silence on closures?

Maybe Andrew K. can clarify this.
dan dempsey said…
Hey really nice call by "elrobotomuerto"... on the Silas Potter Bill.

Nice call on SHB 1328.

Title: An act relating to small works roster contracting procedures.

Brief Description: Concerning small works roster contracting procedures.

Sponsors: By House Committee on State Government & Tribal Affairs (originally sponsored by Representatives Santos, Anderson, Green, Hunt, Miloscia, McDermott, Hasegawa, Hudgins, Chandler, Darneille, Haigh, Hankins, Wallace, Kristiansen, Kagi, Pettigrew, Kenney and Conway).
dan dempsey said…
If there is one lesson that comes through loud and clear it is that making evidence based decisions for the good of Seattle's students is way far down the list of concerns of SPS decision-makers.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. It is obvious why the Seattle Schools as a system are floundering when it comes to improving academics.

This is a fiasco ... driven only by petty political concerns.... the concerns of Adults ... with little real concern for students.

Look for more great fairy-tales from several Directors this week.
Zebra (or Zulu) said…
Look at the list of who testified in support of this bill. Potter was still lobbying in mid-2009 allegedly for SPS:

As Passed House:
February 10, 2010

Brief Summary of Bill
Permits state agencies and authorized local governments to use the limited public works process to solicit and award small works roster contracts to businesses having gross revenues under $7 million.

Persons Testifying : Representative Santos, prime sponsor; Eddie Rye, Community Coalition for Contracts and Jobs; Marget Chappel, Small Business Action Coaching; Silas Potter, Seattle Public Schools; Ralph Ibarra, Diverse America Network; Dan Seydel, Platinum Group; and Tony Orange, AFAR Associates.

Anonymous said…
Many years ago I worked with Ms. Santos and can say unequivocally that her heart is in the right place. She is a champion of women's and civil rights, and to suggest that she was trying to waste public funds is to show misunderstanding of her intent and politically twist her words and actions.

Many years ago, women and minority-owned businesses did NOT get many government contracts. It was the all white boys network. Yes, this debacle at SPS has shown that there was a huge lack of oversight with the district's program, but as you said earlier, Melissa, it started with the best of intent. Why are you trying to throw a fine community activist and public servant under the (school) bus?

Stating that Rep. Santos was busted for DUI does not pertain to the discussion here and is a "low blow." (Not that I'm excusing it, but it's a different issue altogether.)

--Not Throwing Stones
Orca Mom said…
Anybody know what Santos is doing these days?

Keep pulling the thread.....
LouiseM said…
I agree with you "Not Throwing Stones". I've been watching this unfold over this blog as as the days go by, there are more stones being thrown at more people and harder each day.

This is a mess. We all get that. And it may turn out that there are more people involved (or unwittingly caught up in the net) and more things to discover. But let's not get all crazy here and start attacking people just because it's popular to do so.

This blog prides itself on dealing with facts, but right now there are lots of opinions flowing from some of those facts and it's amazingly being unchecked.

Melissa, was it really necessary for you to bring up Santos' DUI? Be careful how deeply you dig your heals into folks--you might not like what comes back at you (particularly since NONE of us are perfect).
wseadawg said…
Yes, the DUI stuff is irrelevant & gratuitous, but so is arguing that somebody used to have their heart in the right place. Anyone can be corrupted and taken for a ride when they stop caring and doing their homework, and start presuming and assuming legislation is good because so-and-so community group says so. Any politician that aligns with astro-turf or philanthropy-funded groups in this day and age better be ready to answer for the money they took and alliances they made. If they got hoodwinked, fine, but they need to be held accountable.

I think the post-Obama election elation also provided cover to Potter and Stephens, as everyone was feeling great about the prospect of better race relations at that time and likely cutting slack to guys like Potter.

Reminds me of a line from the Eagles song The Last Resort: Somebody laid the mountains low, while the town got high.
Po3, not you're not. Mr. Potter made this about race and apparently that's a lot of how he conducted himself. Not that he hated white people but he was trying to help as many people as he could that he felt weren't traditionally being helped.

I think he felt that he was helping his community (as did many of his fellow vendors) while helping himself.

You should read Sable Verity's blog posts on these issues. She doesn't mince any words and good for her.

I put in Rep. Tomiko-Santos DUI because it goes to a pattern of judgment and perhaps poor decision making. I never said she was a bad legislator, I've heard her speak several times. But her support around these issues and her poor judgment about getting in a car and driving after drinking certainly does go to her abilities as a legislator.
Observer said…
Santos may have been corrupted, or she may have just been a good hearted patsy. In either case, her name keeps coming up in association with some of the wrongdoing going on. That may be because of her work on education committees, however (and this is a big however) she is still ultimately responsible if some of her actions resulted in fraudulent activity, even if is was well-meaning.

I am still deeply bugged by how the First AME church (Stephen's own church) was able to obtain the MLK school property essentially for free by using a $2.4 million state grant. Santos, along with Pettigrew and Kline, made that grant happen, and they made it happen quickly. Whatever the underlying motivations were, it was still a tainted deal, IMHO. State legislators should never be in the business of transferring publicly owned property to private entities on the state's dime.
Chris S. said…
Hmmm, Santos is currently still pushing ed reform. Although, interestingly, union leadership painter her as a friend (sponsoring the bills only because she had to, politically.) A quick search reveals a) she's been around long enough not to be duped and b) the downside of campaign contribution limits! I can't tell what is going on, and I suspect it just drives the favors underground...

Re race, what I keep thinking is "role models." Not sure what the message is. Could spin positively - hey, people of all races are clever enough to be corrupt. But I think it's more like the minority leaders - oops - aren't what you'd like your children to emulate after all. Not that the majority leaders are. Would the ethical people of all colors please stand up and get in the news?
LouiseM said…
"I put in Rep. Tomiko-Santos DUI because it goes to a pattern of judgment and perhaps poor decision making."

Oh so now you're an attorney?
dan dempsey said…
I've long been a supporter of Rep. Santos. She has been at all the right meetings and has said all the right things. My support for her is now over.

She has suppressed public discussion as she denied HB 1891 a hearing. She gave Mr. Randy Dorn a free pass to violate state law with no accountability.

I am now off to the Office of the Secretary of State to file seeking the recall and discharge from office of Rep. Sharon Tamiko Santos and that of Superintendent of Public Instruction Mr. Randy Dorn as well. Link is Here.
anonymous said…
Are you serious LouiseM? You don't need to be an attorney to figure out that driving under the influence shows poor judgement and poor decision making. C'mon.
Joanna said…
Observer, I agree "Holy Crap", the circle just keeps spinning.

This situation is rather symptomatic of the ingrained relationships that exist in Seattle politics in general. Certain groups and people become anointed as the leaders and many do have power and influence in various areas and on many issues. Eventually wealthy and powerful people learn how to use these people, groups and politicos and get them to go along with various agendas. Don't get me wrong some of these politicos and so-called leaders search out these opportunities and willingly go along.

To some extent this will exist and is necessary in any city to move forward on projects, but with no substantial challenges from the citizenry it leads to real corruption.
Joanna said…
When the money first came available all the 37th District Representatives took credit for it. I believe that the general citizenry assumed it would go to a more neighborhood based group to run a community center. Although at the time I was a bit upset that they were so quiet on the school closure issues and then suddenly money for the buyer was available.
Joanna said…
Sharon Tamiko-Santos is a current State Representative in the 37th District.
Joanna said…
The long narrow 37th District that cuts across and fractures many different neighborhoods does not serve its citizens well. Many of the areas are also revitalizing and are just learning to work together. During these periods of change it sometimes is easier for powers with agendas to divide and conquer, this combined with how the 37th is drawn exacerbates the problem.

This keeps the representatives very busy keeping all the various leaders and money people in each of the special areas happy in order to be reelected. Natural neighborhoods and communities are divided and have less opportunity to organize. This is very sad as many of those involved live in the 37th or do a lot of business there.
Observer said…
Joanna, can you tell us a bit more about how and when the Department of Commerce money became available in the first place? I am specifically trying to determine when the money became available, and how it correlates to the school closure time lines.

Also, was the grant written specifically for the purchase of the MLK property, or was is just part of some larger package of money?

Looking at the original RFP and bids, I can see where someone creating the grant may have thought the money was to go to a community center, along the lines of the CCC proposal. But it ended up in the hands of Stephens' church in the end.
wseadawg said…
Enough with the tabloid quality DUI stuff. The lady made a mistake. I see no relevance to her much bigger apparent shortcomings, which are the relationships to the actors in this story. Any evidence she votes drunk? Then what's the relevance, counsel?

Let's stop the "Charlie Sheening" of this woman already, and let every Dick Tracy or Nancy Drew who is without sin cast the first stone.

Ick, ick, ick. Please stop going there.
Dorothy Neville said…
Is Mike Bokis in the documents?

Regarding the 37th, it also has the poorest turnout of any of the LDs that are mostly in Seattle (the 11th is mostly South of Seattle).

Feb 2007 only 27% of the registered voters turned out (in the 46th, 35%)
Feb 2010 only 31% (46th, 39%)
and Nov 2010 it had the lowest percent turnout as well (67%) overall turnout was 73%
Joanna said…
Observer, I was trying to remember exactly. MLK School was surplussed in 2007 and the meetings to decide what should happen with the building began. The money came in after it was surplussed and those meetings had begun and long before it was actually sold. I think the money was made available soon after it was surplussed, as it took the air out of any real ability to organize to protest the selling of the building.

Groups especially one neighborhood group formed to create a community center and I think many thought the money would help them build a program. There must have been a lot more going on behind the scenes since then AME seemed to have the edge as the interested groups submitted actual proposals. Everyone knew that Bush would submit something.
Joanna said…
PS Observer, I am not sure when the Department of Commerce became involved. However, I am sure that the 37th District Representatives were proud of their getting through Washington State Legislative action, not directly from the Department of Commerce. I probably didn't pay as much attention to the details then as I should have. If you find the answer to when the Department of Commerce became involved I would love to know. I don't have time at the moment to research that piece
Observer said…
Thanks, Joanna. I'd like to track down those Dept of Commerce documents and add them to the timeline of the sale. Looking at some of the original SUAC and FRP documents, the process of selling MLK seemed to have been dragged out for a couple of years.

What I have yet to see from the SPS are any documents that list who was on the team that selected the properties to be shut down. I understand why MLK made the list -- it's attendance was very low. What I am looking for is whether Stephens and/or English had a hand in putting it on the closure list in the first place, and when.

Next on the timeline - correlate the timing of payments from Potter's program to groups that were most likely to protest school closures - Urban League, CAMP (Tony Orange), etc. These people have already been called out by the SAO report as having withdrawn from protesting activities after receiving contracts through Potter's group.
joanna said…
Remember that MLK closing happened before the others. In other areas of the cities no selling of a real school building has happened so quickly. It was not dragged out. In most other areas leases were given while communities had time to figure out what really should happen.

Attendance at some schools is low due to program placement not due to a lack of students. This is especially important if Seattle is serious about neighborhood assignments. MLK had a long history of a variety of programs with an extremely small reference area. The K-8 at Madrona was first touted as TOPS at Madrona. If Madrona had become a desirable option school, there well may have been enough students to drive a good program at MLK whose site is larger than Madrona or Montlake.
Observer said…
Joanna, I agree, and should have been more clear. The *decision* to sell MLK was made very fast, I agree. (And I really want to know who made that specific decision, too). The process for selling it took a couple of years, from the original RFP to the the two rounds of bidding (which went very fast once out) to the signing last October.

The decision to close the school was also made very quickly, and was was based on unarguably low attendance numbers. However, I also fully agree that several measures could have and should have been taken to make it a more viable school. MLK really was a huge neighborhood asset, from everything I have read about it, and there *should* have been strong business and community effort to retain it. The fact that there wan't that support, and the end result was the transfer of the property to the First AME church at very little cost to them, makes me highly, highly suspect of the motivations of the people who fast-tracked this. The same names keep coming up - Stephens, English, Santos, Orange. Why on earth would these people want to close a community treasure, unless they wanted it to go to the church in the first place?
gavroche said…
Chris Jackins might be a good source for information on the MLK sale. One of his longstanding criticisms of the School District is that it sells its properties for under market value (Queen Anne H.S. is another glaring example).

It looks like Nina Shapiro at the Weekly is reading this Blog, by the way:
Fred Stephens, Former Seattle Schools Supervisor, Faces Questions from the Blogosphere About Another Financial Deal
By Nina Shapiro, Tue., Mar. 1 2011 @ 1:26PM

anonymous said…
"Enough with the tabloid quality DUI stuff."

Watch out WSEADAWG, it may be your family she kills driving drunk one day.
Charlie Mas said…
I'm kinda surprised that the state has $2.4 million to throw around on stuff like this. Isn't the state also in a tight budget?

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