News


Full video online of mayor's State-of-the-City talk

Mayor Peter Drekmeier says green revolution will aid economy, outlines interwoven local and regional environmental initiatives that also save or make money

o VIDEO: Uncut 'State of the City' address, part 1 of 5

o VIDEO: Uncut 'State of the City' address, part 2 of 5

o VIDEO: Uncut 'State of the City' address, part 3 of 5

o VIDEO: Uncut 'State of the City' address, part 4 of 5

o VIDEO: Uncut 'State of the City' address, part 5 of 5

The faltering economy could force Palo Alto to cut programs and delay a new public-safety building but it should not keep the city from leading a green revolution, Mayor Peter Drekmeier said in his "State of the City" speech Monday night.

Drekmeier spoke informally, almost conversationally, from notes without a prepared text -- a departure from the usual practice -- and was rewarded several times by applause and at the end by a standing ovation.

Drekmeier's speech, which focused on the theme of "regional cooperation for local self-reliance," outlined an ambitious green agenda that included:

o Implementing a "carbon tax" on those contributing to global climate change, to be used for rebates to spur ways to save and creatively reduce overall energy costs;

o Diverting more of the city's recycled wastewater for irrigation and possibly to keep Stanford's Lake Lagunita full;

o Fueling local cars with compressed natural gas;

o Setting up weekday farmers markets; and

o Creating a new "dry composting" facility that, in addition to collecting local yard clippings, would accept restaurant food waste and even sewer sludge from the city's wastewater treatment plant.

Drekmeier drove home the theme that local, regional and global are part of the same whole, and the whole is the product of its local parts. He warned of looming environmental challenges of limited drinking water, a warming climate and a swelling population.

"The (global) population is growing, our resource base is diminishing and we're going to see a lot of turmoil as people struggle over diminishing resources," Drekmeier told the crowd in the packed Council Chambers.

While the speech touched on a wide range of topics, including the proposed high-speed rail system, the shortage of affordable housing and the city's budget gap, it focused on water conservation, waste reduction and renewable energy.

He urged residents to conserve energy by relying on farmers from within the city's "foodshed" -- a 100-mile radius -- and backed an effort by Councilmember Yoriko Kishimoto and local consulting firm, IDEO, to bring weekday farmers markets to the city.

He also called for more organic and locally grown food at the City Hall cafeteria.

"My dream is for it to become Palo Alto's little secret," Drekmeier said. "When you have friends in town and they want to go to a good restaurant, you take them to the Palo Alto cafeteria," eliciting laughter from those familiar with the basement space under City Hall.

Drekmeier also urged the city to promote energy conservation by creating a carbon tax that would reflect the true cost of energy production. Proceeds from the tax would fund rebate programs that would reduce residents' overall utility bills.

Such a tax, Drekmeier said, would make Palo Alto a world leader in fighting climate change.

"Maybe you'd pay more by the kilowatt hour, but the overall bill decreases and everyone is happy, including the environment," Drekmeier said.

He also advocated using the city's recycled water to irrigate local sites such as the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course and Greer Park. The city could then save water and bolster its revenues by selling water credits under a cap-and-trade system, he said.

Drekmeier, who works as a program director for the Tuolumne River Trust and who led a successful effort last year to cap the amount of water San Francisco Public Utility Commission would draw from the Tuolumne River, also called for the city to reduce its water usage by 20 percent by 2020.

Drekmeier said his dream is to see farmers from within the city's foodshed come to Palo Alto to deliver locally grown food, go to the local composting facility to pick up "the best compost available" and refuel their vehicles with compressed natural gas before heading back to their farms from the new recycling method.

The composting facility he called for would break down yard clippings, food waste and sewer sludge through anaerobic digestion and use the natural gas resulting from the process to power local homes and vehicles.

The speech was mostly hopeful in tone and laced with jokes and spontaneous asides.

But Drekmeier also warned of lean times ahead. With the city facing a $5.8 million budget shortfall this year and a projected $8 million to $10 million shortfall next year, Drekmeier said some programs and services will probably have to be cut.

He also said plans for a new public-safety building may have to be revised or put on hold until the financial outlook brightens.

"We might have to postpone it. We might have to look at a downsized project," Drekmeier said. "We're going to count on the community to work with us on that."

The speech, which lasted about 45 minutes, drew a standing ovation from the audience and an enthusiastic response from Drekmeier's council colleagues.

Councilman Greg Schmid and Vice Mayor Jack Morton praised Drekmeier's emphasis on environmental protection and conservation. Councilman and former Mayor Larry Klein said he agreed with Drekmeier's view that an economic slowdown shouldn't keep the city from aggressively pursuing green initiatives.

Councilman Sid Espinosa praised the speech for laying out a variety of long- and short-term ideas that are not only environmentally friendly but also economically viable.

"There's no question this city will have to make dramatic cuts to services and it can't keep on doing business the way's it's been doing business," Espinosa said. "What Peter is trying to do is find environmental initiatives that have economic opportunities."

o VIDEO: Uncut 'State of the City' address, part 1 of 5

o VIDEO: Uncut 'State of the City' address, part 2 of 5

o VIDEO: Uncut 'State of the City' address, part 3 of 5

o VIDEO: Uncut 'State of the City' address, part 4 of 5

o VIDEO: Uncut 'State of the City' address, part 5 of 5

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Mireya
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2009 at 8:50 am

Is this guy serious?!? Palo Alto residents are already taxed more than we can stand!!!

I have no problem with being green...but not by the environmental gestapo rules forced upon us by a ultra-liberal nanny state.

Some people are more environmental on the outside because they do not fully understand the effectiveness of such expensive measures. We can ban plastic bags all we want...but science proves that plastic bags are more effectively recyclable than paper. This ridiculous measure HURTS people far more than it helps.

In our troubled economy, is RAISING TAXES AGAIN truly a good idea? If we can't make ends meet...why not stop spending so much?!? How come this is so difficult to understand by advocates of a NANNY STATE?


Like this comment
Posted by Roger Wilco
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 10, 2009 at 9:10 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Like this comment
Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2009 at 9:18 am

This guy is an ideological extremist (although his demeanor is soft and professional).

At a time when the local economy is hurting (and perhaps heading for collapse), the city has a big hole in its budget, crime on the streets is increasing, and we have a huge infrastructure backlog, the kind of nonsense spouted by our mayor is reflects how spoiled and completely out of touch our city leadership is.

The notion that all these green projects touted by the mayor are affordable (let alone that they will do ANYTHING to solve the financial hardships of both the city and its residents) is self-evident fantasy.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Spend spend spend
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2009 at 9:55 am

Wow, that was a tax and spend speech if ever I heard one!!! I'm disappointed he doesn't relate to the many senior citizens on fixed incomes who have just lost their life savings in the stock market. He just wants to take what little we have left for his pie in the sky schemes.

Recycling water is a good idea, putting it back into the underground aquifer is a long shot particularly if you're planning to run the bullet train underground which will destroy the natural underground water storage system.


Like this comment
Posted by Sense from Nonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 10, 2009 at 9:59 am

Mayor Peter Drekmeie.

Let me see this guy wants:

to implementing a "carbon tax" on those contributing to global climate change, to be used for rebates to spur ways to save and creatively reduce overall energy costs;

an unproven - nonsense - carbon dioxide is NOT A POLLUTANT

He can start with a tax on every word he exhales.

Explain to me how Palo Alto is more of a polluter (any type of pollution / BTW carbon dioxide is NOT A POLLUTANT) than Kilauea Volcano in Hawai'i?

This is more of the same proven ideological failures that will hurt everyone under his tax umbrella.



Like this comment
Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 10, 2009 at 10:15 am

Typical "head in the clouds---climate change is my only concern" speech we have heard for 3 years straight from our "city leader".
Too bad he did not have the stomach to address the real problem with the city-an ineffectual city council that wastes our tax dollars, is clueless as to what they are endorsing (i.e HSR) and is wrapped in personal vanity projects that benefit no one except for their own egos.
I thought PA Green was an option for citizens, it looks now like Drekmeier wants to make it mandatory, one way or another.
I know that Drekmeier is no bright bulb on the council, but this speech was apathetic and sad example of what we can expect in the way of leadership from our city.


Like this comment
Posted by Green is good
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2009 at 10:22 am

I liked the Mayor's speech, and given that the most powerful thing Palo Alto and the region can do to help the environment is to halt suburban sprawl (well known in study after study as the primary defiler of our environment), I and many others fully expect to see the Mayor and his fellow Council members (all who praised his visionary environmental initiatives) supporting the ABAG initiatives and/or substantially more Pedestrian Oriented Transit District infill housing; small housing over retail; small granny home development on large lots (a failed measure some years ago, stalled by NIMBYS and a weak Council); incentives and disincentives to get people out of their cars - e.g. sparking a serious regional effort to coordinate inter- and intra-regional public and private transport, instead of the public transport fiasco we're currently living with; as well as other housing and transport innovations.

In addition, might I suggest that we begin to work on policy that will help seniors stay in their homes, or provide local ways to help those who cannot afford the likes of Channing House to be able to stay. Our city is aging. How do we use the great intellectual capital opportunities that seniors present here? Just a thought.

Great speech, Mayor! Your ideas are the future.


Like this comment
Posted by Green is good
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2009 at 10:25 am

Marvin: "I thought PA Green was an option for citizens, it looks now like Drekmeier wants to make it mandatory, one way or another."

Some of these things are "inconvenient truths". We are going to have to change our habits, period. We are running out of time. Also, there is *economic opportunity* present in most of the Mayor's suggested initiatives. There are those who complain, and those who get up and make change happen. What group do you want to be in?


Like this comment
Posted by Green is good
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2009 at 10:33 am

One more thing: about farmer's markets.

We already have two farmer's markets. It's now a fact that organic farmers who are willing to trek into farmer's markets are in high demand. There are probably things that can be done to entice local growers into town, but farmer's markets, on top of the two we already have, might not be the best way to do it.

How about moving the Saturday market to a weekday market, downtown? That would enable the many thousands of works there to gain access to locally grown produce, as well as out own citizens. the bang for the buck that we receive from just that one change would easily outweigh the logistical difficulty (and results) coming from any attempt to start smaller intra-city markets.

Working with some of the better regional farmer's market managers might also prove a storehouse of ideas.

We could create incentives for local citizens to grow more of their own produce in ways that use less water.

Anyway, there's lots of room for innovation. Let's make change happen!


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 10, 2009 at 10:35 am

Did he say anything about where the city would cut costs?


Like this comment
Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 10, 2009 at 10:37 am

Green is good--Too bad the council is unable to change their habits.
So far I have not seen Drekemier making change happen--he talks good--but his taxation plan for utilities may not even be legal. You would think that he would look into that before suggesting that.


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2009 at 10:43 am



This just the chicken little tactic of scare mongering, the problem is when you cry wolf too often and nothing happens then you have lost all credibility.

After the coldest winter in decades after finding out that the ice cap melting was an error in measurement by satellites the warming fanatics
god is dead.

This has not stopped their fellow travelers from trying to use other fear mongering tactics to ram through their radical agendas
In his Saturday radio address, the president declared our "great crisis" to be a "great opportunity," indicating, as two members of his administration already had, that this White House is not above exploiting public anxiety to press an extremist agenda.

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," Rahm Emmanuel said then in reference to the economic downturn. "This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton followed up last week in Brussels, Belgium, where she advised a European audience to "never waste a good crisis."

Her statement came in the context of making "a very positive impact on climate change and energy security."

Candidate Obama told a crowd just before he was elected that "we are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." IBD 3/9/09

The sky is falling, the sky is falling-------buy sky



Like this comment
Posted by Mireya
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2009 at 11:07 am

This is unbelievable! It is unbelievable that a few people in this city are using SCARE TACTICS in order to RAISE TAXES!

Look...we need to be careful with the environment. We should be good stewards of this earth. However, it is hypocritical to claim that this tax increase will save the earth in any way, shape or form. Rather, it HURTS people who don't have much money during a particularly hard economic times.

I wish this mayor would stop getting his "science" from Al Gore or The Huffington Post...and perhaps meet with scientists and economists at Stanford. We are sacrificing our middle class for a preservation of the earth based upon make-believe facts.

Don't be deceived: The mayor is a hustler...and he simply wants to use AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH to conveniently RAISE TAXES. It is a sham. This tax increase will not do anything except become yet another permanent part of the city budget.


Like this comment
Posted by B Allyn
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 10, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Mayor Drekmeier's speech last evening was full of possibilites. The kind of
possibilites that we all should be considering and paying attention to because
we will all have to solve these problems facing us. He had many suggestions as to
how we can help ourselves and others, and our communities. It's not all about taxes.
It's about the selfless regard for the well being of others. His sincerity was most
welcome.


Like this comment
Posted by gnaya
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 10, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Hello!

After hearing about what they do in some of the towns in US, I have a suggestion to City of PAlo Alto. It would be great to let Palo Altans use their volunteer hours to compensate for their property tax.

gnaya


Like this comment
Posted by Mireya
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2009 at 1:44 pm

B Allyn, it sounds like your comment was taken straight from Obama's book on inspiring speeches. It is nice, inspiring...but very short on specifics.

We are going to raise taxes? What for? Where is the money going to be used? Is there a well-thought-out plan?

Holy cow, people! If we wanted to raise taxes for every "good idea" out there -- our tax rate would be more than 100%!!! It is a stupid idea, however, to raise taxes for an idea that has not been thoroughly planned out.

It doesn't take yet another TAX INCREASE to become a lot more "green." It just takes a wiser plan on using the money that the city already has in its coffers. If the money is running low...why not consider a little less spending? Why do our local politicians always find a RAISE TAXES solution for every issues?

My husband and I are new to this area...and we love the beauty. However, this place is turning into a cesspool of "tax and spend" nanny state politics! It seems like the powers that be are turning this into an OUR WAY IS RIGHT...AND YOUR OPINION DOESN'T MATTER sort of nanny state. First they ignorantly try to ban plastic bags (which are more easily recycled than paper). Now they simply want to create another new TAX (again). Don't they realize that our taxes are already going up next year? Obama's plan is to raise taxes by nearly $1 Trillion by 2011. If my budget isn't doing well, we stop spending so much. Why is this so difficult to understand?

My brother-in-law visited Palo Alto (and the Bay Area) last week. He was offered a transfer to an executive position at a local company. His verdict regarding his experience? He said, "The area is beautiful...and a great place to visit. It would be fantastic to live here...if it wasn't for the politicians."


Like this comment
Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 10, 2009 at 1:54 pm

what happened to Civic Engagement--I thought that was a big priority.
Clearly this is another one of those pipe dream speeches that our city council members excel at when they become mayor--they get to do what they want for a year, then we get a new mayor with new priorities. That is why we need to directly elect a mayor for a fixed term (but that is a discussion for another day).
Clearly the mayor did not think of the details of his tax (AKA force everyone to use PA Green) plan--is it legal or not? I guess that is too much to ask of our city council--look at the HSR issues that have recently come up. When it comes to money, our council ha no clue. I do not expect Drekmeier to provide any leadership in this regard. Didn't he once state that he had not filed tax returns for years--in other words, a person who did not have to work for a living--couple that was his basic lack of understanding of government and the purpose it is supposed to serve, and his life long bashing of Stanford and that is what we have now in office


Like this comment
Posted by Joel
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2009 at 1:59 pm

To the naysayers,
Get off the internet and into the your community! Run for Council, volunteer for a commission, show us your answers and follow them up with positive action for us all.


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2009 at 2:03 pm




53% Say It’s Likely the U.S. Will Enter a Depression Similar to 1930’sWeb Link

And the Mayor of PA is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic!


Like this comment
Posted by Super
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 10, 2009 at 2:08 pm

This is not the time to impose more taxes. Show me some plans to reduce city gov't spending.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Does the initiative process in California extend to the local government level?

If so, this would be a really good place and time to get started on one, provided that the large population of professors and students doesn't negate the potential...


Like this comment
Posted by Mireya
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2009 at 4:31 pm

[Portion removed due to excessive and/or repetitive post by same poster]


Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2009 at 7:43 pm

How do we end up with people like this running our city? This guy would be a fringe element of most towns, with sensible, cost, infrastructure, and service oriented people running the government. Here, the fringe is "in charge" and instead of managing costs and delivering service, they want to "lead a revolution." It would just be funny and slightly sad if they didn't expect us to pay for it.


Like this comment
Posted by observer
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2009 at 6:29 am

From Mike above:

Does the initiative process in California extend to the local government level?

If so, this would be a really good place and time to get started on one, provided that the large population of professors and students doesn't negate the potential...


Answer:

Absolutely... go for it.. Look at your City charter..


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 11, 2009 at 8:13 am

Did the mayor give specifics on how this green tax will increase jobs?


Like this comment
Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 11, 2009 at 8:30 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by ellieg
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 11, 2009 at 10:24 am

Several people here have disparaged the idea that global warming is based on science. I think if you read or talk to reputable scientists you will find that 98 or more percent agree that the climate is warming over the past 40 or so years. That is why the Arctic and Antarctic ice is melting. There have been numerous pictures and TV programs with pictures of what is happening. The essence of the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is that it 'insulates' the earth and keeps more of the sun's heat in the earth's atmosphere so the temperature has gone up several degrees in the past 40 years or so. This does not mean that it is always warmer every where. The effect of the increased temperatures is variable and makes the weather more unstable. It gets unseasonably cold in some areas, very hot and dry in others, and changes the pattern of the ocean currents which have a huge impact on our climate and weather patterns.

This is not to say that I agree with the tax. I do not think this is a responsible plan at all. The city government has been very negligent in its use of city money and proposals for spending. The police station and huge new library proposals are a good example. Concrete manufacture is the third largest source of carbon dioxide generation. Both these planned buildings are examples of extravagant
and grandiose spending. Now that the Post has exposed the extra floor in city hall that was intended for expansion of the police quarters it is even more clear that there is some sort of back-handed deal with the contractors going on. The Mitchell Park Library is a classic building built of old growth redwood that is perfectly sustainable and will last for a very long time. It is not at all environmental to tear this down for a huge monstrosity that will be expensive to build and maintain. It is telling that the Main Library, though equally old, is not proposed to be torn but only sensibly renovated. It is the south of Oregon area that gets stuck with all the congested housing plans without enough parking space and ugly buildings.

A truly environmental approach would be for the city to put its money where its mouth is; build some good local transportation systems instead of falling for the San Jose politicians scheme to build a huge and expensive destructive railroad through all our cities, put solar panels on its own public buildings, and restore the covered dump sites in the Baylands. Plants, especially plants native to our area, are the most effective way to reduce carbon dioxide. It is especially trees and perennial native bunch grasses that take carbon dioxide out of the air and give off oxygen; exactly what we need.
They store the excess carbon in the soil and improve the quality of the soil. That is what makes it black and rich colored like the soil in old growth forests and the great plains used to be; dark and rich and fertile. Annual plants do not do this because they die every year and do not have roots that stay alive in the soil. The grasses that cover the landfill and Byxbee Park are almost all non native, imported weeds that are invasive, burn easily, and have no wildlife value. These are just some of the things that our government could be promoting.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2009 at 10:35 am

Did he say anything about how the City will solve our real problems?


Like this comment
Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 11, 2009 at 12:54 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 11, 2009 at 1:23 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2009 at 7:57 pm

To comply with emissions targets, European countries are considering a tax on bovine flatulence :

A cow tax of €13 per animal has been mooted in Ireland, while Denmark is discussing a levy as high as €80 per cow to offset the potential penalties each country faces from European Union legislation aimed at combating global warming...
The Danish Tax Commission estimates that a cow will emit four tonnes of methane a year in burps and flatulence, compared with 2.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide for an average car..Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 11, 2009 at 8:59 pm

From a fairly long term study on solar flares by a research group at NASA and Lockheed....it might not be cow flatulence and SUVs that are the real cause of 'global warming'

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 11, 2009 at 9:04 pm

The link I posted above is to a solar flare study summary slide deck-the earth climate tie-in questions posed are on the last slide before acknowledgments near the end.


Like this comment
Posted by Rick
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 12, 2009 at 1:33 am

What is needed is a hugh tax on all of the commuters that come to Palo Alto to work. They contribute nothing to the city except for vast amounts of C0 2 while driving here.'

Millions of gallons of Gasoline are used each week by the commuters. Many drive over 100 miles each day and in stop and go traffic.

There are well over 60,000 commuters coming here every day and they only contribute C0 2 to our enviroment.

We need to figure out how to tax them to the hilt. Maybe a big payroll tax would do that.
The commuters are creating the enviromental disaster around here.

Another thing: High density housing projects should have no parking spaces or no cars allowed. They should be sold as a walk, bike or take the bus community. ;How to make this retroactive??


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2009 at 9:18 am

Without the commuters coming here every day, we would be without gardeners, house and office cleaners, sales clerks (in our limited shopping establishments), garbage workers, teachers, firefighters, police, etc.

High density housing projects are being bought by families who come here for the schools. They want to drive their kids to school and don't always care whether the school is walking/biking distance or not as they will drive them anyway, even if it is less than a mile away.

Those other workers commuting here daily who work in the more prestigious office complexes, as well as some of the lesser prestigious places of employment, eat at our restaurants at lunch and after work, shop at Stanford, use many of our other businesses for private or business errands and services, and consider themselves to be daytime Palo Altans.

The Bay Area is one large community and we all serve each other. Trying to make us into single communities with invisible barricades is laughable. Those of us who live here shop, watch movies, work elsewhere, etc. and want to continue to do so. Palo Alto may become a bedroom community to enable children to go to school here. If we improved our local amenities it may make Palo Altans spend more of their own dollars here and attempting to get people away from their cars for their recreation and personal errands may do more than trying to prevent outsiders from coming here.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2009 at 10:16 am

Back to the point this post stated with before drifting about-

This guy Peter Drekmeier was elected by the citizens of Palo Alto. And he is not the only council member focused on some other agenda than running this city sanely and efficiently. We citizens as a group are ultimately to blame for crazy ideas and policies like this. If we don't like them in the future we need to elect different people to our government.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Never waste a good crisis.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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