Rick Kriseman Archives - SaintPetersBlog

More endorsements come rolling in for Darden Rice’s re-election

St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice is announcing an extended list of new endorsements Thursday for her District 4 re-election bid.

As a popular first-term Council member and longtime civic activist, Rice enjoys a wellspring of support from elected officials, colleagues and well-wishers on both the local and state levels.

The growing list of endorsements includes several prominent local elected officials: State Sen. Darryl Rouson, State Reps. Ben Diamond and Wengay Newton, as well as St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, and City Council colleagues Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, Karl Nurse, Jim Kennedy and Charlie Gerdes.

“Darden is truly dedicated to the people of St. Petersburg,” Nurse said Thursday. “She has a passion for public service that shines through the work she does, especially when it comes to constituent services. I’m proud to support Darden again in her race for City Council.”

Also lining up behind Rice are Pinellas County Commissioners Pat Gerard, Janet Long, Ken Welch and John Moroni, Pinellas County School Board Member Rene Flowers, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and Tampa City Council Members Mike Suarez, Yolie Capin, Harry Cohen and Charlie Miranda.

Welch praises Rice’s “great work” for both for the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.

“Her leadership on important issues like fair wages and the environment have a positive impact on all of us every day,” he says. “I’m looking forward to continuing our work together during her second term on Council.”

In addition to her work on the environment – the Sierra Club and Florida Conservation Voters are among her earliest supporters – and for social justice, Rice also recently proposed a landmark Defend Our Democracy ordinance for the city of St. Pete, which seeks to stem big money spending in municipal elections.

On a 4-3 vote Thursday, council members supported Rice’s proposal that would require corporations spending more than $5,000 in city elections to certify they are not entirely or partly owned by foreign interests.

“I’m honored to have the support of my colleagues in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and around Tampa Bay,” Rice says. “It’s important in local government to work cooperatively to make positive change, and I look forward to four more years of progress.”

Rice is also being endorsed by former Florida Gov. and current Congressman Charlie Crist, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, and former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, who is now a Democratic candidate for Florida Governor. She also has earned widespread support from various neighborhood leaders in District 4, a non-partisan seat covering large sections of North St. Pete.

As an active labor union advocate, Rice won the backing of the West Central Florida Labor Council, Service Employees International Union, Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association and St. Petersburg Association of Fire Fighters.

In her re-election bid, Rice is facing only a single challenger, USFSP student Jerick Johnston.

St. Pete Council moves to keep big money out of city campaigns

St. Petersburg’s City Council took a step toward enacting far-reaching campaign finance reform, which could go well beyond what any other U.S. city has done before.

On a 4-3 vote, council members supported a proposal that would require corporations that spend more than $5,000 in city elections to certify they are not entirely or partly owned by foreign interests above certain thresholds.

The measure also would put a $5,000 limit on individual contributions to Super PACs that spend money on city elections. It would, in effect, abolish super PAC spending in the city.

They also voted on an amendment to have staff work on an ordinance that would add additional language regarding disclosure issues, as well as on enforcement methods.

Council members Ed Montanari, Jim Kennedy and Steve Kornell opposed the measure.

Thursday’s vote was nonbinding because it was under their role as the Committee as The Whole. The proposal will now go before the full council next month. That’s despite the lack of support coming from the city’s legal team, who said it was flat-out unconstitutional.

In 2014, the Council passed a resolution declaring that, contrary to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizen’s United, money is not speech, and corporations are not people.

But Karen Lieberman of American Promise and Awake Pinellas told the council: “A resolution is a nice thing to do, but an ordinance has teeth … it has power … it can cause change.”

“St. Pete prides itself on being the first on so many issues, why can’t we be the first on this?” she asked.

“Foreign influence in our elections is a real phenomenon, including in Florida,” said John C. Bonifaz, the president and co-founder of Free Speech for People, a national group advocating for campaign finance reform. “Outside spending by super PACS is also a phenomenon that has already arrived in St Petersburg.”

“They know this is unconstitutional, but they’re using this to start a lawsuit,” warned St. Petersburg City Attorney Joseph Patner.” They have shopped this ordinance around cities around the country,” he said of Bonifaz’s group, adding, “there’s a reason that they can’t get another city to pass this.”

The ordinance would not stop a penny from entering a local election, Patner said, and that it would be difficult to enforce.

“Passing this is all risk, in our opinion, with no benefit,” he added.

Bonifaz cited letters by constitutional scholars like Harvard’s Lawrence Tribe who disagree and say that the measure was constitutional. He admitted though that those opponents of campaign finance reform would likely mount a court challenge to the ordinance. Free Speech For People has offered to help defend the ordinance in court on a pro bono basis, he said.

 Councilman Karl Nurse mocked a Tampa Bay Times editorial that said that “comprehensive campaign finance reform should come from Washington or Tallahassee, and the city should focus on other priorities.”

“Washington is lost,” he said.

Councilman Charlie Gerdes said Patner made a compelling and persuasive case that passing the ordinance could be interpreted as being unconstitutional, but “just because something is constitutional doesn’t mean that it isn’t reprehensible. Money in politics is obscene.”

The idea of voting to approve a measure that the city’s legal team called unconstitutional was “extremely troubling” to Montanari, who worried if city employees would be legally liable in a potential lawsuit.

Councilman Kornell said he agreed with the ultimate goal of the proposal, but thought the liability of the city prevented him from supporting it.

Before the meeting, at a news conference by supporters of the ordinance, Mayor Rick Kriseman appeared, saying if the Council passed the measure, he would not veto it.

Councilman Kennedy said that moving forward, he’d prefer that the Kriseman administration clarifies his position on the issue, considering that his legal team was recommending against it.


Rick Kriseman’s financial disclosure shows legal work still paying off

Rick Kriseman‘s financial disclosure is a straightforward affair that reflects a career dedicated to lawsuits and public service.

Last week, the St. Petersburg mayor made his bid for a second term official, a process that includes a disclosure of his net worth, assets, and liabilities.

According to his Form 6 declaration, the first-term incumbent is worth $360,505.

As St. Pete mayor, Kriseman earned $170,906 in 2016; as a personal injury attorney, he earned another $133,171 last year.

Kriseman’s campaign said that the mayor is not actively practicing law; instead the six-figures in legal income is from settlements reached before Kriseman’s time in office.

Much of Kriseman’s wealth is based on the St. Petersburg house, valued at $650,000. His sole liability is a mortgage through Regions Mortgage Bank listed as $319,495.

Kriseman also itemized household goods and personal effects at $30,000.

Unlike almost every other candidate running for office in St. Petersburg who also has a positive net worth, Kriseman does not list owning a checking or a saving account.

It’s possible this account could be listed solely under his wife’s name, which would not require a disclosure. But if his name is on the account and it’s worth more than $1,000, it should be disclosed.

Under intangible personal property, the mayor also declared a financial interest in Fidelity Financial Services, based in Dallas, Texas, for an undisclosed amount.

On the form, Kriseman listed no other secondary source of income or real property.

Bob Buckhorn says Tampa is doing plenty to combat climate change

Although Bob Buckhorn isn’t likely to sign onto a Sierra Club pledge putting Tampa on record as attempting a 100 clean energy portfolio by a certain year, his administration says he’s doing plenty to combat the negative implications of climate change on the city.

Buckhorn did join St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman in signing on to a group of over 300 mayors earlier this month who say they intend to fully the intended mission of the Paris Climate agreement, which President Trump has said the U.S. won’t abide by.

“This mission, and similar efforts happening around the city, overlap Sierra Club’s mission,” Buckhorn said in a statement, issued as approximately two dozen activists descended on City Hall on Monday to drop off nearly 2,000 petitions calling for him to join on the Ready for 100 campaign.

The organizers said they are putting the pressure on him now to sign the pledge because they want him to join the list of more than 100 mayors who will have joined the Ready for 100 campaign and plan to hold a press conference this Friday afternoon touting the plan at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting in Miami Beach.

Buckhorn will be at that meeting, but won’t at that press conference.

Dayna Lazarus from the group Organize Florida led the activists into the lobby at City Hall, where she and other activists placed the petitions calling on the mayor to join the “Ready for 100” campaign on an administrative aide’s desk.

“We do a lot in this city on sustainability,” Buckhorn spokesperson Ashley Bauman told Lazarus. “And we’re doing everything in our power to combat sea level rise and climate change, and we really appreciate the work you’re doing.”

Bauman went on to add that Buckhorn is frequently asked to sign onto such pledges, and reminded her of his earlier pledge to work on pushing for the city to live up to aspirations of the Paris agreement.

“We are incredibly grateful for speaking out in support of taking action on climate change, and today we are presenting him an opportunity to take that action,” said Lazarus.

The activists then held a press conference outside of City Hall immediately afterward where speakers talked about the dangers of sea level rise, a resonant issue considering that the Tampa Bay area region is considered to be in the top ten in the nation that is most vulnerable to this phenomenon.

“When you talk to the folks who live in South Tampa and Port Tampa neighborhoods, they are painfully aware that sea level rise is happening,” said Lazarus. “They’re having to deal with the ways to school and work, property damage, rising mosquito population and mold and flood insurance is now so expansive in those neighborhoods.”

“Tampa is running out of time,” warned Tampa Bay Sierra Club Chairman Kent Bailey. “Only a determined, deliberate action to immediately shift to 100 percent renewable energy can save Tampa Bay from disaster.”

While it’s been more common for Buckhorn to ignore signing on to such pledges during his six years in office (in spite of the Paris agreement), administration officials point to the work that the mayor did last summer in lobbying for a $251 million draining improvement program to address serious flooding issues that plague Tampa neighborhoods every summer when the rainy season begins. The City Council passed the measure on a 5-2 vote, with only Frank Reddick and Charlie Miranda dissenting.

It came nearly two years after that same City Council rejected a similar proposal. 

City Councilman Guido Maniscalco applauded Buckhorn for signing onto the Paris climate accord with other mayors, and believes he should sign the Sierra Club pact as well.

“It’d be a step in the right direction,” he said. “It’d be sending a positive message that Tampa wants to be at the forefront and a leader and maintaining the conversation for better renewable energy sources, which will be benefit everyone.”

Last year, the City of St. Petersburg became the first city to sign on the Ready for 100 pledge. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer recently followed, and the Sarasota City Commission was scheduled to vote Monday on whether they will sign on to the plan.

Although there have been reports that St. Pete plans to aim for a 100 percent clean energy portfolio by 2030, that’s not accurate, says Sharon Wright, St. Petersburg’s sustainability coordinator. No specific year has been set (as of yet) to try to achieve that goal, she says.


Rick Kriseman: As a father, an obligation to support climate action

Like Dads across the country, this Father’s Day I’m looking forward to receiving some special attention from my two kids. But I’ll also be reflecting on my obligation as a father to protect my children from growing threats like climate change.

We don’t have the luxury of being in denial here in Florida, where rising sea levels are already imperiling coastal property and infrastructure. To turn a blind eye to escalating climate impacts is to say to our kids and grandkids that we really don’t care about their future.

That’s why when Donald Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, I joined mayors, governors, university and college leaders, businesses and investors from throughout the nation to declare that “We Are Still In.”

Here in St. Petersburg, we are going further.

Later this month, I will be attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting to share our city’s message that we are committed to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. More than 80 mayors from across the country have endorsed a goal of powering our cities with 100 percent clean and renewable energy. We know that the best way to slow fossil fuel-driven climate change is to repower our economies with clean, renewable sources like wind and solar. Here in the Sunshine State, that’s a no-brainer. Working toward 100 percent clean energy will help ensure that St. Pete remains a ‘city of opportunity where the sun shines on all who come to live, work and play.’”

We will continue to support strong climate action and a transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit our security, prosperity and health. After all, the facts on the ground (or in the oceans and atmosphere) haven’t changed. Just the politics.

I’m proud of the fact that St. Petersburg has been on the cutting edge of preparing for climate change. We were the first city in Florida to update our land-use plans to comply with the “Perils of Flood” state law, and we are upgrading our infrastructure at a rapid pace. But while we prepare our city to adapt to climate impacts such a rising ocean, more severe storms and heat waves, I’m more determined than ever to do everything I can to help bring about a rapid transition to a clean energy economy that gets to the root of the problem.

Moving quickly toward 100 percent clean, renewable energy will not only help slow climate change, it will improve our air quality, protect our kids’ health, strengthen our economy and create exciting opportunities for today’s workers, and those who have yet to enter the workforce. Solar jobs in Florida increased by 26 percent per year last year, but we’re still far behind where we can and should be. The sky is the limit. Clean, renewable energy produced right here in Florida means more money stays in our communities, rather than being sent to out of state fossil fuel corporations.

While Donald Trump is doing everything he can to keep us bound to 19th-century fossil fuels like coal, and all of its consequences, St. Petersburg and cities and states across the country are recommitting to a clean, healthy, prosperous, clean energy future. For every step backward by the Trump administration, we’ll take two steps forward.

Long after my service as mayor is done, my kids Jordan and Samuel will be living their lives with families of their own. As parents, our most important shared legacy will be the health of the world we are leaving them. Everything we do today to confront climate change with clean, renewable energy is a gift of hope and love to our kids.


Rick Kriseman is Mayor of St. Petersburg.

Rick Baker’s June 28 fundraiser much closer to home, St. Pete Yacht Club

After hosting a recent high-profile Republican reception in Clearwater Beach, Rick Baker’s next event in his bid to return to City Hall will be much closer to home.

The former two-term St. Petersburg Mayor will be holding a fundraiser Wednesday, June 28, at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club in the city’s downtown waterfront. The event, with a suggested contribution of $250, begins at 6 p.m.

Baker, a Republican who served from 2001-2010, is seeking a third term. He faces incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Among the host committee are St. Pete City Councilmember Ed Montanari, St. Petersburg College trustee Deveron Gibbons, Republican political strategist Matt Lettellier, St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce Chair Greg Holden and developer Blake Thompson.

The St. Pete Yacht Club is at 11 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. For more information or RSVP, contact Gretchen Picotte at (407) 849-1112 or gp@politicalcapitalflorida.com.


Rick Kriseman heads to Tampa next week for re-election fundraiser

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman hits the other side of Tampa Bay next week for a fundraiser in his re-election effort, joined by some of Tampa’s leading Democrats, including fellow Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Hosted by attorneys Ron Christaldi and Patrick Baskette, the event is Tuesday, June 20, beginning 5:30 p.m. at the offices of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, 101 E Kennedy Blvd., Suite 2800 in Tampa.

In addition to Buckhorn, event chairs include Tampa City Council members Luis Viera, Harry Cohen, Yolie Capin and Mike Suarez, as well as Florida House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and former state Senator and President of the University of South Florida Betty Castor and her husband, former state Rep. Sam Bell, founder of the USF College of Public Health.

Also heading the reception include Justin Day, former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, Lee and Tracy Gunn, Jim Shimberg, and Gary and David Moskovitz.

According to the invite, the fundraiser will “celebrate the achievements of the last three years and the opportunity for continued progress in St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay.”

Kriseman, who officially qualified Thursday to run for re-election, faces former two-term St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who also has traveled outside city limits to raise funds, most recently with an event in Clearwater Beach.

Bob Buckhorn not ready to sign Sierra Club commitment of moving Tampa toward 100% clean energy future

After President Donald Trump said that he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord earlier this month, Bob Buckhorn joined a list of nearly 300 mayors around the nation to proclaim that the city of Tampa would continue to push for renewable energy and energy efficiency measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s fine, say local environmental leaders, but they really want the mayor to sign on to pledge to agree to transition to 100 percent clean renewable, energy for Tampa. It’s something that other Florida mayors such as St. Petersburg’s Rick Kriseman, Orlando’s Buddy Dyer and Miami Beach’s Philip Levine have all committed to.

But the Sierra Club says they can’t even get a meeting with the mayor to discuss the plan.

“While Mayor Buckhorn did sign the Climate Mayors statement supporting the Paris Climate Accord, our statement means making a tangible commitment to how the City will act going forward,” says Phil Compton with the Tampa Bay Sierra Club. “It means that the entire city, not just municipal government, will be totally fossil fuel free by a certain year – anywhere from today (some cities are already there!) to 2050.”

But Buckhorn doesn’t seem to be moved by the Sierra Club’s desires.

“Our position on climate change and the need to be proactive in preparing our City is well-documented and long-standing,” responds Ashley Bauman, the mayor’s spokesperson. “Please note we joined a bipartisan chorus of Mayors honoring Paris Climate accord goals.”

“Mayor Buckhorn’s office recognizes that the 100 percent commitment does indeed carry more meaning than just supporting Paris in spirit, and is therefore hesitant to commit to setting such a goal for the city that would involve creating a plan for action,” responds Compton.

Bauman adds that Compton and Sierra Club members have met with “multiple members of our staff and we have all of their material.”

Compton says he has met with some of the mayor’s staff, but wants to sit down directly with the mayor, but says that hasn’t happened “despite requests made for the past two months.”

Buckhorn decision to sign on to the list of mayors who say they will honor the Paris climate agreement is noteworthy in that he has said in the past that he doesn’t necessarily believe that it’s important for him to sign onto such lists.

“I tend to stay away from the larger coalitions,” the mayor told this reporter back in 2012 of an organization of mayors who pledged at that time to support same-sex marriage, adding, “I don’t think they’re particularly effective.” Similarly, despite his criticism of the prevalence of gun violence, Buckhorn declined to join Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition started up by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino back in the mid-aughts.

The push to get Buckhorn to sign on to the list comes as the U.S. Conference of Mayors is scheduled to meet next weekend in Miami Beach, where a news conference is scheduled to be held among American mayors who’ve endorsed the 100 percent clean energy future.

More than 80 mayors nationwide have signed the pledge, fifteen of them in Florida.

The city of St. Petersburg agreed to move toward 100 percent clean energy by 2030 last year, but Sharon Wright, the city’s sustainability coordinator, said such an effort would require a community-wide effort.

“It requires buy-in from decision makers, business leaders and residents,” Wright said last year. “This effort requires changes in behavior and thinking, and it will require that we discuss these challenges in places that are not always so comfortable, and it may require that we try some new things and take some risks. Aggressive goals wll likely have some upfront costs, but please consider, that no initiative and no early investment in clean energy will also have a cost.”

St. Petersburg officials are now in the process of hiring a consultant to help them with their goal of achieving a 100 percent clean portfolio. Wright was unavailable for comment as this story was set to publish.

Hundreds of citizens gathered in Lykes Gaslight Park in downtown Tampa in late April in a march on climate change.

The Sierra Club say they will hold a news conference next Monday calling on Buckhorn to sign the agreement.

Rick Kriseman to hold fundraiser — in Tampa

Rick Baker held a fundraiser in Clearwater last week, leading some to chortle that he had to travel all the way to North Pinellas to help boost his coffers in his bid to return as St. Petersburg mayor.

Democrats said there weren’t enough Republicans in St. Pete to prop up the former two-term mayor.

But Baker is not the only mayoral candidate who is venturing beyond the city limits to soak up campaign cash.

On June 20, Rick Kriseman will be at a fundraiser held at the Tampa law firm of Shuemaker, Loop & Kendrick.

Among those listed as hosts for the event: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Tampa City Council members Luis Vieira, Harry Cohen, Mike Suarez and Yolie Capin, and other bold-named Democrats like Alex Sink, Betty Castor and Jim Davis.

Kriseman has already reported raising more than $400,000 in fundraising as of the end of April. Baker entered the race last month. Neither candidate has released their fundraising totals for the month of May.



Rick Kriseman chastises Rick Baker’s ‘silence’ on U.S. withdrawl from Paris Climate Accord

Rick Kriseman is one of 76 “Climate Mayors” around the county defying President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

In a letter posted shortly after Trump announced that he would be withdrawing the U.S. from the landmark 2015 global agreement on voluntarily reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda announced their own intent to uphold the U.S.’ end of the Paris accords within their own jurisdictions.

“We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice,” the letter reads. “[I]f the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks.”

Kriseman signed an executive order in August 2015 creating an office of sustainability in St. Petersburg, and last fall the City Council formally approved the city’s commitment to transitioning to 100 percent clean, renewable energy, becoming the first city in Florida and the 20th city in the country to make such a commitment.

St. Pete officials also claim that they were the first city in Florida to update their comprehensive land-use plan to comply with the state’s “Peril of Flood” Act, a 2015 law requiring local governments to plan for floods and impacts from sea-level rise.

“For far too long our city has ignored the challenges created by our changing climate,” Kriseman said Friday. “My administration is the first in our city’s history to recognize the challenge of climate change and tackle it head on. I’m proud of our record on fighting climate change, from implementing curbside recycling to pledging to become a 100% clean energy city. I’m also proud to say that we will continue to uphold the agreement that President Barack Obama and 194 other nations came together to make in 2015. Climate change is a global force with local consequences, and our beautiful coastal city is no exception.”

The letter comes as Kriseman is locked into an intense reelection battle against former Mayor Rick Baker. 

When asked for comment on whether he agrees with Trump’s decision to forgo the environmental pact, Baker sidestepped the issue on Friday, and instead attacked Kriseman.

“To me, a clean and healthy environment is critical to our health and quality of life, that’s why I am extremely concerned about the impact the Kriseman administration inflicted on Tampa Bay when he dumped 200-million-plus gallons of sewage,” Baker said in a statement to FloridaPolitics.com.

“I intend to continue the positive green initiatives I started in 2006, when St. Petersburg was designated Florida’s first green city, and again under my leadership by executive order in 2008 when we created a carbon scorecard for city facility and vehicle use mandating energy conservation.”

A spokesperson said that Baker “has a track record of leadership on this issue having previously served as the Vice-Chair of Gov. (Charlie) Crist‘s Energy Action Team and as chairman of the FL Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida for multiple years.”

On the campaign trail last month, Baker used virtually the same quote about how St. Pete became Florida’s first “Green City” during his tenure more than a decade ago, adding that it would be hard to keep that status “when you dump 200 million gallons of sewage in the Bay.”

Baker was speaking of the sewage spills that occurred on Kriseman’s watch over the past two summers and his reaction to them, eliciting a huge mocking cheer from the crowd.

Jacob Smith, Kriseman’s campaign manager, took note of Baker’s reluctance to speak specifically about the Paris agreement.

“Rick Baker should know better,” Smith said. “As a former member of the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida, Rick Baker has chosen to be silent and side with Donald Trump instead of speaking out against this irresponsible political move. St. Pete needs a mayor who will stand up to dangerous decisions coming out of the White House. Not one who buckles to their party’s president, refusing to even say the words ‘climate change’”

Other Florida Mayors on the list include Andrew Gillum from Tallahassee, Philip Levine from Miami Beach, and Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn.

Buckhorn blasted Trump after he declared that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the agreement, saying, “President Trump will go down as being on the wrong side of history for a number of things but pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement may be the most damaging to our future.We are a nation that prides itself on our ability to work with others to help fix some of the world’s most pressing issues and this kind of reaction is shortsighted at best. Mayors across the country should stand unified and work together from the ground up to find solutions to issues facing our cities and certainly the effects of our changing climate is one of them.”

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