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Politicians Smother Cities

Comment

I like my hometown, but I must admit that New York has problems: high taxes, noise, traffic. Forbes magazine just ranked my city the 16th most miserable in America. Ouch! Of course, that makes me wonder: What's America's most miserable city?

Cleveland, says Forbes. People call it "the Mistake by the Lake. " Cleveland, once America's sixth-largest city, has been going downhill for decades.

Why do some cities thrive while others decay? One reason is that some politicians smother their cities with the unintended consequences of their grand visions, while others have the good sense to limit government power.

In a state that already taxes its citizens heavily, Cleveland's politicians drown businesses in taxes.

One result: Since 2000, 50,000 people have left the city. Half of Cleveland's population has left since 1950.

But the politicians haven't learned. They still think government is the key to revitalization. While Indianapolis privatized services, Cleveland prefers state capitalism. It owns and operates a big grocery store, the West Side Market. Typical of government, it's open only four days a week, and two of those days it closes at 4 p.m. The city doesn't maintain the market very well. Despite those cost savings, the city manages to lose money running the market. It also loses money running golf courses — $400,000 last year.

Another way that cities like Cleveland cause their own decline is through regulations that make building anything a long drawn-out affair. Cleveland has 22 different zoning designations and 673 pages of zoning guidelines.

By contrast, Houston has almost no zoning. This permits a mix of uses and styles that gives the city vitality. And the paperwork in Houston is so light that a business can get going in a single afternoon. In Cleveland, one politician bragged that he helped a business get though the red tape in "just 18 months."

Randall O'Toole, author of "The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future," says Houston does have rules, but they are more flexible and responsive to citizens' needs because they are set by neighborhood associations based on protective covenants written by developers.

Politicians' rules rarely change because the politicians don't have their own money on the line.

Cleveland's managers thought that funding gleaming new sports stadiums (which subsidize wealthy team owners) and other prestigious attractions like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would revitalize their city.

Urban policy expert Joel Kotkin says, "This whole tendency to put what are scarce public funds into conventions centers and ... ephemeral projects is delusional."

But politicians claim that stadiums increase the number of jobs.

Not so, says J.C. Bradbury, author of "The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed." "There's a huge consensus among economists that there is no economic development benefit to having these stadiums," he says.

The stadiums do create jobs for construction workers and some vendors. But "it's a case of the seen and the unseen," Bradbury says, alluding to the 19th-century French economist Frederic Bastiat. "It's very easy to see a new stadium going up. ... But what you don't see is that something else didn't get built across town. ... It's just transferring from one place to the other.

"People don't bury their entertainment dollars in a coffee can in their backyard and then dig it up when a baseball team comes to town. They switch it from something else."

Stadiums are among the more foolish of politicians' boondoggles. There are only 81 home baseball games a year and 41 basketball games. How does that sustain a neighborhood economy?

But the arrogance of city planners knows no end. Now Cleveland is spending taxpayers' money on a medical convention center that they say will turn Cleveland into a "Disney World" for doctors. Well, Chicago's $1 billion expansion of the country's biggest convention center — McCormick Place — was unable to prevent an annual drop in conventions, and analysts say America already has 40 percent more convention space than it needs.

Politicians would be better stewards of their cities if they set simple rules and then just got out of the way. I won't hold my breath.

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "Give Me a Break" and of "Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at <a href="http://www.johnstossel.com" <http://www.johnstossel.com>>johnstossel.com</a>. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

26 Comments | Post Comment
Thanks, John Stossel for your article! 'AND IT CAME TO PASS' - ALL THESE INCOMPETENT, CORRUPT, GREEDY, BLOOD-SUCKING TICKS, SHOULD BE DIRECTED TO THE 'ELEVATOR GOING DOWN-------TO HELL' - and this is far too good for them. In the meantime, GITMO is the place for them to be - as they need to be put in the same situation as they placed the Taxpayers 'BROKE AND HUNGRY!' If a Taxpayer had committed any minor crime, they'd be paying in prison, but yet the politicians have gotten by with MAJOR CRIMES AND TREASON against Taxpayers and they're still in their cozy positions, drawing big bucks and retirements, and "PUSHING" America further into Bankruptcy and to think "THESE IDIOTS BELIEVE THEY'VE BEEN WORKING, IN ORDER TO DRAW THESE BIG SALARIES AND RETIREMENTS! HOW DUMB HAVE WE BEEN, AS TAXPAYERS, TO LET THIS GO ON FOR OVER FIVE (5) DECADES, WITHOUT SENDING THEM TO STATE PRISONS, NOT THE 'COUNTRY CLUB FEDERAL CLUBS' - BETTER YET, GITMO IS THE ONLY PLACE THEY NEED TO GO WITH ONLY THE CLOTHES ON THEIR BACKS! THINK ABOUT IT, AS THIS IS BETTER THAN WHAT THEY'VE HAVE 'GIVEN US!'

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE TO SELL POLITICIANS A ONE-WAY TICKET TO GITMO, SENDING ALONG ALL THEIR BUDDIES, SOCIAL, WELFARE RECIPIENTS, DRUG, INSURANCE COMPANIES AND ANYONE ELSE ''STEALING' FROM THE TAXPAYERS! SERIOUSLY, THIS IS MUCH TOO GOOD FOR THEM! The following was sent to me and maybe your readers would like to read it! sddelong
==========================================================================================

THIS IS A NONPARTISAN JOKE THAT CAN BE ENJOYED BY BOTH PARTIES!
NOT ONLY THAT-- it is POLITICALLY CORRECT!!

While walking down the street one day a US senator is tragically hit by
a truck and dies.

His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

'Welcome to heaven,' says St. Peter. 'Before you settle in, it seems
there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts,
you se e, so we're not sure what to do with you.'

'No problem, just let me in,' says the man.

'Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do
is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you
can choose where to spend eternity.'

'Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,' says the senator.

'I'm sorry, but we have our rules.'

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes
down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself
in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse
and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians
who had worked with him.

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him,
shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while
getting rich at the expense of the people.

They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar
and champagne.

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who
has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a
good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go.

Everyone gives him a hearty

farewell and waves while the elevator rises...

The elevat or goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St.
Peter is waiting for him.

'Now it's time to visit heaven.'

So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls
moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a
good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St.
Peter returns.

'Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now
choose your eternity.'

The senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: 'Well, I would
never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but
I think I would be better off in hell.'

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down,
down to hell.

Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a
barren land covered with waste and garbage.

He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and
putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.

The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder.
'I don't understand,' stammers the senator. 'Yesterday I was here
and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and
caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now
there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable.
What happened?'

The devil looks at him, smiles and says, 'Yesterday we were campaigning.. .
Today, you voted.'
Comment: #1
Posted by: Shirley deLong
Wed Mar 17, 2010 8:57 AM
John,

You are so on target. How politicians don't see these things is beyond comprehension. I think it's a combination of their election and re-election egos with a healthy dose of arrogance that leads them to these decisions.

In my small city of 70,000, La Mirada, CA, we have a heavily subsidized community arts theater that has been losing up to a million dollars a year. They've managed to trim it down a bit to $500,000-700,000 but give me a break. To top it off our city decided to build a waterpark that cost millions. It's a nice waterpark for sure but it is subsidized to the tune of another $500,000 a year.

Now the city is realizing a budget shortfall of 3 million and wants to make cuts. Do you think those cuts included the waterpark or theater? No way! To top it off, the city discovered it has about $70 to 100 million in infrastructure needs and never saved a penny for it. What's their cure....Raise taxes or impose "user utility fees" on all of our utilities.

This all comes after the city put together a "Citizens Task Force on City Finances and Operations". The views of the task force were broad in many ways but when it was specific about things like the theater and waterpark they basically said those are off limits. I say, Gimme a Break.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Brian S
Wed Mar 17, 2010 4:15 PM
John,


You are so on target. How politicians don't see these things is beyond comprehension. I think it's a combination of their election and re-election egos with a healthy dose of arrogance that leads them to these decisions.

In my small city of 70,000, La Mirada, CA, we have a heavily subsidized community arts theater that has been losing up to a million dollars a year. They've managed to trim it down a bit to $500,000-700,000 but give me a break. To top it off our city decided to build a waterpark that cost millions. It's a nice waterpark for sure but it is subsidized to the tune of another $500,000 a year.

Now the city is realizing a budget shortfall of 3 million and wants to make cuts. Do you think those cuts included the waterpark or theater? No way! To top it off, the city discovered it has about $70 to 100 million in infrastructure needs and never saved a penny for it. What's their cure....Raise taxes or impose "user utility fees" on all of our utilities.

This all comes after the city put together a "Citizens Task Force on City Finances and Operations". The views of the task force were broad in many ways but when it was specific about things like the theater and waterpark they basically said those are off limits. I say, Gimme a Break.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Brian S
Wed Mar 17, 2010 4:16 PM
You are so on target. How politicians don't see these things is beyond comprehension. I think it's a combination of their election and re-election egos with a healthy dose of arrogance that leads them to these decisions.

In my small city of 70,000, La Mirada, CA, we have a heavily subsidized community arts theater that has been losing up to a million dollars a year. They've managed to trim it down a bit to $500,000-700,000 but give me a break. To top it off our city decided to build a waterpark that cost millions. It's a nice waterpark for sure but it is subsidized to the tune of another $500,000 a year.

Now the city is realizing a budget shortfall of 3 million and wants to make cuts. Do you think those cuts included the waterpark or theater? No way! To top it off, the city discovered it has about $70 to 100 million in infrastructure needs and never saved a penny for it. What's their cure....Raise taxes or impose "user utility fees" on all of our utilities.

This all comes after the city put together a "Citizens Task Force on City Finances and Operations". The views of the task force were broad in many ways but when it was specific about things like the theater and waterpark they basically said those are off limits. I say, Gimme a Break.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Brian S
Wed Mar 17, 2010 4:17 PM
I believe in liberty. Unfortunately, freedom's last stand will be fought on the border of the states of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and North Dakota. The other states are too far gone. Their large cities produce criminals and dependent groups whose wicked influence spreads like a pestilence into the suburbs and satellite cities across America. Only in these 5 states, where there are no major population centers and a majority of freedom loving people, can the Constitutional Republic be saved.
Comment: #5
Posted by: jason goldtrap
Thu Mar 18, 2010 7:08 AM
I moved from Cleveland to Houston 3 years ago for many of the reasons outlined in this article.
High taxes and a government that continues to subsidize stadiums while the infrastructure crumbles.
Coming to Houston was a great decision. Lower taxes, cost of living similar to CLE, and no more snow.
Oh, and my car doesn't rust away in five years from the road salt.
Great article
Comment: #6
Posted by: MP
Thu Mar 18, 2010 8:08 AM
Lived in the westside suburbs of Cleveland my entire life until 7 years ago when my husband and I couldn't take Cleveland and Cuyahoga County anymore. The bottom line in Cleveland is, they don't want certain people in Cleveland. They want our money but they don't want us. That's why every now and then you hear of Cleveland toying with the idea to annex the neighboring suburbs. Our daughter worked retail downtown and was verbally abused by customers on a daily basis. Cleveland police would escort her to her car at night. She was repeatedly ticketed for things like parking too far from the curb. You can't drive through Cleveland without getting into one of their numerous traffic traps. A main street coming from the suburbs will be 35 mph for blocks then suddenly drop to 25 right where there is a traffic camera. The only time that Cleveland seemed to lift its head for any length of time was when George Voinovich was mayor. Cleveland and Cuyahoga County has been controlled by the corrupt democratic machine for most of its existence. Cleveland voters are the definition of political INSANITY. They keep voting in the same type of people and always expecting a different result. The progressive democrats have done nothing for its residents but keep them in poverty and need. When will people wake up to government involvement is government oppression!?
Comment: #7
Posted by: JZR
Thu Mar 18, 2010 9:51 AM
I love Houston - great city to live, work, and play
Comment: #8
Posted by: snakefinger
Thu Mar 18, 2010 11:46 AM
Every city has its challenges and it's possible to find an expert to represent any position on stadiums and convention centers. Regardless of what experts say, the stadiums in Cleveland: Progressive Field, Quicken Loans Arena, Browns Stadium and the Wolstein Center (Cleveland State) have become a compelling and vibrant part of our city experience that has created growth. As for convention centers, arenas and stadiums, Indianapolis and Houston also have their share. Instead of jumping on the Forbes bandwagon burying Cleveland, why don't you come here and find out what's right and there is a lot that is right and getting better. I've lived in Houston and it's a fine city but I much prefer Cleveland for many reasons not the least of which is no one will build a factory next to my home because of the lack of zoning.
Comment: #9
Posted by: NEO guy
Thu Mar 18, 2010 1:28 PM
here in cedar rapids iowa the city is trying to scare every one to sale there homes to fema nad in some parts of cedar rapids the poor wont have any flood proction the city has out of state buyer to rebuild and make condos we need help here pleas e some one help us here our cry and stop our city form doing thes dirty deeds
Comment: #10
Posted by: kevin coppess
Sun Mar 21, 2010 1:26 PM
Here in Cedar Rapids we have a park and recreation center the CITY won't let us rebuild! They claim they want us to rebuild our lives and steal all the resources while they pad their pockets! Our city is a disaster area and 100 years of COMMUNITY will be lost if someone doesn't help us. PLEASE HELP US
Comment: #11
Posted by: Ajai Dittmar
Fri Mar 26, 2010 4:25 PM
Our city is demolishing 286 homes within the next month! PLEASE HELP US IN Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa was once a quaint city with charm until we were hit by the flood of 2008. Almost immediately after hundreds of people lost everything the city decided to seize the moment as ‘an opportunity' to get rid of our historical neighborhoods.
This city has used our disaster to implement their proposed riverfront project published in the newspaper in the months before the flood. The city would like for the world to believe everything is okay when it's not! They have had grand celebrations downtown while the core neighborhoods sit broken.
Not everyone wants a ‘buyout' but that is all that the national news is interested in. To top it off all of the national news coverage is regulated by our ‘flood czar', Greg Eyerly, who admitted that the city never intended for our neighborhoods to come back. These so called ‘voluntary property acquisitions' have been anything but voluntary and because people are hurting the city is getting property for cheap (some haven't even been paid)!
The city has put roadblocks up for anyone in a '100 year flood plain' who wanted to rebuild by making it impossible for people to come back. In the beginning some people were denied building permits, many, such as I was told that the United States Army Corps of Engineers was going to take our homes to build a levee. Now, the Corps said there isn't enough property to protect on the west side of the river. There is a small number of us who are still fighting for the west bank but we are reminded of how little our voices are heard by the orange cones and bulldozers that line Ellis Blvd. NW where the infamous A&W stands ‘frozen in time'.
Our neighborhoods took over 100 years to build. We are no strangers to flooding in this area and we have proven to pull through in the past, but our sleeping mayor had no time for us because she was far too interested in Sasaki, and the other out of town consultants who dictated our neighborhood planning. It took less than 2 years for the city to come in and destroy our homes with their so called 'environmental experts' who were going in and out of homes without masks, ripping siding up and leaving it peeled back, and this was after homeowners were told their homes were too dangerous to enter.
There is still time if we can get national attention past our flood czar and to the real people.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Ajai Dittmar
Fri Mar 26, 2010 4:26 PM
Our city is demolishing 286 homes within the next month! PLEASE HELP US IN Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa was once a quaint city with charm until we were hit by the flood of 2008. Almost immediately after hundreds of people lost everything the city decided to seize the moment as ‘an opportunity' to get rid of our historical neighborhoods.
Comment: #13
Posted by: Ajai Dittmar
Fri Mar 26, 2010 4:27 PM
Our city is demolishing 286 homes within the next month! PLEASE HELP US IN Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa was once a quaint city with charm until we were hit by the flood of 2008. Almost immediately after hundreds of people lost everything the city decided to seize the moment as ‘an opportunity' to get rid of our historical neighborhoods.
Comment: #14
Posted by: Ajai Dittmar
Fri Mar 26, 2010 4:27 PM
We are having a peaceful demonstration today in effort to save our historical neighborhoods. I Pray SOMEONE listens because decisions are being made by our representative based on his personal feelings and he is not concerned about whats best for the whole city. PLEASE HELP US IN CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA. The city is destroying our neighborhoods in the name of a posh riverfront project that THEY planned before our disaster.
Who's neighborhoods are these anyway? They are OURS not the CITY'S! Our city told FEMA they didn't want their help so they could pursue their plans. A couple of our council members own a business that is making a LOT of money off of people who were flooded in June 2008. PEOPLE are suffering and the city has hired companies that came in and dismantled our homes using 'environmental' excuses to demolish them. No one will show us the 'results' from this testing-no one will listen to the people who really don't want to be a part of the so called 'voluntary acquisition'. There is nothing voluntary about the buyouts in Cedar Rapids. People's houses are falling by the dozens and only 6 of the 700 people have been paid. HELP HELP HELP please
Comment: #15
Posted by: Ajai Dittmar
Sat Mar 27, 2010 10:13 AM
We protested but the NEWS in this city DID not cover us. Why not? What are they ASHAMED of? WE NEED HELP HERE~ WE ARE BEING PUSHED OUT OF OUR HOMES AND laws are being written to allow the city to push us out. Who will be BRAVE enough to cover the truth?
Comment: #16
Posted by: Ajai Dittmar
Sun Mar 28, 2010 10:35 AM
Tomorrow we try demonstrating downtown. WE WANT TO REBUILD! HELP HELP HELP we are not 'prone' to disasters in this area. The disaster is being used as an excuse to GET RID OF US and our neighborhoods that are packed full of Pioneers of this community. Our old Mayor Kay Halloran is a LIAR and NEVER HELPED US ONCE. She sat behind Obama and I am certain said our 'recovery' was splendid. PLEASE HELP US STOP THE DEMOLITIONS.
Comment: #17
Posted by: Ajai Dittmar
Mon Mar 29, 2010 12:19 AM
Re: kevin coppess write more tell these guys everything you can think of!
Comment: #18
Posted by: Ajai Dittmar
Mon Mar 29, 2010 12:20 AM
I made phone calls yesterday to the Office of the Inspector General-and pray they will stop this city from using their money to destroy our 100 year old neighborhoods. I pray this news station picks up on this and comes here to do an investigation. PLEASE COME WE NEED HELP!
Comment: #19
Posted by: Ajai Dittmar
Wed Mar 31, 2010 6:49 AM
Please help us save Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Yes we went through a flood a big one. The old Mayor should be held accountable for her role in the 2008 flood that not only destroyed our homes, jobs, people. We are suppose to believe in Justice and the right of freedom. I know I had a home once that I once owned and fixed up it was my mansion in the flats. Home can be described in many different ways, something built out of wood, something built out of a cardboard box. You know that we have so many people that are homeless, right here in the United States, so explain why do we help everyone else before we help out in our own back yards. When was the last time that you gave a homeless person a meal, or a job offer, or just a smile, a warm bath anything! I know since 2008 I have lost my house on my birthday I lost all of my belongings that I have collected or was passed down to me by my family. I no longer have my children's baby books I have only memories, which is very unsteady. I have seen so many people that I know use to be like me helping out everyone else first. No I sit in my house afraid to leave. I have many mental disabillities now that I have never had before. I know that there are many people that have a lot more problems now that they never had before. I know that if I would have went to the Mayors House and filled it up with everything that our houses were filled with, and made her have to wait for the raging waters to go down then tell her I am sorry but you may not enter, it is unsafe. I would probably not be writing this now because I would have been carted off to Prison. So if someone can please tell me why someone whom should have made the decision about letting us all loose everything including my mental health, stripped me of my home, my job, my well being how is she or the management of CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA not yet had any charges brought against them. Just because I am not rich like them it is no big deal I was expendable. The hundreds of others that they did this to is also expendable why is that why are the ones on a big hill in their mansions so much better then the rest of us. Well I learned along time ago what ever ill thing that you do to someone else will come back to haunt you in the end. But the sad problem here is that they will never be haunted by anything because they are so far gone with their actions that they did to CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA they will never look back except to blame everyone else. Well it is my understanding that the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES HAS THE LAST SAY 'CORRECT' then will someone please tell me why the MAYOR OF CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA 'DOESN'T' hum don't that sound funny we voted her in and the rest of them that sits there with her to protect us, well I don't think that you will find to many that will agree that she protected us at all. Let's get downtown back up and running. Well if you have no people left in CEDAR RAPIDS who is going to go there. Why don't they have flood insurance? Why are they not held accounted why do the people who pay taxes not get all this money to rebuild do you people realize that most of the houses that the old Mayor destroyed is older then most of downtown. I really hate the fact that there is not one person that is suppose to help People keep their rights and go to battle for them their is not one who will help the people of Cedar Rapids stand up for our rights. I wonder if this would have happened to them would they stand up for themselves in the COURT OF LAW....WE ALL KNOW THAT ANSWER.
Comment: #20
Posted by: Dianna Wicher
Wed Apr 7, 2010 5:36 AM
The city is using FEMA and CDBG to justify tearing down houses that have been around here for longer than most of us have been alive. There is all this talk about building communities and this city only wants to tear them down. PLEASE HELP US HERE!
Comment: #21
Posted by: Ajai Dittmar
Thu Apr 8, 2010 8:44 AM
If only this were a Presidential election year. We would be up to our eyebrows with high profile politicians. Alas, it's not this year. Sarah Palin even screwed us over in her book and doesn't bother to apologize. I bet if she runs for President she will, it'll be too late then for a lot of us. Google Palin and Cedar Rapids Flood and read all about what she has done. Former Chair - Linn County Republicans
Comment: #22
Posted by: Kathy
Thu Apr 8, 2010 9:06 AM
Kathy we are in big trouble here if we can't get ANYONE to listen! What is the POINT to this article if they don't do anything until it is too late? WE are disaster victims our city wasn't full of blight until the city hired companies to come dismantle our 100 year old neighborhoods using FEMA and HUD to justify it all.
Comment: #23
Posted by: Ajai Dittmar
Thu Apr 8, 2010 8:39 PM
Re: JZR Have you ever heard of Sasaki?
Comment: #24
Posted by: Ajai Dittmar
Sun Apr 25, 2010 11:03 AM
We need someone to come to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to do our story
Comment: #25
Posted by: Ajai Dittmar
Tue Nov 23, 2010 10:27 AM
I want to thank the writers who have come and talked to the people who are still trying to recover from the 2008 floods!
Comment: #26
Posted by: Ajai Dittmar
Fri Jan 14, 2011 1:18 PM
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