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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

On June 12, 2014 Mike Kenny had an opinion piece in the Glendale Star entitled, Ring the alarm – city once again wants you to foot bill. Here is the link: http://www.glendalestar.com/opinion/editorials/ . Generally I do not agree with Mr. Kenny’s stance on many issues but this time I do.

One sentence stood out, This current city administration banks on two things for survival, and they’re both yours: money and apathy.” The current city council simply cannot stop itself from spending money, your money. The latest example of their inability to reign themselves in is the expenditure, one-time and on-going, for an electronic voting system to be used at 24 council meetings a year. Why? Because they want to assure that you are confused as to who might be the deciding vote on any hotly contested issue…and to relieve Councilmember Chavira’s stress level.

What if there’s not enough in the budget to cover their willingness to spend your money? Not a problem. They will just create a new tax or raise an existent tax. Need money to cover the construction debt and annual management fee for the arena of approximately $27 million a year or the construction debt on Camelback Ranch of $18 million a year?No problem. Just make the temporary sales tax increase permanent. Need money to raise employee salaries? No problem. Just create a new annual licensing fee of $20 on your alarm system or make sure Glendale charges the highest fee in the state for driving school as you try to avoid those points on your record.

Why are 4 councilmembers led by the nose by senior management? Simple, it’s the easier way for them because you, the taxpayer in Glendale, never object. It’s called apathy. I can remember when a bunch of us tried to repeal the sales tax on food. Senior management put together a slick piece of propaganda asking citizens to decide what service(s) to cut if the sales tax on food was eliminated. It was a scare tactic and it worked beautifully. Glendale voters bought city rhetoric.

This time we heard the same scare arguments, i.e., half of Glendale’s staff would be terminated; services would continue to be cut. Those arguments only hold true if citizens allow this council to continue to spend beyond the city’s means. If citizens had demanded council adopt a phased plan of $5 million in cuts per year for 5 years there would be no need for the temporary sales tax to become permanent. Instead it was easier for them to accept Finance Director Duensing’s demands that the temporary sales tax be made permanent now…not in 2017 when it was due to sunset…but now.

This council, with the exception of Mayor Jerry Weiers, has adopted a budget that is not balanced as required by state statute. The budget starts with a $2.7 million deficit. But that’s OK according to senior staff. The money can come from $5 million in Contingency. If Phoenix demands a payment of over $3 million this October, that’s OK too…just take it out of Contingency. But wait…there’s not enough in Contingency to cover both obligations. Well, that’s OK too…just take it out of the Unappropriated Fund Balance (just a slick, new name for what is basically another Contingency account). They play games with your money and by now, you are so confused you can’t figure out what is going on.

Because of citizen apathy you, the Glendale taxpayer, will continue to be “nickled and dimed” to death until you have no more nickels and dimes. What many fail to recognize is that it takes so few of you to have an effect on this council’s financial decisions. Because so few citizens object to anything at council meetings when 20 or 30 citizens show up and speak to an issue council’s sensitivity radar kicks into high gear. Yep. That’s all it takes… 20 or 30 speakers to object. Are there 20 or 30 Glendale residents ready to scream, “I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore?” or will citizen apathy allow this council to spend beyond your means?

© Joyce Clark, 2014

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This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Another blog follower sent me copies of the paperwork filed with the Glendale City Clerk by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club on June 6, 2014. I was originally informed that it was a referendum packet but that information was incorrect. It is an initiative effort. Below are copies of the first page of the Statement of Organization of a Political Committee (PAC) and the Application for Initiative or Referendum Petition. The PAC has until July 3, 2014 to gather the necessary number of signatures, 10,434. I suspect they will have no difficulty in collecting not only the requisite number of signatures but many more. 

The text of the Initiative is as follows: “Adopting the Glendale Taxpayer Protection Act of 2014, which amends the Glendale City Charter, Article VI, Section 7, by decreasing the transaction privilege tax rate, as defined in the art, by seven-tenths of one percent (.7%), with such decrease taking effect August 1, 2017, and requiring a supermajority vote of the council to increase the transaction privilege tax, effective upon passage and proclamation of the act.”

The supermajority provision to increase the sales tax rate means that 5 out of 7 councilmembers would have to approve any increase.

The packet was taken out by Scott Mussi, Executive Director of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club and the Committee Treasurer is Timothy La Sota, an attorney with the firm of Tiffany & Bosco.

Applicationandlanguage_Page_1

Application for Initiative

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Statement of Organization

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

 

 

 

 

 

One of my many followers sent me this link:  http://www.macrumors.com/2014/06/06/apple-others-2-million-each-super-bowl-50/.  Apple, along with other Bay area tech companies, Intel, Yahoo and Google, has given their Super Bowl Host Committee $2 million in cash and other unspecified services to offset San Francisco Bay area taxpayer costs of hosting Super Bowl 50.

Hey Apple…could you spare a little more and gift Glendale $2 million in cash to offset the taxpayer costs of hosting our 2015 Super Bowl?

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club visited Glendale City Hall today, June 6, 2014 and made a beeline for the City Clerk’s office. What for, you say? It seems they have taken out a referendum packet on the issue of council’s decision to make the temporary sales tax increase permanent. Don’t be surprised if Glendale’s voters get to weigh in on the issue this fall.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

The Glendale City Council Workshop of May 6, 2014 had 4 items: the 2035 General Plan Update; the West Phoenix/Central Glendale Light Rail Update; discussion of adding electronic voting to council meetings; and the ever present FY14-15 budget follow up.

The 2035 General Plan Update discussion was led by Jon Froke, Glendale’s Executive Director of Planning, joined by Celeste Werner and Rick Rust, VPs of the Matrix Group. The Matrix Group is the consultant hired by the city to conduct the 2035 General Plan Update at an unbudgeted cost of $110,000 to be paid over two years: $31,000+ the first year; and $78,000+ the second year (FY2014-2015). Here is the link to their presentation: http://www.glendaleaz.com/Clerk/agendasandminutes/documents/01A-Glendale2035GeneralPlanUpdatePowerPoint.pdf .

The city has put up a website for the General Plan Update at www.glendale2035.com. It’s in its infancy right now and there isn’t much to see when you visit the site. At some point there will also be Facebook and Twitter links. Perhaps the greatest take away from the presentation was the continual emphasis upon the Citizen Steering Committee’s role in the process which is advisory only. It was made clear that the final approval rests with council before it goes to the voters in a General Election on November 8, 2016.

As citizens what can you do? Get involved…learn as much as you can…voice your opinion, your vision for Glendale’s future… and concerns, if you have any. There is a natural tension between property owners of vacant land and citizens and their neighborhoods. Make no mistake. Property owners will work hard to maximize the designated zoning for their vacant property because when it is sold a more intense zoning designation means more money for them. Sometimes what they may want will be in direct conflict with what is compatible with your neighborhood. Be vigilant. Check what’s vacant around you and then find out what kind of zoning designation may be placed on that land. Make sure it works to the betterment of your neighborhood. As an example, a property owner may want a multi family (apartment) zoning designation. Your neighborhood might be made up of large or medium sized lot homes. Apartment zoning on vacant land adjacent to your neighborhood will inevitably create future problems and could lower your property value.

Next up was the West Phoenix/Central Glendale Light Rail Update. Cathy Colbath, Glendale’s Interim Executive Director of Transportation Services, introduced Stephen Banta and Benjamin Limmer of Valley Metro. Both men made an excellent presentation. Here is the link: http://www.glendaleaz.com/Clerk/agendasandminutes/documents/02B-LightRailUpdate-PPT.pdf .

Funding for mass transit will be generally along the lines of: 50% from the federal government; a large percentage from voter approved Proposition 400 administered by Valley Metro; an undetermined percentage by the cities in which the mass transit is sited.

Take aways were, in terms of cost per mile: light rail, as most expensive, at $60 to $90 million per mile; a modern streetcar system at $40-$60 million a mile; and bus rapid transit at between $2 to $20 million a mile.

Valley Metro is still in the initial planning stages identifying which of the 3 modes of service would work the best and identifying a corridor extension from 19th Avenue and Bethany Home Road, Phoenix into Glendale. The study area is from Northern Avenue to Camelback Road, including the use of Grand Avenue. Based upon their findings Valley Metro has excluded Northern Avenue, Bethany Home Road and Grand Avenue. It appears the final corridor will be either the Glendale Avenue or Camelback Road. Mass transit is becoming more and more of a necessity in the Valley as resources shrink and the costs of purchasing fuel continue to rise. Did you know that for every billion dollars invested in mass transit in the valley there was a return of $7 billion in economic development along the light rail lines?

Valley Metro will host a public meeting and present their latest information on the study and will offer the public a chance to comment and ask questions. The meeting will be on Thursday, May 22, 2014 from 6 PM to 8 PM at Glendale City Hall, Council Chambers. It’s worth it to attend and to share your opinion on what kind and where mass transit should be sited in Glendale.

Economic redevelopment is critical along all of Glendale Avenue. Redevelopment of Glendale Avenue has been planned to death for at least 20 years with no discernible results to date. I was on the Miracle Mile Committee years ago as a private citizen and was a councilmember when the latest plan, Centerline, was approved. I can’t even remember all of the iterations of planned redevelopment that occurred in between those two efforts. Glendale Avenue is our namesake street. All of it, from 43rd Avenue on the east to Sarival Road on the west, deserves special recognition in terms of development and redevelopment planning. Centerline, the current name for Glendale Avenue redevelopment, only targets 43rd Avenue to 67th Avenue. If I may be so bold as to suggest, a broader, long term vision is required for all of Glendale Avenue and perhaps it should be considered as a whole but in phases. Phase I could be the current 43rd to 67th Avenues. Phase II could be 67th to 105th Avenue (location of our airport and public safety training facility). Phase III could be 105th Avenue to Sarival Road. We should cherish this entire corridor and plan for its future now.

Most of council was receptive to the Glendale Avenue corridor with the exception of Vice Mayor Knaack. Her reservations are understandable. After all she owns property at 55th and Glendale Avenues. However, she is being short-sighted. She is thinking in terms of short-lived financial pain, in the form of relocation or construction, creating financial hardships for business owners such as herself. The long-term gain of finally securing a tool for the economic development /redevelopment of Glendale Avenue between 43rd and 67th Avenues is too important to Glendale’s future viability.

The third agenda item just boggles the mind. Vice Mayor Knaack, under Council Items of Special Interest, brought up the subject of electronic voting at council meetings. Someone on staff may have slipped her the suggestion. Chuck Murphy, Glendale’s Executive Director of Technology & Innovation, and Diana Bundschuh, Deputy Chief Information Technology Officer introduced Chris Voorhees and Thao Hill of Granicus, Inc. Granicus is the provider of the current system used at council meetings.

Two questions should have decided the fate of this idea in short order. Is it critical to the current operation of council meetings and what does it cost? Now, I’m a technology nerd. I love new technology but in the light of Glendale’s current financial crisis electronic voting is not a necessity…now, at this very moment. Yes, it’s sexy and new. Yes, some other cities already have the technology but we can do without it for now. It is not critical to the process of council meetings. What about the cost? Well, Glendale can have the new, sexy technology for a mere upfront cost of $23,000 and an annual cost of approximately $18,000. And that doesn’t include the cost of replacing hardware such as tablets on a periodic basis – perhaps every 3 to 4 years. Hardware is expensive and is used by all personnel including council. Of course this is all unbudgeted. Of course Glendale has no money for a Cadillac right now.

It didn’t faze a majority of council for one single minute. It didn’t bother Councilmembers Knaack, Martinez, Sherwood and Chavira who constituted a majority giving direction to move forward with the new system. Mayor Weiers was decidedly uncomfortable and observed that the cost equates to one position within the city. What was the point of Councilmembers Martinez and Knaack urging all councilmembers to give back a portion of their council budgets if they are all too willing to be imprudent about Glendale’s unbudgeted expenditures such as this one. It’s ridiculous. If they cannot control their spending on relatively small items, God help us on the really, really big ones.

The last agenda item was Fiscal Year 14-15 Budget Follow-Up Items presented by Tom Duensing, Glendale’s Executive Director of Financial Services. By the way, I keep waiting for City Manager Fischer to live up to her pledge to get rid of all of these Executive Director titles…still hasn’t happened…wonder if it ever will? Here is the link: http://www.glendaleaz.com/Clerk/agendasandminutes/documents/04-POWERPOINT-FiscalYear2014-15Follow-UpItems.pdf .

Following Glendale’s budget this year is like trying to find your way through the smoke and mirrors.  It’s the same pot of money no matter what new names are used. Now we have General Fund Sub-Funds, a Permanent Fund and an Internal Service Fund. Go figure. When you watch senior management discuss the budget this year you end up feeling confused,  down right befuddled and just as if you had been sold a bottle of snake oil.

The take aways are that your Primary Property Tax Rate will increase by 2%, the Temporary Sales Tax increase will become permanent and there’s a new strategy called Alternative Service Delivery. The least offensive of the two increases is the increase in the primary property tax rate. Glendale’s portion of your property tax bill is relatively small. Hence the increase in real dollar terms is also proportionately small.

What should be of concern is making the temporary sales tax increase permanent and eliminating the sunset provision that was to occur in 2017. In an attempt to avoid painful cuts to the budget council took the easy way out. It’s a promise broken. Instead senior staff ratified by this council continues to overextend Glendale’s finances and to spend more than is in the budget.

Alternative Service Delivery is the new buzz word for privatization of services Glendale residents receive. The problem is, that while senior staff implements this strategy, no one and most certainly the public or even council for that matter, have been told exactly what they are doing. Then again, it’s another refusal on the part of senior staff to share information. If you were to ask any councilmember about Alternative Service Delivery they would parrot the explanation they heard at this workshop meeting. That is, positions when vacant are being evaluated. If you asked what specific evaluation criterion is used and what jobs have been privatized, they would not be able to answer. After this article, they probably will.

Tentative budget adoption is scheduled for the May 27, 2014 meeting of council with final budget adoption scheduled for June 10, 2014. At the June 24, 2014 council meeting the increased property tax rate and the permanent sales tax increase will be adopted.  Glendale’s voters got what they wanted…a tax and spend city council.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

As promised here is the rest of the story on the city council workshops held on March 18, 2014. The morning session was devoted to money – the budget, the medical benefits plan and an increase in fire staffing.

The General Fund budget discussion yielded some important gems of information. Staff, for the first time ever, used zero-based budgeting. It is a methodology for which I advocated for years. It’s about time.  There will be $15.5 million in expenditure reductions and revenue enhancements. Most of the reductions are of the smoke and mirror variety and reflect internal movement of monies. The only exception is that all departments will make cuts totaling $4.75 million. The lion’s share of those departmental cuts is the result of eliminating unfilled, vacant positions. This is a strategy that has been used before reluctantly.

When council got to departmental budget cuts Councilmembers Martinez and Knaack again asked the rest of council to return a portion of their council budgets to the General Fund as a signal that they were willing to absorb some of the same pain other departments were enduring. Vice Mayor Knaack again expressed her concern and displeasure about Councilmembers Alvarez’ and Hugh’s practice of giving the lion’s share of their council budgets to non-profits. Once again, Alvarez dug in her tiny toes and said she would give up nothing.

The big budget take away is this: Glendale residents will experience a 2% increase in their property tax rates and the temporary sales tax increase will now become permanent. For one reason only. As Tom Duensing, Executive Director of Finance said, “The level of contractual obligations (Jobing.com Arena and Camelback Ranch Ballpark) is unique to Glendale.” If not for these two major debt burdens, “Glendale’s financial picture would look very different.” He went on to say according to the major rating agencies a city’s debt burden should be under 10% and most are in the 8% range. Glendale’s debt service burden is in the 25% to 28% range. Translating it means that the reason your taxes are increasing or in the case of the temporary sales tax increase remaining, is because of the debt created by Jobing.com Arena and Camelback Ranch Ballpark. That has been the elephant in the room that no one wanted to acknowledge. Glendale staff finally has done so. When will your councilmembers finally admit that these two city-owned properties are the reason?

How did the council fall on this issue? Councilmembers Martinez, Knaack, Chavira and Sherwood (a majority) gave approval and direction to remove the sunset provision from the temporary sales tax increase thereby making it permanent and to increase Glendale’s portion of your property taxes by 2%. Councilmembers Alvarez and Hugh wanted the sales tax issue to go before Glendale voters and silently gave approval to the property tax increase. Mayor Weiers wanted an additional week to confer with major stakeholders in Glendale. He didn’t get it but we can presume that he supports the majority council action taken. The next budget workshops are scheduled for April 8 and April 10, 2014.

One perplexing comment made by Mr. Duensing was that WITHOUT the temporary sales tax increase the ending fund balance is ONLY a positive 10% in 2017. If this is correct, One would think a positive fund balance of 10% seems to negate the need to make the temporary sales tax permanent.

Another issue taken up was the medical benefits plan. Retirees can expect another substantial increase to their monthly medical insurance payments while current employees will see no increase. Jim Brown, Executive Director of Human Resources (weren’t they getting rid of “Executive Director” titles??), said there would be no increase to current employees but retirees are an unfunded liability causing the increase in their premiums.

The last issue was an increase in fire staffing of 15 fire fighters as a result of a SAFER grant. As with a COPS grant there is a sliding scale and the SAFER grant will cover the first two years of fire fighter salaries. After that, the city will absorb the costs. Chief Burdick said that with the addition of 15 fire fighter positions there should be a savings of an estimated $400,000 in overtime pay. Let’s hold him to his word.

Lesson learned is that taxes are remaining or increasing because of the debt burden created by the city-owned Jobing.com Arena and Camelback Ranch Ballpark. Are they worth it to Glendale residents?

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

As we prepare to enter 2014 it’s a good time to look at the major issues Glendale will face. Here is Glendale’s Top Ten for 2014:

  1. The winner for the coming year is Glendale’s financial future. The City Manager and Executive Finance Director will offer a series of options, some critical, some not, to right the situation. Will the city council grow a backbone and adopt some stringent measures that are sure to be unpopular with the general public?
  2. Will IceArizona be able to deliver on its promise of enhanced arena revenues to recompense Glendale for its annual $15 million dollar management fee? The $15 million annual fee coupled with another $12 million in arena construction debt repayment contributes to Glendale’s heavy financial burden.
  3. The Camelback Ranch area has never delivered on its promise to perform. When the recession hit all development came to a screeching halt. Will the city create n incentive strategy for development of the surrounding area? Its annual $13 million dollar debt construction repayment is yet another major financial burden.
  4. Will the Attorney General’s office investigation into former City Manager Ed Beasley and deals cut with former financial consultant Art Lynch and former HR Director Alma Carmicle result in charges being filed?
  5. What impacts will the arrival of the first of 144 F-35 aircraft have on Luke Air Force Base, Glendale and the surrounding West Valley area?
  6. Will the Arizona Cardinals continue to seek its dream of a bubble tent practice facility on Glendale’s Youth Sports fields? What about their desire for Glendale’s long-promised parking garage as a means of fulfilling its parking requirements as vacant land diminishes at Westgate?
  7. Will the new City Manager Brenda Fischer continue to fire employees as her solution to any future irregularities? Will a new round of internal warfare erupt between police and fire over the severely constrained city revenue pot of money as her empathy toward fire (her husband is/was a firefighter in Henderson, Nevada) becomes more evident?
  8. With November, 2014 city election for councilmembers in the Cholla, Barrel and Ocotillo districts bring new faces and new agendas and another shake up in the fragile council coalitions?
  9. Will the temporary city sales tax increase become permanent as a solution to Glendale’s financial mess? How will citizens react to the broken promise of its sunset in 2017? Will citizens see increases in all kinds of local taxes while experiencing a decrease in the level of services provided?
  10. How will the city find the money to pay for its hosting of the Super Bowl in 2015? A figure of $1.7 million dollars is unrealistic and doesn’t equal the amount spent by Glendale on its last Super Bowl hosting gig.

Lastly there is the unknown. There is always a new, unforeseen crisis. What will it/they be for Glendale in 2014? Councilmembers will continue to combat and to abuse one another and all of us. The City Manager will continue to offer policies to strengthen her power and there is no one on council to guard against it. Departments such as police and fire will vie for shrinking resources. New players and power brokers will emerge. All that can be said with any degree of certainty is that it won’t be a dull year. Thank goodness there will be plenty of fodder for upcoming blogs!

© Joyce Clark, 2013

FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to :http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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