Monitor Saint Paul Serving the Midway and Como neighborhoods of St. Paul Thu, 13 Aug 2015 14:58:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Youth outreach is part of standard community policing in St. Paul Thu, 13 Aug 2015 14:53:47 +0000 Never touch a gun; be careful when walking or riding a bike; and respect adults while also being cautious


community policing 1For Officer Mark Ross, who has been with the St. Paul Police Department since 2001, talking with school children about his role as a police officer is second nature to him.

Photo right: St. Paul Police Officer Mark Ross, a Como resident, speaks with children in teacher Rhonda Sue Simonson’s kindergarten class at Hamline Elementary. “My prime objective is to get the kids to understand that most of what we do is helping people,” Ross said. (Photo submitted)

With his background as a school resource officer, Ross said he is often asked to go out and speak to schools. “I have spent a lot of time with kids,” said Ross, who is also raising his own children in the Como Park neighborhood.

This past May, Ross, who is a medal of valor winner, was invited to speak to the Hamline Elementary kindergarten class by teacher Rhonda Sue Simonson. Hamline Elementary is located at 1599 Englewood.

“We try to have fire trucks and police officers come at the end of the school year. We feel it is important for kids to know what to do in potential emergencies, and in summer they have more time, hence more potential risks,” Simonson said.

Simonson said that what impressed her so much about Ross, as well as other policemen and policewomen who have come to the school in the past, is how they want the kids to see them as real people.

“Officer Ross said he was wearing the uniform for his presentation, but he goes to his kids’ games in shorts, and he shops at Target and he rides the bus or uses a regular car. He is known by a badge number at work, but he has a name,” Simonson continued.

Ross concurred that one of the things he always talks about with kids is what he does when he is not at work. “We’re just people, part of the community,” he noted. “I have a family, and I’m doing the same thing the kids are doing. I’m going to the rec center or walking around the lake. Being a police officer is my job, but we’re just like everybody else.”

Explaining his job is a big part of what Ross does at his school presentation. “My prime objective is to get the kids to understand that most of what we do is helping people. We work within the community every day, and we help people all day long in all kinds of different ways.”

Through meeting with the kids, he hopes to build relationships with them so they know they can trust the police and consider them a resource for help.

“Of course, they want to talk about the equipment,” Ross said. “We go over that as well and explain to them what each piece of equipment is for, what it is used for and different ways we use it to help them and people in the community.”

He said kids always want to ask about the guns. “We try and get that out of the way very early and explain to them that guns are dangerous, and they should never touch a gun,” Ross said. “We try to explain that if they were to see a gun, don’t touch it; call an adult or call the police right away so they can deal with it. Do not touch it or let your friends touch it.”

He said that at the school presentation, he doesn’t necessarily talk about using deadly force. “I explain that the very last thing we want to do is use a gun,” Ross said. He tries to emphasize to the class that guns are very dangerous and should not be handled unless one is an expert or trained.

Ross also talks about safety when walking to school or crossing streets. “I tell them that just because you can see a car; it doesn’t mean the car can see you. Be cautious when crossing streets. When you’re riding a bike, wear your helmet and stay in pairs or groups.”

Ross said he encourages kids to be respectful to adults and their elders. “That’s a fine line with kids,” he admits. “You don’t want them to be too trusting. Even if they’re not comfortable with a situation, they can remain respectful and go get help. Or just develop one-liners where they can get themselves out of a situation.”
As an example, Ross said a child can say “No, my mom says I can’t. I have to go.”
Ross said he tells kids how they can help the police, also, by doing a good deed or reporting a crime or being a good witness.

“In many ways the police are preaching the same rule structure our discipline programs aim to enforce in schools,” Simonson said. “There are not good people and bad people, but sometimes a person makes a bad choice and helpers need to be available to keep all safe. It helps when we know the rules and talk about what went wrong.”

She said that research has proven that five-year-olds have a strong sense of right and wrong and appreciate rules, yet can have empathy. “I think it is very important that city workers, teachers, police, fire, recreation, and food service, work together to build the foundation of trust and responsibility to others.”

Ross said he believes the school presentations are a great way to ease tension between the police and the community, as well.

“But to be honest,” he added, “what we see in the media lately in terms of the police and strained relations, I think most police officers in St. Paul, and probably throughout the country, would tell you that is not necessarily the true narrative in terms of what is going on. Instead, the majority of people are happy to see us; they trust us, and they’re excited to see us out there. I’m out there patrolling in Frogtown every day, and I just don’t feel the kinds of things you think I might feel, based on the reporting on TV.”

Sgt. Paul Paulos of the St. Paul Police Department agreed. “We have a strong Police Athletic League program for older kids and an Explorer program for kids interested in law enforcement. I think our patrol officers do a good job in just getting out and talking to the kids,” he said. “It’s common to see them get out of a patrol car and throw around a football with some kids, or just talk to them. It’s part of working with the community, and I think we do a really good job of that.”

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Arnellia’s on top of projects to win STAR funding Thu, 13 Aug 2015 14:49:29 +0000 ArneilliasSixteen of 58 projects submitted for Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) grants and loans will go forward. Topping the list citywide is a renovation of a University Ave. restaurant and nightclub.

The grants and loans won St. Paul City Council approval in July. The slate of projects approved by the council mirrored the list of 16 projects recommended by the Neighborhood STAR Board. The city had about $1.7 million to allocate. The pot of money for neighborhood projects has grown smaller over the years as sales tax proceeds were directed to city capital projects.

Arnellia’s, 1183 University Ave., received a $40,000 grant and a $40,000 loan toward a new patio, sliding windows and interior renovations including a relocated bar and kitchen improvements. Almost $90,000 was pledged as a project match.
The other two area projects winning approval are: $60,000 in renovations to the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota building at 1096 Raymond Ave.; and a $10,000 loan and $10,000 grant toward renovation of Colossal Cafe, 2351 Como Ave.

The 58 projects submitted is the highest number seen in some time. Two were withdrawn, so 56 went through the full competition.

Many area projects missed out on funding, including two at 550 Vandalia Ave. The Paikka events and creative space and the St. Paul Neighborhood Network’s new community media center there missed the cut. So did ongoing redevelopment efforts at the former Old Home Dairy building at Western and University avenues, Victoria Theater renovations at 825 University Ave. and the planned Can Can Wonderland mini-golf and building renovation at 755 N. Prior Ave.

Three arts and recreation projects also missed out. Those include Joy to the People’s new soccer field at South St. Anthony Park Recreation Center (890 Cromwell), and funding for replacement of the ice rink equipment at North Dale Recreation Center (1414 St. Albans St.). Midway Murals’ Snelling Ave. project wasn’t funded in the competitive round but was later awarded $5,000 from the year-round STAR fund.

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Questions persist on University SuperTarget liquor store license Thu, 13 Aug 2015 14:43:03 +0000 By JANE MCCLURE

Midway SuperTarget’s quest to add an off-sale liquor store may not be resolved until late summer or fall.  A two-hour legislative hearing last month ended with technical questions about the concept of a store-within-a-store, including issues of liquor delivery and storage. Until those questions are resolved, a St. Paul City Council decision on the license is pending.

Midway SuperTarget is at 1300 University Ave. Target corporate officials want to remove the store’s café and replace it with an off-sale liquor store. The plans have been on the drawing boards since last year. Union Park District Council (UPDC), which initially recommended approval of the store’s license, asked for the legislative hearing. More than a dozen people attended the July 17 hearing.

The prospect of another liquor store in the area has raised concerns about more access to liquor, public intoxication, litter, negative neighborhood impacts and the efforts to change the Midway area’s image. But much of the hearing centered on technical issues tied to city distance regulations.

The district council, Big Top Liquors, and area residents have questioned whether the proposed liquor store meets the one-half mile or 2,640-foot minimum distance separation required by city code. The city doesn’t allow waiver of the distance requirement, passed in the 1980s and amended more than a decade ago. One key issue that remains is how to measure “distance.”

Big Top representatives contend that the distance should be measured building to building. In that case, the Midway SuperTarget doesn’t meet the minimum distance requirement.

Target officials contend the proper measurement is from the store door because the liquor store would be separated from the main store. Target’s surveyor measured the distance from Big Top to the store door at 2,651.98 feet.

But Jeff Fischbach, a project facilitator for the City of St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI), said the surveyor measured the distance to the west store doors. The proper measurement should have been to the east store doors, where patrons will enter to access the liquor store.  By his measurement, the total distance is 2,795 feet.

Ellen Saffron and Nancy Rosenberg, co-owners of Big Top, and Big Top Attorney Scott Banas said the distance requirements must be met. They contended that the measurement needs to be from the west building wall near Hamline Ave. and not by the doors. That would mean the distance requirement isn’t met.

“The liquor store is not a freestanding building,” said Rosenberg.

Banas said the distance issue has come up before in St. Paul, including the 2005 licensing of the Wine Thief on St. Clair Ave. Thomas Liquors, which is on Grand Ave., challenged the distance requirement. Banas said at that time the decision was made that the measurement should be building to building.

Nancy Husnik, senior legal counsel for Target, said the measurement should be from liquor store to liquor store. “We’re not seeking a liquor license for the whole store,” she said. Husnik added that the liquor store should be considered a separate operation.

The planned liquor store would have its own door, own cashiers and about a dozen of its own workers. It would have shorter hours than the main store, opening at 10am. City ordinances require the liquor store to close at 8pm Monday through Thursday, and 10pm Friday and Saturday. State law requires it be closed on Sundays.

Once the off-sale license is approved, Midway Target would give up its existing 3.2 beer license and no longer sell beer and malt beverages in its grocery area.
One question Big Top representatives raised centers on liquor deliveries. Target officials said the deliveries will be made at the rear of the store. Liquor can only be stored there for up to 24 hours before it is taken to the liquor store.

Saffron questioned the legality of having deliveries to the larger store. Vang said that is the issues she will research before making a licensing decision.

Target has checked with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety on deliveries, said Husnik. State officials told Target that liquor deliveries can be made to the back of the main store, with 24 hours to move products to the liquor store. She said that is similar to what is done with store-within-a-store arrangements at other retailers. But Vang said she wants to talk to state officials herself and learn more about the issue.

The Midway store would be Target’s third off-sale liquor store in Minnesota. Existing stores are in Otsego and St. Louis Park.

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Urban Boat Builders’ summer boat launch Thu, 13 Aug 2015 14:35:49 +0000 Urban Boatbuilders 2015 478

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Urban Boat Builders, a youth development program that uses boat building as a tool for positive change, held its annual boat launch on July 29 at Lake Como. With 20 years experience, Urban Boat Builders has developed a fleet of light-weight, durable, and beautiful water-crafts which are sold to support their mission and the youth they serve.

Urban Boat Builders was established on the premise that wooden boat building by small groups of at-risk teens is an effective tool for youth development. Since 1995, they have built over 200 boats, worked with more than 3,000 youth in sixty different agencies, juvenile corrections programs and schools—and hosted 100+ apprentices.

Photo above: The launch attracted hundreds of supporters and interest

Urban Boatbuilders 2015 192Photo left: Members of the summer work program displayed one of two canoes they built together. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)





Urban Boatbuilders 2015 420Photo right: Eleven boats in total were launched July 29 on Lake Como in a stiff breeze. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman paddled in the stern behind Lily, one of this year’s apprentices. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

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Hamline Midway Investment Co-op schedules Community Forum Aug. 20 Thu, 13 Aug 2015 14:28:08 +0000 The Hamline Midway Investment Co-op will hold a Community Forum on Thurs., Aug. 20, 6:30-8pm in the Hamline Midway Library (1558 Minnehaha Ave.), basement meeting room.

What kind of businesses and resources would we like to see (or see more of) in our neighborhood? How can we attract businesses into sites and streets that have seen too little (or too much short-term) usage over the last few years? How can we support local businesses in a way that is mutually beneficial, and more sustainable over the long term? How can we as a community affirm and enhance our neighborhood—its look, its culture, its affordability, its strengths?

A dedicated group of neighbors have been exploring these questions and have more formally moved to form the Hamline Midway Investment Co-operative (HMIC). The group seeks to expand its membership, and its sense of how to answer these complicated questions, by hosting three community forums. The first will be held from 6:30-8 on Aug. 20, in the basement of the Hamline Midway Library. The objective is rich conversation —to get a better read on what a good investment might be and to broaden engagement across the neighborhood. Future sessions will be announced later.

HMIC began as an interest group of 10-15 neighbors, called together by the Hamline Midway Coalition Board of Directors in an attempt to facilitate direct community participation in economic development. With the support of HMC and its director Michael Jon Olson, the group has been meeting for the past year or so to discuss the possibility of creating a neighborhood co-op here in Hamline Midway.

This idea has benefited communities throughout the country. Recently there was discussion on the neighborhood Facebook page about the NorthEast Investment Co-op (NEIC) in Minneapolis. The NEIC illustrates the power of community engagement in economic development. A building cooperatively owned by this group now houses a brewery and a bakery near Central and Lowry avenues.

The local brainstorming group in Midway has met approximately a dozen times and recently enlisted one of NEIC’s founding members to serve as a consultant. Calling themselves the Hamline Midway Investment Co-op (HMIC), they have engaged in preliminary research about how co-ops work, done some preliminary investigation of sites and strategies, and debated different visions for moving forward. A preliminary mission statement emerged from the efforts:
“We want to form an investment co-op, to buy a commercial property, that underpins a sustainable business that serves the community, and provides a return to the investors. We want people in the community to engage with development—property, business, and all the less material elements of community growth and strength—in ways that empower them.”

They are now at the stage where they are ready to incorporate as a co-op and begin coordinating with the broader community about what such an investment co-op might look like here in the neighborhood. There remain many larger questions of where exactly to look to purchase a building and what businesses might one day set up shop there. But HMIC now hopes to further the discussion—and expand the constituency of the steering group—by asking for all neighbors to share ideas, thoughts, input, feedback, and questions.

In addition to the community forums, HMIC will work through Facebook, email, and other personal communications to engage the whole neighborhood. If you are interested in learning more, joining in, or just being connected to our email conversations, please drop Mike Reynolds a note at

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News from Como Park High School Thu, 13 Aug 2015 14:26:42 +0000 Wolf Ridge• Two Como E2 environmental students were selected to spend four weeks at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center on Minnesota’s North Shore. Maureen Rein and Seven Armstrong participated in the Ecology Credit Camp, through which students earn high school credit, and college credit upon completion of the ACCUPLACER test. The experience at Wolf Ridge included doing projects both in labs and in the wilderness. Many aspects of the program are like an AP Environmental Science class in the wild. E2 is a vertical academic program between Murray Middle School and Como that begins in an 8th grade Earth Science elective.

• Four Como students are spending their summer at 3M participating in STEP (Science Training Encouragement Program). Celeina Lee, Shara Mafiz, Ashley Yang, and Mai See Yang are all completing eight weeks of research and work in various 3M labs. AP Biology teacher Robyn Asher attended the students’ poster sessions, which were insightful presentations of their scientific process and discovery. Asher completed six weeks of research with 3M staff as part of the TWIST program (Teachers Working in Science and Technology).

• Seven MCJROTC cadets traveled to South Carolina to participate in a regional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) camp at The Citadel, with an intensive focus on cyber-security and robotics. The eight-day course facilitated a greater awareness of emerging threats to network-computer platforms. Students analyzed countermeasures and strategies to protect against cyber attack and/or infiltration. Hands-on learning with the construction and timing of robotics systems while working with cadets from around the country offered collaborative leadership experiences. Despite the extreme and oppressive heat, the cadets also conducted outdoor fitness and rappelling activities, along with a visit to historic Charleston and Fort Sumter.

AOF ConferencePhoto right: Como Academy of Finance teachers Jamie Crandall, Kirstyn Ouverson, Steve Powers and Kris Somerville attended the National Academy Foundation annual conference with Hannah Chan (Youth Career Connect Program Manager for St. Paul Public Schools) and Como Principal Theresa Neal.

• Como Academy of Finance (AOF) teachers attended the National Academy Foundation (NAF) annual conference in Anaheim, California from July 20-22. Learning focused on NAF’s new brand, Be Future Ready and becoming equipped with tools to make Como’s AOF program even stronger. The upcoming school year will include cohorts of 90 freshmen, 60 sophomores, and 60 juniors. The AOF at Como is a small learning community within the larger school where students focus on key components of the business world and are exposed to site visits and speakers in different business professions. Succeeding students are placed in an internship during their senior year and receive 16 college credits from St. Paul College. If you would like more information, please email AOF Coordinator Kris Somerville at

• Principal Theresa Neal attended a week-long training in July at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. Neal was one of 200 school administrators from around the country participating in the National Institute for Urban Leaders. Sessions were led by national and internationally recognized Harvard staff. Topics included: Cultural Leadership for Transforming School Organizations; Using Data Effectively; Supporting Teachers in Instruction; Leading Inclusion; and many more sessions that were pertinent to developing leadership skills to effectively lead an urban school with 21st century learners.

• Following the Harvard Institute, Principal Neal represented Como at the Youth Career Connect (YCC) Grantee Conference in Washington DC, July 15-16. The conference was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and was held on Capitol Hill. Como’s Academy of Finance program is partially supported by funds from the YCC grant. Neal spent two days looking at the framework of career pathways and its effectiveness in supporting academic achievement and career and college readiness. One of the keynote speakers was Thomas E. Perez, the U.S. Secretary of Labor.

• Fall sports teams are hitting the fields and courts this week as official practices begin Aug. 17. Fans can check schedules for all Como and St. Paul City teams at

• The Como all school Open House is Thur., Sept. 3 from 5-7pm. All incoming 9th graders and families are invited to meet Como staff, get class information, and see Como’s facilities and opportunities. Returning students and families are also invited to get oriented for the new school year and reconnect with Como staff and families.

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A soccer stadium in the Midway? Thu, 13 Aug 2015 14:19:19 +0000 Lingering questions about the Bus Barn / Midway Center site leave development open to discussion


soccerThe former Metro Transit Snelling bus barn site and adjacent Midway Center properties are in play as a possible Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium site. Mayor Chris Coleman announced in July that he has invited MLS officials to meet with him and tour the property.

The mayor is touting a soccer stadium not simply as a way to lure a team here but also as a means to jump-start the long-awaited redevelopment of the “superblock.”  The superblock is bounded by St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues and Pascal St.

The 10-acre bus barn property is part of a larger 34.5-acre site (including Midway Shopping Center) that has long been eyed for various uses, most recently mixed-use transit-oriented development.  An ambitious proposal for the superblock stalled last year after a study showed a need for up to $31 million in gap financing, looking at the site’s market value. Metropolitan Council officials recently said they may pursue bus barn site redevelopment on their own.

Emails between city officials and team owner William McGuire indicate that the bus barn property has been eyed for soccer since 2013. He also recently expressed interest in 25 acres of the Midway Center property for a larger development.
McGuire’s partners include United Properties and the Minnesota Twins owners, the Pohlad family.

In a July 11 media conference call, Coleman indicated that he believes there would be a “clear path forward” for a stadium within a few weeks. The Minnesota United FC was awarded an MLS franchise in March. After a July 1 deadline for a stadium pact with the City of Minneapolis fell through, Coleman and the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce began advocating for a St. Paul site.

Coleman said he was told that the window for a soccer stadium in Minneapolis “is closing very quickly.” He has denied that a St. Paul bid is a way for MLS to get more leverage with Minneapolis. But Minneapolis and Hennepin County officials say they are still in the game. An open-air stadium is proposed there, near Target Field.

The project has kicked off a varying range of opinions in area neighbors and elected officials, ranging from enthusiastic support to concerns about tax base impacts, traffic, spillover parking and what kind of redevelopment a stadium would bring. Union Park District Council (UPDC) hosted a community meeting on the proposal Aug. 11 and will continue to gather input.

Union Park is an area of Saint Paul between the Mississippi River and Lexington Ave., and University and Summit avenues, including Merriam Park, Snelling-Hamline, and Lexington-Hamline neighborhoods. The parcel in question is located in the UPDC area.

While there has been much speculation and behind-the-scenes city discussion of locating a stadium here, UPDC Land Use Committee members and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods said community members need the chance to discuss the proposal.

“There’s a need to get the community’s perspective,” said UPDC Land Use Committee Chairperson Anne White. Other committee members agreed. They noted that while there is considerable support for soccer and redevelopment, concerns include traffic and parking impacts, potential public subsidy, and the pros and cons of redevelopment that might be more of an entertainment district than the mixed-use long envisioned for the site.

On July 24, UPDC passed a resolution supporting further exploration of the bus barn site as a possible location for a stadium. But the project would have to allow for, and encourage, transit-oriented, mixed-use development of the entire 34.5-acre Snelling-Midway site. That would keep consistency with the Snelling Station Area Plan developed as part of a series of station plans along Green Line light-rail.

UPDC is also asking that the city approach redevelopment of the entire superblock as whole and to “avoid allowing the excitement and urgency of the stadium project to limit the remarkable opportunity that exists in the heart of our city,” the letter stated. “The best location for a stadium on the site may be the Met Council-owned parcel. But, we know the development would be stronger if the entire site and its infrastructure were designed as a whole, even though the plans would likely be implemented in phases over time.”

Other concerns include making sure that stadium development doesn’t compromise the goal of a walkable site with public open spaces, and a mix of housing and business development focused on creating long-term quality jobs. There is also concern about tax relief options, with worries that residents and businesses not bear financial burdens tied to stadium construction.

Another point the district council made is that parking and traffic management are “critical” and that shared parking needs to be explored. Stadium planners are also encouraged to promote transit use to get people to and from the games.

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Hamline and Galtier want the neighborhood back in their schools! Thu, 13 Aug 2015 14:17:28 +0000 Like most parents, Jessica Kopp searched to find the right school for her second-grade daughter.

Kopp wanted top-notch teachers, strong curriculum, and a school that reflected the richness of the community in which she lives.

She found everything she was looking for at Hamline Elementary, a Saint Paul Public Schools campus that was just four blocks from her home.

“We loved that it was close to home because we love our neighborhood,” said Kopp.

“It’s where we live; it’s where we play, and the teachers are awesome and skilled educators.”

So, it was surprising to her and other parents that neighborhood schools like Hamline and its nearby neighbor, Galtier Community School, weren’t at capacity with waiting lists out of the door.

“Since we’ve been here we’ve wondered why aren’t other people here. I’m constantly amazed by that,” Kopp said.

To help promote both Hamline and Galtier, Kopp and other parents from both schools are collaborating to raise awareness of all the schools have to offer and to encourage other families to consider their neighborhood schools.

They’ve talked to neighborhood groups, garnered support from local businesses and are seeking other opportunities to keep their schools on the radar for other parents who are looking for exceptional schools.

Galtier Community School, located at 1317 Charles Ave, is a campus that was designed for personalized learning. Its classrooms are wide-open spaces, called learning studios, and encourage interaction among students and teachers.
“Many parents have called our school a “hidden gem,” said Galtier Principal, Shawn Stibbins. “We have small class sizes, dedicated teachers and we have high expectations for our students.”

At Hamline Elementary, located at 1599 Englewood Ave, the motto is “College Begins in Kindergarten,” and each year about 100 students from Hamline University spend time at the elementary school working with students.

“It’s great to have a college as your next door neighbor,” said Johnson. “Our collaboration with Hamline University not only provides tutors and mentors, but also a positive learning experience for all our students.”

Kopp and other parents say they will continue to boast about their schools with the hope of convincing other families that both Galtier and Hamline are the right schools for their children.

“Our goal is to get our neighborhood back into our schools,” Kopp said.
Both schools still have openings for kindergarten students. For more information about the schools, or any SPPS school, contact the Student Placement Center at 651-632-3760 or visit

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