Sitting mayor needs to stand up

Popular, even-handed Copenhaver has a flaw that can't be ignored

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We've never doubted that Augustans -- all of them -- have a friend in the mayor's office.

It would be nice to have an advocate too, though.

It must be said that even after some four years in office, Mayor Deke Copenhaver is one of the most popular elected officials this town has ever seen. The impact of his gentle hand on the wheel of government has truly surprised and delighted even his biggest supporters. While most of us have been tossed about by waves of racial tension, financial difficulties, petty squabbles and more down at City Hall, the mayor has been a sea of calm, patiently and faithfully staying the course to a brighter future.

Quite simply, his way has worked.

As a result, he has rarely been the subject of public criticism.

Until now.

As detailed in a Chronicle story Sunday, the mayor's decision to seek a legal opinion on whether he was compelled to allow a gay pride parade downtown June 19 highlighted what, for many, is Copenhaver's biggest flaw: He seems to duck controversy at every turn.

The fact that he sought a legal opinion on the matter isn't particularly momentous, but it's especially telling. Why? Because he knew darn good and well he had to approve the parade. He said as much. And anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of constitutional rights knows it. He just wanted someone else to say it, so as not to be the bad guy among those opposed to the parade.

He wanted to pass the buck, pure and simple.

Again, this is a widely popular mayor with no other significant flaws that we know of. But it's a significant flaw if one chronically retreats from controversy or seeks cover for unpopular decisions.

This would not be an issue, were it not a pattern. It's just that the parade issue criticism finally broke this concern into the open.

Indeed, downtown merchants were, and are, worried that the parade, coming as it does on the Saturday before Father's Day, will impede customer traffic and cost them thousands. They tried to get that word to the mayor, but he washed his hands of it, saying that was between them and the parade organizers. Yet, as we noted last week, the mayor very well could have acted as a go-between to help sort out the problem.

When racial unrest broke out after a police shooting in Cherry Tree Crossing in 2008, he again failed to take a public leadership role -- and essentially wasn't heard from for four days. When citizens and the press repeatedly asked for help getting access to public documents at City Hall over the past few years -- and were able to cite specific, egregious violations of both the spirit and the letter of state open-records laws -- none of us felt as if we had an advocate in Mr. Copenhaver.

Moreover, those of us charged with covering and analyzing events at City Hall can tell you the mayor is swift and sure in his responses to questions when the subject matter is upbeat; in contrast, if it's negative, you sometimes never hear back.

He wasn't available, for instance, to comment for the Sunday story about him.

Again, the mayor is wildly popular, and for good reason: He's a great guy and a good soul. He is a tremendous ambassador for economic development and racial reconcilation. Critcism of him comes only reluctantly.

Still, the main issue for which the mayor has been a vocal, ardent and tireless supporter is baseball legend Cal Ripken's desire for the city to build a newer baseball stadium on the river. It brings to mind the question: Is the mayor a better advocate for Ripken than for the rest of us?

Augusta's form of government gives the mayor no vote and no veto and no hiring and firing authority. His powers, technically speaking, are limited.

But since when has that stopped a leader?

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StillaGOP
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StillaGOP 02/22/10 - 08:33 pm
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To some a flaw, but

To some a flaw, but reluctance to engage in controversial topics, such as letting the gays march in the St. Patrick's Day parade, tell me two things: 1). he has done a good job of bringing a racially divided community together as probably anyone could have, his opinion on the gay's in the parade would have just been fodder for more (or another chapter of) discord in our community; 2). given our judicial system he couldn't win if he opposed it, and I believe he is against it. Topics like this are just great newspaper articles, it gets so many people excited and the paper believes it increases readership (revenue) for them.

Dixieman
16595
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Dixieman 02/22/10 - 09:00 pm
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A wise leader chooses his

A wise leader chooses his fights carefully and does not get involved in every dispute that comes up. Read Sun Tzu. I think Mr. Copenhaver is a great mayor who knows when to hold 'em and knows when to fold 'em.

brimisjoshan
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brimisjoshan 02/22/10 - 09:48 pm
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Even though I have been a

Even though I have been a strong supporter of Deke I can not deny the validity of this article. Very good, now let's give Deke sometime to reflect on this and see if it produces an even better Mayor.

apex24
0
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apex24 02/22/10 - 10:10 pm
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As I've said before, Deke

As I've said before, Deke plays both sides of the fence that way you don't make anyone mad and you don't have to make a decision.

Nat the Cat
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Nat the Cat 02/23/10 - 02:22 pm
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I remember, not too long ago,

I remember, not too long ago, when Augusta's local Government was a Joke, and laughed at throughout the State. It's not anymore, with the exception of the Mason/Johnson twins. The only joke is a yellow journalist that attempts to destroy good people's characters at every turn...Johnny Edwards.

J.W.
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J.W. 02/22/10 - 10:45 pm
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And the chronicle continues

And the chronicle continues to throw eggs at the mayor in a vain attempt to turn a "tempest in a teapot" into a raging storm! The Mayor did exactly what he should have done and in doing so saved the city from a long, drawn out, and costly lawsuit. Without Marion Williams, Betty Beard, and the old Colesium Authority around, you staff weenies at the chronicle must be in fear of your jobs since you are now resorting to muck raking!

Nat the Cat
1
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Nat the Cat 02/22/10 - 11:04 pm
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0
Well said J.W. If you don't

Well said J.W. If you don't give Johnny an interview, he crys like a baby, and then wants revenge....he digs up all of the dirt he can find, and if he can't find any, he'll just make it up! He can dish it out all day, but he can't take it....He's pathetic!

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 02/23/10 - 12:35 am
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You guys forgot to mention

You guys forgot to mention Deke's mishandling of the Goshen stimulus application debacle. in any case I never knew that a successful mayor was defined as one who basically has no real accomplishments while in office. I guess in Augusta as long as you don't make any waves and don't have a big sex scandal or get sent to prison then you are a akin to Winston Churchill. Can someone please name one major initiative and accomplishment of the mayor? I mean we can get Miss Augusta to cut ribbons.

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 02/23/10 - 04:31 am
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What is the intention of this

What is the intention of this editorial? To state an opinion? Wasn't this EXACT point made in Sunday's lead editorial? And why is it being repeated? I've got to agree with J.W. @ 10:45pm.

Riverman1
90752
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Riverman1 02/23/10 - 05:04 am
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I couldn't have said it

I couldn't have said it better myself :). It had to finally be brought into the open by the AC in a straight forward way. But, remember, Deke is a nice guy (trademarked).

Brad Owens
4859
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Brad Owens 02/23/10 - 06:03 am
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Funny how folks were singing

Funny how folks were singing Johnny's praises when he was uncovering all the stuff on Mrs. Beard but now that he draws attention to Deke's unwillingness to take a stand on anything, Johnny is the bad guy?

He just pointed out that Deke ducks anything that is a possible negative and that the fact he does is telling about him and his lack of ledaeship in troubled times. And the Gay Day thing was NOT really negative, only Deke's political trianglulation saw it as a possible 'neagative' among the God Squad that he shamelessly courts, pardon the pun, religiously.

Again, the Cherry Tree Crossing shootings is the most glaring example of the 'run and hide until the smoke clears' Deke. Nothing is worse than when your fellow citizens lives are in danger, not to mention your public safety officers, and you are in a position to help cool the situation but instead you 'decide' to go hide in your Conifer Place bunker and wait it out. Shameful.

He should have used some of that 'racial good will' I keep hearing about to get people into action as soon as it was clear that it was not going to be calm and that it was taking a racial tone. I bet he didn't sign off on the Black Panther Party's parade through Cherry Crossing did he?

I didn't know that Deke was MIA during the entire situation at Cherry Tree. It is shameful, and to those on here talking about how this is 'revenge', you need to see that this is menat to try to help Deke. He needs a public shaming to get his attention.

You can't lead from the rear.

It seems that Deke needs to do some basic leadership training at Ft. Benning's PLDC and he would understand that as the 'leader' he must LEAD.

It is OK to be all 'sunshine and lollipops' if that is the case but it is not. We have major budget problems, Sheriff's budget has been cut by $1,000,000.00 during an upsurge in violent crime, break ins at city hall, several shootings in the streets just this week, proposed new taxes, and the only thing we get Deke REALLY pushing is the ball park?

Good point Chronicle.

And Emerydan is right, Deke stabbed the voters of Goshen in the back with the proposed Section 8 housing project the HE pushed to D.C., ignoring ALL of the residents of Goshen's concerns and taking the stand that they, the residents, just 'didn't understand' what had been proposed. Well, being that they never KNEW about it till after the fact would kinda put them in an 'out of the loop' situation now wouldn't it?

By the way, the entire commission, except for Jimmy Smith, didn't know anything about it either so I guess the Goshen folks were not the only ones who just 'didn't get it.'

I will give Deke credit that he is available though. He never fails to have you in his office if you want to see him. So he is not ALL bad, but you MUST take stands on issues that require LEADERSHIP, even if they may not please everyone on both sides.

I know I have been harsh on here about Deke the last few days but he has deserved it. I will give him a break when he stands up and does his job which is NOT to always be all things to all people.

Sounds like the mayor has been to one too many of these so-called leadership courses that corporations come up with. The ones that teach you not to 'rock the boat' and to try to be considerate of evryone's 'feelings' (PC) even if they are 'misguided' (wrong) or misunderstand (wrong) the 'issue' (argument).

They can't all be winners now can they?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadership

Deke needs to look out, it seems if the paper is getting warmed up to help someone else come along and be Mayor. Bob Young maybe? He was a George Bush elector remember?

Oh well, lets see where this is going. Notice Deke has been unavailable to even comment on Johnny's story? Why? Why not tell us why he does the things he does?

Mayor, tell YOUR side, even if it will upset some folks.

Brad

Martinez
154
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Martinez 02/23/10 - 05:33 am
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As if the Johnny Edwards

As if the Johnny Edwards article Saturday wasn't enough, now the "editorial staff" comprised of unnamed but equally narrow minded and biased Chronicle Employee(s) is going to follow - I am guessing to make sure the Chronicle agenda continues. And now because he won't engage in your little schoolyard battle of insults, he is being insulted for that too. There is plenty of childish and unprofessional behavior in the commission already. Thank you Deke for not stooping to this rediculous low. It is very clear the Chronicle is laying the foundation and preplanning their support for an alternative candidate for Mayor. If a respectable or even remotely non-biased media outlet wants your opinion, by all means - share it but stay clear of the Chronicle as clearly they are on a witch hunt in your honor.

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 02/23/10 - 05:43 am
0
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AGAIN, the situation is still

AGAIN, the situation is still based on a charter that leaves the mayor in a very weak position with no authority to speak of. The bully pulpit he has access to is based soley on the mayor's popularity. Compared to every mayor we've had since the consolidation, Deke Copenhaver is the one that's shown any ability to operate within the confining parameters set by the charter. The endlessly foolish comments about Deke's lack of aggression is just ignorant. The backdoor quarterbacks that stand off and toss unwarranted criticism at our mayor might want to bone up on the limits set down by the current city charter. Or, they might want to put themselves in a position to replace Copenhaver.

Brad Owens
4859
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Brad Owens 02/23/10 - 06:10 am
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Martinez, do you consider the

Martinez, do you consider the mayor trying to calm a near riot situation during the Cherry Tree Crossing incident as 'stooping to (a) rediculous low'? Because I would not have though so.

But he didn't. He hide out during all the trouble only to surface after he had politically triangulated the situation and figured when the least dangerous moment was so he cpuld make a photo op out of it with some African-America ministers. Shameful.

What is 'childish and unprofessional behavior' if not ducking your duty and hidning out until the danger is over?

Brad Owens
4859
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Brad Owens 02/23/10 - 06:46 am
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Cliff, the situation is not

Cliff, the situation is not about the charter. If you want to give him a break on the budget or how we choose to hire or fire someone than OK. But this is different.

Deke seems to have no problem 'leading' on the ball park issue, or to shout all about some magazine's rating of our city, yet he ignores the problems and takes a pass on the issues he can control.

The article is correct, Deke is a NICE guy but when you are making choices as a leader you sometimes have to face a problem where you need to make a choice that doesn't please everyone.

Again, Deke is the mayor Augusta deserves but not the leader we need sometimes.

Do you give Obama a pass on the out of control spending just because CONGRESS controls the actual purse strings? I bet you don't and if not, then why do you give Deke a pass on the charter?

He ran saying (as they all do) that he didn't need a vote to lead. Yet now we see everyone running to hide under the skirt of the charter?

The Chronicle is onto something here. Open your mind and see past Deke's personl likeability and see him as a mayor, not a nice guy that has a prayer breakfast, but the mayor that hid out during near riots in his town where public safety officers were openly assaulted and an illegal and provocative march took place, not as the cheerleader for all things great, but the man who hid behind the legal dept on an issue so no-brainer that it is OBVIOUS he was playing politics with our fellow citizens rights.

He is NOT a bad guy, just a really weak mayor and not a leader, and it ain't because of the charter my freind.

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 02/23/10 - 06:51 am
0
0
Brad, I don't know where you

Brad, I don't know where you are, but I'm guessing you're so far away that you have no idea about what the mayor does. Open your eyes and see that he has no authority. The charter requires the mayor to handle all jobs with finesse. He must rely on his ability to influence. Cajole is the word of the day. The heavy handed brute you envision won't be happening in Augusta until someone is given a lot more power than our mayor has. Most of our mayors have been "nice", but incompetent. Deke is very competent and nice as well. See the difference? Mayor Copenhaver won't be able to handle all situations as rapidly as most people want, so there'll always be someone to point to situations he's not currently handling while ignoring all he is accomplishing. Backdoor quarterbacking.
When I criticize Obama, it's for what he does, not for what he doesn't do. See the difference?

Brad Owens
4859
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Brad Owens 02/23/10 - 06:57 am
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0
cliff, I attended most

cliff, I attended most commission meetings from 1997 until I moved away a little over three years ago.

I know very well that the mayor only has a vote in the event of a tie between commissioners.

I know the charter sets up a weak mayor position by not giving him a regular vote.

I think you are reading into what YOU think the mayor should be. No one is saying we need a 'heavy handed brute' just someone who LEADS when they should instead of ducking any and all controversy.

Now, please understand that I am not complaining about his inability to affect oting changes. I am saying that as the mayor he has an obligation to speak out when he is needed. Like with the Cherry Tree Crossing where someone should have been out front calling for calm and trying to negotiate and cool down all parties.

By the way, Deke said when he was running that he didn't need a vote to lead. Tell me one issue he has built a six vote margin on and got passed that was not being pushed by anyone but him?

Nice guy, poor leadership skills. I am not asking for a brute but I am asking for someone who will fight when he should.

Also, did you know that the mayor picks committee memebers with the mayor protemp? So don't you think that holds some power? I do.

justus4
111
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justus4 02/23/10 - 07:08 am
0
0
Was the mayor born in the US?
Unpublished

Was the mayor born in the US? Where is his birth certificate? How was he able to avoid such questions and why is the local printing operation not asking the question? His approach of avoiding conflict is assisted by the AWM because they can generate ANY kind of conflict - like this one about seeking legal advise. The US Constitution includes EVERY CITIZEN - NOT every citizen U don't like. Of course those folks could march, the KKK ia allowed and their history is bloody & violent. This story is just filling space.

Rhetor
1042
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Rhetor 02/23/10 - 07:24 am
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0
I can't blame a fellow for

I can't blame a fellow for being cautious with the gay rghts issue. Given a population that is largely conservative and which contains man poorly educated elements--people who actually don't know what is in the constitution--it was wise of the major to seek the legal opinion before approving the parade.

confederate american
0
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confederate american 02/23/10 - 07:44 am
0
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The only problem the Mayor

The only problem the Mayor has is that he just needs to grow a set,then he would then become a strong leader.

deekster
24
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deekster 02/23/10 - 08:22 am
0
0
Vegas has its "Oceans

Vegas has its "Oceans Eleven". Augusta has its "Dismal Swamp Eleven".

deekster
24
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deekster 02/23/10 - 08:24 am
0
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The charter was designed to

The charter was designed to cause "confusion, stagnation, division by race and opportunity for governmental misconduct".

themaninthemirror
0
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themaninthemirror 02/23/10 - 08:33 am
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Political wannabe's!

Political wannabe's!

Brad Owens
4859
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Brad Owens 02/23/10 - 09:20 am
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themaninthe mirror, no,

themaninthe mirror, no, these guys are REAl elected officials.

J.W.
2
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J.W. 02/23/10 - 10:16 am
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Brad...I find it interesting

Brad...I find it interesting that typically and frequently you are diametrically opposed to most of the chronicle's editorial ravings. You tend to lean more toward the Lowell Grenbaum school of thought. However, you have really jumped on the chronicle bandwagon with this one. Are you just fanning the fire to keep the subject alive or is this a grudge fight with the mayor? Just wondering.

InChristLove
22481
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InChristLove 02/23/10 - 10:54 am
0
0
Seems to me the Mayor wanted

Seems to me the Mayor wanted to cover all the basis before he was forced to sign off on this permit. The fact is he is against it but had no choice legally but to sign it. Why all the discontent. If he had signed anything else without getting all his ducks in a row, then people would be squabbling about that.

142
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Dan White 02/23/10 - 11:02 am
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Brad - Deke supports the ball

Brad - Deke supports the ball park issue because of the advise he has received that the ball park would be the right thing for Augusta although I disagree and don't feel a new ball park is needed. The parade is a different issue, a legal first amendement rights issue, and you are comparing apples and oranges. The ball park is about Augusta's economy. The parade is about civil rights. The two are not connected. And so what if he did defer to a third party for a legal opinion to escape the heat of the anti-gay sentiment? Deke is a wise man in seeking counsel about the parade and about the ball park.

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 02/23/10 - 11:19 am
0
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Brad, I don't understand your

Brad, I don't understand your contradictory comments. Deke is getting a lot done but he isn't leading. He sways committee votes but not by single handedly swinging 6 votes. He gets a lot done his way, but not the things you think he should do and he doesn't act like you think he should. Cherry Tree was handled just fine and all is well. The gay parade will be held according to law. What's the problem? Deke seems to be leading just fine to me. He's not aggressive and he's not coercive, but he's getting a lot of positive things done. I personally think his accomplishments over rule your wishes.

142
Points
Dan White 02/23/10 - 11:31 am
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The Bible says in Proverbs

The Bible says in Proverbs 11:14, "For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure." The fault that the Chronicle sees in Deke is really a strength. The city pays for his legal advice, and he needs to take advantage of that. You can't assume anything today even it the first amendment is clear on civil rights and the right to peacefully assemble. It's better to be safe than sorry and seek guidance from advisors and then make a decision.

mary dits
2
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mary dits 02/23/10 - 11:48 am
0
0
does deke check with legal

does deke check with legal before signing off on all parades? he's a hard worker!
and, aces, deke is not the friend of everybody. i remember my friend, almost as pretty as me, wrote an article (google it- "facebook mayor") in which she chronicles the pain of having been defriended by deke. and so also was tom grant- the editor of the metro spirit at the time.
brad, i believe that cherry tree photo op you refer to is from the meeting with pastors AND THE SHERIFF in which they all agreed not to talk to the press.
when jill asked deke if he'd been to ctc since the shooting he said yes, that he'd been through that area while riding in the mlk day parade.

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