Local and County News – Brookings Harbor Tea Party http://www.brookingstea.com helping to change the direction of our country Sat, 28 May 2016 16:18:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.2 CHD Annexation: It’s Not Over Until It’s Over http://www.brookingstea.com/2015/10/02/its-not-over-until-its-over/ Fri, 02 Oct 2015 22:46:04 +0000 http://www.brookingstea.com/?p=3034 Debate focuses on CHD annexation proposal

….Curry Coastal Pilot, September 30, 2015 by Jayati Ramakrishnan….

 

The Brookings TEA Party on Saturday provided the backdrop for two passionate Curry County residents to debate the merits and drawbacks of a proposal to annex the southern end of the county into the Curry Health District.

Mayor Ron Hedenskog, a supporter of the annexation, and Curry County resident Catherine Wiley, a former health care professional and vocal opponent of the measure, discussed the issue and fielded questions from a packed audience.

The debate over whether to annex the southern end of the county into the Curry Health District has elicited strong reactions from Curry County residents since it was announced in August that the issue will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Measures 8-83 and 8-84 both deal with the potential annexation of the south end of the county into the Curry Health District.

Measure #8-83 asks residents of the current health district, from just south of Pistol River to the north end of the county, whether they would like to have the southern end of the county annexed into the district. Measure #8-84 asks voters from south of Pistol River to the California border whether they would like to be annexed into the health district.

Hedenskog began with an overview of the city’s decade-long effort to expand health care facilities in Brookings. In 2004, he said, Curry Health Network constructed the 5th Street Urgent Care facility with an emergency room in mind. In 2012, he said, the city began meeting with CHN to discuss a partnership to construct an emergency room at the 5th street clinic.

The city reviewed several options, he said, including a stand-alone emergency room, a split campus and an independent hospital and health district.

While Hedenskog is firmly in support of the annexation, Wiley discussed why she has reservations about the prospect of annexing the south county into the district.

She said that to improve health care facilities in Curry County, citizens need to examine all their options.

“I believe we need increased ER and trauma facilities, and quality, cost effective, comprehensive, accessible health care services.”

She continued that while all these things are important have in Curry County, the proposals made by the city of Brookings and the Curry Health district have been made without any input from the south county.

“This ballot measure provides no assurance,” she said. She listed several alternatives, such as building an independent hospital in the port district, creating a satellite hospital, or that the southern end of the county could form its own health district, elect its own board and set its own tax rate.

She added that according to Oregon law, it is legal for a health district to have a split hospital district.

Hedenskog said that all the alternatives Wiley proposed have already been looked at by the state.

“There is no other alternative,” he said. “The state will not allow a stand-alone hospital. It will jeopardize the economies of the other two hospitals in the area (Curry General and Sutter Coast).”

Hedenskog said the state also discouraged the city from pursuing an independent hospital.

“While Catherine is right that there are state provisions to allow a hospital in Brookings, it wouldn’t be critical access.” He added that getting approval for a stand-alone hospital requires two designations — state and federal. “The state told us they’d most likely deny it,” Hedenskog said.

A long process

Faced with the lack of progress after years of trying to build an ER in Brookings, Hedenskog said the city turned to the state government for some assistance. The verdict was largely the same — Brookings could not operate an independent hospital, critical access hospital, split campus, or a stand-alone ER. From there, Brookings and CHN hired a lobbyist, and began discussing ways to get an emergency room in Brookings.

After meeting with several state legislators, the city determined it would request an administrative rule change from the Oregon Health Authority, which would allow it to build a stand-alone ER.

“The governor said we needed an ER, and to make it happen,” Hedenskog said. “This opened the door just wide enough for Brookings.”

This is the first time the state has allowed a stand-alone ER. Hedenskog added that the rule was still restrictive in allowing stand-alone ERs in other areas, and would be applied on a case-by-case basis, only for rural communities that met the criteria.

In spring 2015, the city was granted a temporary rule change to permit ER construction. The ER has been completed, and is now waiting for final approval from the state health authority.

Representation

Wiley said one of her concerns about the proposed annexation is that citizens of the south county would be annexed into the tax base, and now responsible for CHD’s debt, but have not been included in any of the decisions that had led the district to that point. Nor, she said, would the south county citizens have an advocate on the CHD board of directors.

“It’s taxation without representation,” she said.

Hednskog noted that should the measure pass, two ex-officio representatives will immediately be appointed to the Curry Health District board of directors. These people will be able to offer input in health district decisions, but will not have a vote.

“The state law doesn’t allow us to appoint new representatives, or to kick anyone off the board,” Hedenskog said. Currently, all five members of the CHD board are representatives from the northern part of the county.

At the time of the next election (May 2017), three positions will become available, all of which will be available to all residents of Curry County, should the measure pass, he said.

Benefits and drawbacks

Wiley said that while the benefits of annexation are clear for the health district — an increased tax base with which to tackle debt — the benefits are less certain for south county residents.

“This will permanently increase property taxes,” Wiley said. She added that, in the event of a natural disaster, south county residents would not be able to reach Curry General Hospital.

“We’ll be permanently paying for a hospital we won’t be able to reach.”

Hedenskog noted that regardless of the results of the ballot measure, the ER has been constructed. However, he said that a failure to pass the measure would leave Curry County out of options, and might jeopardize the ER’s ability to stay open.

“This community will be very disappointed down the road,” Hedenskog said. “There’s no guarantee the north end of the county will continue to foot the bill for the city. They could shut the door on the ER — they own it.” He added that without the support of the south county, it is possible that the ER won’t make enough money to support itself.

Wiley said that an annexation resolution or ballot measure might be an option in the future — but only after citizens have time to do adequate research on the issue.

“What’s the rush?” she said. “Allow us a chance to review facts and obtain literature.”

Wiley said one of the things that concerns her is the urgency with which the measure has been proposed.

“Only one option has been offered — annexation now. It’s being presented as the only option, and the only opportunity to have that option.”

Hedenskog urged voters to recognize that the health district is not trying to hide things from the public.

“This is not a conspiracy,” he said. “Ask for information, and you’ll be given it.”

Questions and answers

The audience, overflowing with Curry County citizens, CHD board members and city officials, had several questions, many of which centered around common themes: how much debt is the district in, and how will the presence of a new ER in Brookings affect ambulance passengers?

Prior to the existence of an ER in Brookings, patients would have to travel 30 minutes, either to Curry General in Gold Beach or Sutter Coast in Crescent City where they could, if necessary, be flown to another hospital. Once the ER is open, Brookings residents can be taken to the 5th Street facility and flown to another hospital from the Brookings airport.

Curry Health Network CEO Ken Landau said that the district currently has a deficit of $27 million, and with the construction of the new hospital, that number will rise to about $47 million.

Residents in the current health district pay 74 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation to fund the Gold Beach hospital. With the recent approval of a $10 million general obligation bond to replace that hospital, however, once the bond is sold, the tax rate is expected to increase to $1.44 per $1,000. Were annexation approved, however, the burden would be spread to taxpayers throughout the county, with all taxpayers paying about 99 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation.

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Read This Before Voting “Yes” on CHD Annexation http://www.brookingstea.com/2015/09/19/read-this-before-voting-yes-on-chd-annexation/ Sat, 19 Sep 2015 19:08:30 +0000 http://www.brookingstea.com/?p=3022 Curry Health District Annexation Facts

……Financial Facts

  1. A permanent property tax rate of .7425 cents per $1000 assessed valuation would be imposed. This is stated in the ballot measure.
  2. In late 2016 the projected indebtedness of CHD will be close to $47 million. The rate to cover the debt of a general obligation bond as well as other indebtedness is not stated in the ballot measure because it could vary because property values fluctuate. The projected rate is approximately .25 cents per $1000 (this is the rate that was passed in 2013 by the voters in the current Curry Health District) so the total property tax rate will probably be .9925 cents per $1000. Most of the bond debt will be paid over a period of 25-40 years.
  3. If the annexation passes, CHD plans to get an additional loan or bond for $10 million to pay for the expansion of the Brookings Fifth Street facility.
  4. According to Virginia Razo, CEO for CHD, annexation of Southern Curry County is not required for CHD to remain solvent but it is a requirement for CHD to have the ability to accommodate the volume of Emergency Department (ED) visits expected.
  5. Razo also stated that the Brookings ED could result in an annual operating loss of $500,000 (another projection of a loss of $568,878 was given by CHD on April 12, 2015).   Both figures are based on an anticipated 6000 visits per year to the ED as stated in CHD’s proposal given to Curry Co. Commissioners. A Critical Hospital Feasibility Study done by Asante in 2004 projected annual ED visits of 3933 in 2017 with an assumption of a 3% population growth. The population has actually decreased.
  6. If annexation is passed, the South County, including Brookings and Harbor, will be paying approximately 2/3 of the of the property tax revenue to CHD.
  7. In the CHD audit for fiscal years 2013/14 CHD district management admits that there are “issues facing the District that could result in material changes in its financial position in the long run”. Some of those issues are risks related to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, increasing employee salary and benefit costs (salaries and benefits increased by $1.8 million or 11.5% as indicated on page 7 in audit), high liability, difficulty in recruiting and maintaining specialists, malpractice insurance premiums for the hospital and physician practices (Oregon has no cap on awarded punitive damages for medical malpractice with hospitals being liable), competitive pressures from neighboring health systems and continued expenditures exceeding revenue.
  8. According to the 2013/14 audit on page 7, there was an increase in revenue as new programs were put in place, but expenditures outpaced revenues.
  9. The audit verifies that 53% of the CHD revenue for patient care comes from Brookings.
  10. CHD has investments in the Local Government Investment Pool and Oregon Short Term Fund which are not guaranteed or insured and CHD does not have a formal policy limiting the amount that may be invested in any one bank or institution. (page 23-24 of audit)
  11. CHD took out a loan from the city of Brookings for $500,262 for system development charges in 2010 and they owe $266,484 as of 6/30/14.
  12. A loan for $41,795 was taken out by CHD in 2013 at an interest rate of 20.84% and was paid as of June 2015 (page 29 audit). I only mention this fact because, in my opinion, this indicates poor fiscal stability on the part of CHD if they have to borrow money at this rate of interest.
  13. ORS 440.395 stipulates CHD’s ability to levy taxes. This includes property taxes (1), as well as (2), the authority to, “. . .assess and levy a special tax upon all such property real and personal in an amount sufficient to pay yearly interest on outstanding bonds and any portion of such bonds maturing in that year.”
  14. ORS 440.370 stipulates that the CHD (as included in any Oregon Health District) “. . .can exercise eminent domain; purchase, sell, condemn and appropriate real property as well as water, water rights and riparian rights.”

…..Promises Past and Future

  1. McMillan, one of the many past CEOs of CHD, first indicated that the Brookings facility would be a hospital, and then he indicated that it would be an emergency room. The facility ended up being a clinic.
  2. Citizens were assured that annexation would not be required because increased patient revenue from the Brookings facility would be sufficient to cover costs.
  3. Virginia Razo, current CEO of CHD, states that “…to have the ability to expand Curry Medical Center to accommodate the volume of Emergency Department visits expected. . .” annexation is required. The ballot measure states that: “The annexation will provide additional tax revenues to allow the expansion of facilities in Brookings to provide emergency room facilities and other additional services and facilities.”
  4. Razo also states, “. . .additional services could potentially be provided if feasible, and those services may include chemotherapy infusion and other complementary cancer services, dialysis, pain management programs and expanded access to specialists via telemedicine or on site clinics.” It should be noted that an emergency room is not needed for these services. A clinic could also provide them and the Brookings Clinic could have been providing them for the last 4 years.  It is also interesting to note that Sutter Coast Hospital is currently advertising that they will be providing these services.

…..Quality of Health Care

  1. Comparative demographic data (2009-2015) provided by Oregon Rural Health (OHSU) documents that there was a decrease in population as well as an increase in poverty levels in Curry County. The data also documents increased morbidity and mortality rates, increased low birth rates, and the continuing lack of medical specialists. Clearly, the Brookings CHD clinic has increased revenue to CHD but has NOT improved health and wellness standards.
  2. We have other options to get good quality health care without paying extra property tax.

….Poor Business Practices

  1. The Gold Beach Hospital is being built in a tsunami zone so it is not eligible for grants. Jay Wilson, chairman of the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission, is responsible for statewide earthquake planning. He sees the sighting process for the hospital at Gold Beach as a failure. He also says that critical facilities that provide life safety are being built without taking what scientists now know into account.
  2. The Brookings Clinic was built on wetlands and because of this, building costs were much greater than expected. Would this cause further problems if an expansion for an emergency room were to be built?
  3. CHD expanded by buying Shore Pines Assisted Living in Gold Beach and the Rush Surgical Center knowing that additional indebtedness would be required to build a new hospital.
  4. A new hospital had to be built in Gold Beach by mid-2016 because the state fire marshal could no longer issue additional waivers for the old hospital.
  5. Curry Medical Center in Brookings presently has 34,500 sq. feet. Does it make sense to add an additional 25,000 sq. feet for a total of 59,500 sq. feet for projected health care in Brookings? The Asante feasibility study done in 2004 stated that a 15 bed critical access hospital would need a total of 34,000 sq. feet.
  6. Would it have been better if the Curry Health District had annexed the Port District prior to building the new hospital thus being able to present a larger tax base when applying for loans?

…..Other Possibilities for Health Care

  1. There are multiple alternatives for quality health care rather than becoming part of the Curry Health Care District. If annexation occurs, there are NO

…..Summary

By voting for the CHD annexation, residents of the Port District are essentially investing in a business. They will be paying 2/3 of all tax revenue given to CHD.  As it stands right now, according to the ballot, the city of Brookings will be able to appoint two individuals to advise the board but they will not be able to vote on any decisions made by the board. There is no representation from Harbor or other unincorporated areas. The port could potentially have a hospital within its district (ORS 440.505). This CANNOT happen if the Port District is annexed and becomes part of Curry Health District. There is no guarantee for new services like dialysis and chemotherapy infusion.   There is even NO guarantee for an Emergency Room in Brookings. According to the original ballot measure (Nov. 5, 2013) for the Curry Health District (SEL 809) for a $10 million bond, this only covered replacements for the Gold Beach Hospital and the Port Orford Clinic. The Port District will only get to be annexed to CHD and will be able to help in paying their current debts. Does this sound like a good investment for Port District residents?

 

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Curry Health District Not Telling the Whole Truth http://www.brookingstea.com/2015/09/04/not-the-whole-truth/ Fri, 04 Sep 2015 15:39:21 +0000 http://www.brookingstea.com/?p=3009 Curry Health District is transparent about expansion, tax rates…

(Editors note: Unfortunately, there is no mention of the tremendous debt that someone will have to cover if the ballot measure for South County passes. Also, there is no mention of the significant and potentially dangerous powers that the District would enjoy, given an expansion of the District.)

…Curry Coastal Pilot — September 2, 2015…

by Virginia Razo, CEO, Curry Health Network

Curry Health District will continue to be transparent to the public and provide necessary factual information related to all District dealings, including the proposed territory expansion.

Those interested in facts about the proposed territory expansion and associated tax rate projections  are encouraged to view historical board meeting minutes at CurryHealthNetwork.com, or watch the video of the Curry County commissioners meeting of Aug. 5, 2015 (available on the county’s web site). An in-depth conversation regarding the wording of the ballot measure title and body (both of which were reviewed by county and health district legal counsel, as well as being approved by the state)  – was discussed in this public meeting, and the verbiage was unanimously approved by the  commissioners.

The base rate of 0.7425 cents per $1,000 assessed property value can be stated as definitive — it will not change and was included in the ballot measure verbiage. The rate to cover the debt of the general obligation bond cannot be stated as a definitive amount per $1,000 because assessed property values fluctuate from year to year due to construction, improvements, depreciation, and upturns or downturns in the real estate market — therefore the assessed tax rate will fluctuate. It will never be possible to establish a permanent rate per $1,000 due to this fluctuation.

The ballot measure does say, “If annexation is approved by voters, property owners within the annexed territory would be subject to the District’s permanent property tax rate. The permanent tax rate is $0.7425 per $1000 of assessed valuation. The first fiscal year in which this tax rate would be imposed is 2016-2017.

This measure does not increase the tax rate for taxable property located within the district’s existing boundary. General obligation bond levies authorized by the district would be applicable to the annexed property.”

The last sentence of the measure addresses the general obligation bond indebtedness to the extent that could factually and legally be disclosed with the information available.

There has been recent concern expressed over the District’s financial health. Ken Landau, the district’s CFO, provides the following data. As of Aug. 20, the district owes approximately $26.7 million. This includes $12.2 million for the Curry Medical Center facility in Brookings. It also includes $10 million of general obligation debt related to the construction of the new Curry General Hospital in Gold Beach, $2.6 million for Shore Pines Assisted Living and approximately $1.9 million for operational capital equipment leases.

The district will take on additional debt in the next two years related to the new hospital, up to a total amount of $20,961,000 — as provided by the USDA.

In late 2016, the projected indebtedness of the district will be close to $47 million. All debt is related to assets that provide a positive rate of return, or is covered through service operations. The CFO, along with financial advisors and lenders, routinely performs debt capacity analysis that shows the district is well within its debt capacity. A feasibility study was performed by Wipfli, a nationally recognized accounting firm, which showed that the projected debt of the district is within the district’s capacity to repay. In fact, current revenue has already surpassed the feasibility study projections. The USDA has very stringent debt guidelines that have been met. Territory expansion is not required for the district to remain solvent. It is a requirement, however, to have the ability to expand Curry Medical Center to accommodate the volume of Emergency Department (ED) visits expected.

The district has consistently stated that additional services could potentially be provided if feasible, and those services may include chemotherapy infusion and other complementary cancer services, dialysis, pain management programs and expanded access to specialists via telemedicine or on-site clinics.

As an organization tasked with fiscal responsibility to district taxpayers, decisions will be made in the best interests of the District for the sole purpose of providing quality health care services — but only after thorough financial analysis and community needs assessment are completed.

District financial projections estimate operation of the Brookings ED could result in an annual operating loss of $500,000. More than $600,000 has already been invested into the remodeling of Curry Medical Center in order to accommodate a small ED, and additional staffing needs will cost an estimated $2.7 million annually.

The Oregon Health Authority on Aug. 13 made permanent the temporary rule allowing a satellite ED to exist in Brookings. This is after many years of continued effort to provide a much-needed service to the residents of the south county.

The amount the district collects in taxes is a small fraction of its revenue. The remainder is generated from operations. The district is a non-profit entity whose purpose is to provide health care services in rural communities in a day and age when other rural hospitals are closing (43 have closed since 2010). In late 2016, when the debt for the hospital will be realized by taxpayers — and if the ballot measures pass and the district is expanded to include the Brookings and Harbor areas — then the tax rate is estimated to be approximately 99 cents per $1,000 assessed property value. This is less than the average tax rate of all other health districts within the state of Oregon that levy taxes.

Once the hospital general obligation bond is repaid, taxpayer contributions will decrease to the permanent base rate of 0.7425 cents/$1,000.

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I no longer believe the local newspaper… http://www.brookingstea.com/2015/08/21/conservative-view-for-the-left-press/ Fri, 21 Aug 2015 22:45:43 +0000 http://www.brookingstea.com/?p=2999 Pilot’s vendetta…

(A letter to the editor.)

Is it true? I read the headline concerning Commissioner Huxley’s county salary and was amazed to see that he was getting nearly half a million dollars for his four year term, But that is not true!

Commissioner Huxley is getting the $10,000 stipend per year, not per month that he campaigned on and the newspaper reporter just got the facts wrong yet one more time. Not only that, the editor of the newspaper got it wrong, too. Is there anyone at the Pilot newspaper that can reliably get the facts right when it concerns Commissioner Huxley?

It seems that every story I read about him has errors, half-truths, and some accusations that I consider outright lies. My wife read the story and came to the same conclusion as me. In fact, I am betting the whole county now thinks that the commissioner now gets $10,000 a month.

I have never seen a local vendetta directed from our local newspaper against such an honest person in my life. The Pilot has now become a propaganda newspaper in my eyes, controlled by who knows what person and the unfortunate problem is that we do not have anyone to correct the “misreporting” of the Pilot.

Even if a retraction was made, it would probably be on the back page and in the smallest type so that hardly anyone would ever see it. The bottom line is this, I no longer believe a word I read in the Pilot.

Robert Lake

Brookings

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A breath of fresh air in Gold Beach http://www.brookingstea.com/2015/04/18/a-breath-of-fresh-air-in-gold-beach/ Sat, 18 Apr 2015 21:05:54 +0000 http://www.brookingstea.com/?p=2913 Keeping campaign promises

(Note: This was published in the April 18th edition of the Curry Coastal Pilot, as a Public Forum.)

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine it would be so difficult to keep my campaign promise NOT to accept wages and benefits conservatively totaling over $320,000 over a period of four years from a county teetering on financial collapse. Thankfully two attorneys in Bend, Oregon (Daniel C. Re & Bruce Bischof) of The McKenzie Law Group LLC graciously offered at no charge to represent me in keeping this campaign promise. This group is an Oregon For Profit Public Interest Law Firm that represents public officials in the fight to insure that the people, not special interest groups, control the government.

March 18, 2015 during a board meeting Commissioner Smith urged that the county pay all past due health insurance premiums to the Oregon Teamster Employers Trust to bring payments for Huxley current. County payroll staff spoke on conversations with the representative administering the Teamster Trust Plan stating “So he (representative) brought up the option of maybe just creating a dummy Social Security number (for Huxley) …so that the contributions are at least attached to something.” Does this sound like fraud to you?

March 31, 2015 my Position Statement on compensation and healthcare benefits was provided to Curry County legal counsel. a) The county recognizes Huxley is exempt from federal and Oregon minimum wage law and his annual compensation is $10,000. b) Huxley, as an elected official is ineligible to participate in the Teamster Trust Plan.

April 9, 2015 The McKenzie Law Group proposed to legal counsel representing Curry County the options addressed in the Position Statement to resolve the impasse.

April 15, 2015 The McKenzie Law Group returned a packet to The Oregon Teamster Employers Trust that had been sent to Huxley without his consent or knowledge which included Prescription ID Cards.

During my first three months in office I have been extremely tolerant of inaccurate news articles and angry nasty threatening libelous email communication from county officials. That tolerance threshold was exceeded April 13, 2015 when Sheriff Ward went to the home of a law abiding citizen who wrote a Letter to the Editor he believed was critical of him and one of his deputies. The letter was very factual; the citizen has an unlisted phone number and lives out in the boonies. Sheriff Ward arrived at their home without notice or permission or any reasonable cause in a Sheriff’s department vehicle, in uniform and with his weapon holstered.

The nearly 500 word scathing email directed toward me that followed later that afternoon not only lacked any supporting facts but included many unsubstantiated libelous allegations. It was reminiscent of a watching a small child throw a tantrum with one exception. This child carries a weapon.

The statements in the email included “I am disgusted at your dirty tactics…” “…that you would conspire to have someone attack me…” “I think what you did and are doing is despicable.”

April 15, 2015 during a county commissioner meeting Sheriff Ward sat with another deputy for two full hours waiting for the Citizen’s Concerns Agenda Item so he might speak. He continued with more childish unfounded accusations directed toward me. The following statements are taken directly from audio of the meeting.

My response: “Sheriff, when an individual writes a Letter to the Editor there’s a reasonable expectation of free speech. And if an individual writes a letter whatever their point of view is and the following work day after that letter’s published and their number is unlisted; their phone number is unlisted and they get a visit from the Sheriff to speak to them about the subject letter, that is a First Amendment issue, it’s a civil rights issue and I, rest assured there is and there may be more than one, there are going to be formal complaints against you on this issue with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for one. And that’s all I have to say.”

The most dangerous concerning statement Sheriff Ward made was in response to my comments.

“I have a right to reach out to my citizens and inform them of stuff that they accuse us of, so.”

 

Reasons for opposing the latest Law Enforcement TAX Levy

Example: Approximately one third of all residents of Curry County are 65 or older and many are on fixed incomes such as Social Security. In 2014 Social Security increased 1.7 percent.

The 2014/2015 county Master Payroll provided a cost of living increase of 2.8 percent plus a step increase to all eligible members of the Teamsters Union (law enforcement). A step increase is 5 percent. 7.8 % is over 4 ½ times 1.7%.

If the Split-Rate TAX Levy passes as worded:

$2.52/1,000 Assessed Property Value – Unincorporated areas: The current ‘County General’ $0.60/1,000 Tax combined with the new TAX Levy will be 5.2 times greater than the current ‘County General’ Tax line.

$1.34/1,000 Assessed Property Value – Incorporated (city) areas: The current ‘County General’ $0.60/1,000 Tax combined with the new TAX Levy will be 3.25 times greater than the current ‘County General’ Tax line.

$5.24 Million (TAX Levy Revenue Total) 2015/2016: $5.4 Million in 2016/2017: $5.56 Million in 2017/2018;

$1.4 Million estimated to be received by law enforcement in ADDITION to TAX Levy revenue.

$0.6 Million (45% of $1.4 million) currently budgeted for 2015/2016 law enforcement.

$0.75 Million (55% of $1.4 million) currently budgeted for ‘Cash Savings’ in 2015/2016.

$0.5 Million estimated (5 to 7 unfilled positions of 51 total budgeted positions) for ‘Cash Savings’ in 2015/2016.

$0 budgeted to be used from road fund reserves (which currently exceed $30,000,000) for ‘Rural Road Patrol’ 2015/2016; 2016/2017; 2017/2018. Current legislation extending the allowed use of these funds after Jan. 2016 was passed by the Oregon Senate and has been forwarded to the House.

$1.83 Million of the $5.24 Million (TAX Levy Revenue Total) budgeted for ‘Rural Road Patrol’ for 2015/2016 alone.

$5,340,000 Total Estimated Revenue used 2015/2016.

$1,250,000 Excess Cash Banked 2015/2016.

The original ballot language stating “The Board of Commissioners will reduce this tax in any year in which Federal Safety Net Related Payments are received.” was intentionally removed.

There is NO obligation to reduce the TAX.

There is adequate revenue to run county operations through 2015/2016 without using unanticipated Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funding recently received.

 

Thomas Huxley

Curry County Commissioner

 

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What Happened to TriMet Service? http://www.brookingstea.com/2015/04/04/what-happened-to-trimet-service/ Sat, 04 Apr 2015 20:14:13 +0000 http://www.brookingstea.com/?p=2901  

TriMet’s Great Disappearing Act

… March 23, 2015 — By John A. Charles, Jr.

During the 2003 session of the Oregon State Legislature, TriMet sought an increase in the regional payroll tax rate. In public testimony, TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen said, “TriMet’s proposed payroll tax increase will be used exclusively to provide new or enhanced transit service.”

The legislature approved TriMet’s request, and the payroll tax rate went up every January for ten straight years. By the end of 2014, TriMet had received $34.4 million in new payroll tax revenues attributable to rate increases. Yet during that same decade, the miles of transit service offered to patrons actually dropped by 14%, while the hours of service declined by 5%.

Like a magic show, TriMet tried to distract the audience by pointing to grand celebrations for the opening of the WES commuter rail line and the Green MAX line, both of which opened in 2009. But overall service levels were reduced five times in six years, the opposite of what was promised in 2003.

TriMet’s proposed budget for 2015-16 was released earlier this month. It calls for “expanding service through the opening of the Portland-Milwaukie light rail line.” Once again, all the attention will be on new trains, while total service levels will still be far below the levels we had in 2003.

State legislators should be asking TriMet where all the money went. But sadly, no one in Salem cares about results.

John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

 

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County Rejecting a Golden Egg http://www.brookingstea.com/2015/03/21/county-rejecting-a-golden-egg/ Sat, 21 Mar 2015 16:24:33 +0000 http://www.brookingstea.com/?p=2888 Curry County commissioner’s campaign promise causes clamor

The World — March 14, 2015 – by Carly Mayberry …

GOLD BEACH — When Tom Huxley ran for the Curry County commission seat last November, his platform was based on the promise that he’d only accept a $10,000 annual stipend rather than the $65,000 yearly salary that the commissioners in that county currently receive.

He also did not want the health insurance that costs the county upwards of $12,000 a year per employee. Huxley is retired and covered by Medicare.

The idea went over well enough with the voters of the economically challenged county for Huxley to defeat incumbent commissioner David Itzen by a 15-point spread. Huxley, known to be frustrated with the county’s government, had previously stated that it needed a structural overhaul and more transparency from the current commissioners.

But what otherwise might seem like a simple request by Huxley was evidently not so simple when it comes to the workings of county government and its established employee benefits.

On Tuesday, after previous email and phone correspondence between Huxley and county officials, the Curry County board of commissioners held a workshop to discuss Huxley’s continued request to forgo the regular commissioner salary and health benefits.

That’s because Curry County has had an agreement with the Oregon Teamsters Employee Trust for health insurance coverage for their non-represented employees since December 2000. The contract requires the 47 non-bargaining employees that it covers to participate whether they need the coverage or not. Under the Trust’s rules, employees are not allowed to opt out.

“I did not need it or want it,” Huxley said about the health insurance. “By what authority were they telling me I must take it? There’s the challenge. Because we said so? Well, that’s not an authority.”

Another issue involved is Oregon’s minimum wage law and how it relates to Huxley’s requested $10,000 stipend.

After discussion between commissioners Susan Brown, David Brock Smith and Huxley, along with Curry County payroll and personnel coordinator Julie Swift and assistant county counsel Shala Kudlac, it was determined that the county would look into alternative insurance options for non-represented employees.

“We’re looking into getting new insurance for our employees,” acting chair Brown said. “We’re gonna have to. We can’t tell a commissioner that he has to do this or that. We can’t obligate him to do something he doesn’t want to do.”

For now, Swift will look into other insurance options while Kudlac said she will consult with the two private attorneys who have been working at no charge on Huxley’s behalf. One of those is labor law attorney Bruce Bischof, who routinely represents employers on such matters.

Kudlac was assigned to deal with the issue by county counsel Jerry Herbage. He declined to comment on the issue, explaining that the case had been assigned to Kudlac. Kudlac, who works out of Carleton Law Offices in Bandon, did not return repeated phone calls regarding the matter.

At Tuesday’s workshop, Huxley, who noted the two revised positions from lawyers representing the Oregon Teamsters Employee Trust Non-bargaining Unit written in two separate letters, attributed the discrepancy to the possibility that this situation hasn’t yet come before them.

“Nobody’s ever said ‘no’ … now be creative and see what we can do to work around this — because the ones who need to benefit are the taxpayers of the county, not Tom Huxley, not the Teamsters, not Shala, not Dave, not Susan — but the people,” Huxley said.

Huxley has not received any pay for his job so far due to his refusal to sign employee paperwork presented to him in January on his second day in office, which would have bound him to the Oregon Teamsters Employee Trust agreement. He noted that it was during that meeting with Swift that he first learned about the correspondence between the county and Fallon Niedrest, a legal consultant used on labor issues. In the email dated Nov. 21, 2014, between Niedrest and Swift, Niedrest explained that paying a commissioner a stipend would violate minimum wage laws.

“They had known this seven weeks prior and it wasn’t disclosed,” Huxley said. “Had we known about this, think of what we could have accomplished as a solution?”

In an email addressed to Herbage on March 5, Huxley wrote, “I was elected by the citizens of Curry County to represent (to the best of my ability) their best interests as commissioner in exchange for a $10,000 stipend as full compensation. I was not elected to serve at the pleasure of the Teamsters Union or any other collective bargaining group.”

He continued, “In my wildest dreams I never imagined it would be so difficult to not accept wages and benefits totaling approximately $350,000 over a period of four years from a county teetering on financial collapse.”

Huxley was, however, allowed to sign a document opting him out of receiving the county’s PERS (Public Employees Retirement System).

While those in attendance at Tuesday’s workshop discussed other possible solutions, Swift maintained that the current benefits under the Oregon Teamster Employees Trust were the best deal for the county economically and benefit-wise for its employees. She also said that breaking such an agreement on behalf of one employee would be punishing the others.

In terms of other counties in Oregon, non-represented employees of Coos County are also on a similar Oregon Teamsters Employees Trust with a “no opt out” rule. However, Bishof, who represents legal scenarios in six Oregon counties, said none of those other counties that he represents have such a plan. Many counties have health insurance through CCIS (City-County Insurance Services).

For his part, Commissioner Smith said the question regarding whether or not Huxley could opt out of the usual commissioner’s salary and benefits should have been addressed before Huxley’s campaign pledge was ever made.

“It’s a very difficult time in Curry County’s history,” Smith said. “There are county employees who need this benefit package.”

He cautioned that breaking the trust agreement could ultimately cost the taxpayers more and broached the idea that the county just pay for Huxley’s premium whether he needed the insurance or not.

Public comment was also part of Tuesday’s workshop. Carl King, a retired attorney and Nesika Beach resident, spoke on Huxley’s behalf. He said that since the day he was sworn in, county officials have been trying to coerce Huxley into taking benefits that he doesn’t want or need.

“To try to force Tom to do something and then if he won’t do it to blame him for harming 40-some families in the county — that is just not what I expect my government to do and I, too, applaud him for standing up and sticking to his guns,” King said. “It may be hard to re-negotiate but to sit here and just say, ‘Well, Tom Huxley is going to force 47 families to lose their health insurance’ is absurd. Your job is to find solutions not to just stick problems at us. I’m tired of every time someone comes up with something a little different the answer is always, ‘No, you can’t do that.’ We should be looking at a way to do it. That’s what the voters expect.”

King was the author of the defeated Measure 8-76. The proposed home rule charter, which was supported by Huxley, would have replaced the three paid county commissioners with five volunteer citizens who would receive a $10,000 stipend a piece and a county manager to take on the day-to-day issues of the county’s 20 departments. It also would have made four of the six elected departmental positions appointed.

 

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It’s Common Sense versus the City of Ashland http://www.brookingstea.com/2014/11/01/its-common-sense-versus-ashland/ Sat, 01 Nov 2014 22:39:44 +0000 http://www.brookingstea.com/?p=2780 Ashland council calls for divestment from fossil fuel

…. The Mail TribuneOctober 27, 2014 ….

The Ashland City Council has passed a resolution urging state investment boards to divest from fossil fuel companies.

City Recorder/Treasurer Barbara Christensen worked closely with Southern Oregon Climate Action Now to create the resolution. Christensen used a similar resolution from Eugene as a template. The resolution does not change Ashland’s investment practices. However, it urges the Oregon Short Term Investment Board and the Public Employees Retirement System to examine their investment portfolios and consider divesting from fossil fuel companies.

More than 30 SOCAN members attended Tuesday’s meeting to support passage of the resolution the group had worked on since presenting during the public forum of the June 17 council meeting.

“Reduced snow pack, extended wildfire seasons, drought and extreme cold that we are experiencing are clearly consistent with global warming models,” said Diana O’Farrell during the resolution’s public input phase. “While the actions of one small municipality may not contribute much to addressing the problem, each of us should do what we can to divert the inevitable consequences that a ‘business as usual’ approach would cause.”

Governments around the world determined that any warming above 3.6 degrees would be unsafe. Analysis shows that humans can only emit about 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide to maintain that limit. The Carbon Tracker Initiative found that fossil fuel companies posses reserves proven to emit 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide if burned. The resolution states that Ashland believes investments should support a future where all citizens can live healthy lives without the negative impact of climate change.

“Currently, under the influence of strong corporate voices promoting maximization of short term profits, governments at all levels are failing to act,” said the Rev. Tom Buechele. “We speak for those without a voice; namely future generations of our children, grandchildren and beyond.”

Councilors were highly supportive of the resolution, but reminded residents that this shouldn’t be the end. “While I support the this, I question how it achieves its goal,” Councilor Mike Morris said. “We say we don’t want to invest in fossil fuels, but we’re still using them. “There should be something else to achieve this goal. Otherwise we won’t make much difference.” Councilor Greg Lemhouse echoed Morris’ thoughts.

“This is an active step, but not the final step,” he said. “Many people believe that an idea is what changes things, but it doesn’t do that alone.”

The council approved the resolution with a unanimous vote. Councilor Pam Marsh said that this resolution was a great step towards their goal of making a climate and energy plan a priority for the city. Kathy Conway, project leader for SOCAN’s divestment project, said Wednesday that she was very pleased with the council’s unanimous decision.

“It shows that the city is really together on being a leader in combating climate change,” she said

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Letters to the Editor: Itzen or Huxley? http://www.brookingstea.com/2014/10/18/letters-to-the-editor-itzen-or-huxley/ Sat, 18 Oct 2014 21:38:56 +0000 http://www.brookingstea.com/?p=2765  Vote for Curry County Commissioner!

Who supports whom? This post consists of Letters to the Editor of the Curry Coastal Pilot on Wednesday, October 15 and Saturday October 18, 2014. They focus only on the contest between Commissioner Dave Itzen and challenger Tom Huxley. Consider counting the number of letters in support of each candidate.

 

Time for Tom HuxleyI read the letter from Lauren D. Spector about the candidate forum at the Brookings library on Oct. 6.I was there, too. And, I heard Mr. Huxley offer the one solution his opponent did not.

The commissioners need to stop spending. You cannot bemoan the lack of funds and then turn around and give yourself and the county employees raises. You cannot stand in front of your constituents and justify a salary and benefit package which exceeds the wages of those of us on fixed incomes when your opponent is committed to only accepting a small stipend to do the same job. You cannot harp on a single incident of a botched 911 call in Josephine County in order to instill fear in the voting public to further business as usual.

The elephant in the room is the legal power of Curry County officials to borrow from the $35 million Road Fund to augment any budget shortfall. The money is there to keep things running. But, when you have public officials who, in spite of this fact, continue to spend taxpayer dollars for ballot measures to raise our property taxes, the voting public will react and continue to react accordingly.

It would appear Mr. Itzen never met a tax he didn’t like. This incumbent politician has been weighed and found wanting.

It is time to put an educated, experienced businessman in office who will not cater to any entrenched power structure or cabal of string-pullers behind the scenes. It is time to vote for Tom Huxley.

John M. Johnson

Brookings

 

Works to benefit us

November elections are around the corner and Tom Huxley is the first-ever Curry County candidate to run for office and reject the commissioner’s salary which is $91,595 today.

Old news from the Pilot needs to be resurrected, summarized and remembered when voting. Memorable Commissioner Itzen quotes:

“The seriousness of our financial instability.” Not serious enough to stop Itzen and Smith helping themselves to salary increases.

“The only remedy allowed by law is through a property tax.” Enough already, voters have said no.

“Everybody gets treated the same.” Except the taxpayer who pays for everything.

“They’re mad today about that, they’ll be mad tomorrow about something else.” Citizens who criticize Itzen are dismissed as irrelevant, arrogantly portrayed as feckless and memory-deficient.

In the real, down-to-earth world voters expect honesty, integrity and prudent common-sense restraint from elected commissioners. It is high time for Itzen to climb down from his elevated perch in Gold Beach and face the public at eye-level. What happened to the promised Town Hall Meetings?

Tom Huxley cannot be bought and is beholden to no one. He will serve the people of Curry County unencumbered by backroom deals and special interests. He will not be sold a bill of goods like the Pyrolysis Facility deal, “too grandiose for this area.” A successful businessman and relentless pursuer of facts and figures, he will consolidate and outsource some of the departments if financially prudent.

Government should be run as a business and Tom Huxley will work to benefit county citizens.

Yvonne Maitland

Harbor

 

Swim with Huxley

If Tom Huxley has been doing some finger pointing in Curry County, it is long overdue.

True, Tom has not previously worked in government, but if elected county commissioner, he would bring to the table his business acumen in the private sector to the aid of our struggling Curry.

I think he would put an end to unproductive, wasteful practices that have been going on here for several county administrations.

The practice of opaqueness would definitely come to an end. No more alleged back room deals or under the table card shuffling.

Remember, in the real business world, it’s swim or sink.

Joe Willett

Harbor

 

Time for solutions

We reach an age when we can all play a part in determining how certain aspects of our lives evolve. But evolution doesn’t happen overnight, so many choose not to participate. I refer to our ability to VOTE.

Young and old, regardless of the balance in anyone’s bank account, we’re all given a stake in the direction of our future. We are lucky enough to call this beautiful area “home,” but yet a 49-percent voter turnout is considered good!

Like much of the country, we suffer from a quickly growing epidemic called Voter Apathy. It’s caused in large part by those who want to remain in office. Apathy is exactly what the establishment wants to maintain, because a lack of participation from citizens allows them to determine our future. Young eligible voters don’t participate because they aren’t taught to think for themselves or worry about tomorrow. The elderly often feel that by not participating, maybe the margins they exist on won’t be affected.

It’s time we all open our eyes to the reality we’re living in. It requires no leadership or creativity to solve problems by simply requesting more money from those who elected you. Our area has a number of retired folks who successfully ran businesses with budgets much larger than our local communities. We should take advantage of this resource, because their efforts wouldn’t be driven by a need for enrichment or control, but rather by a willingness to share their experience and expertise.

There are solutions out there, but we need to do away with the old business-as-usual approach to fiscal shortfalls. It’s time we all participate and vote.

T.E. Sloat 

Harbor

 

Why I support Tom

As one commissioner likes to remind folks, I’m a Democrat from Massachusetts. So why, you may ask, am I supporting Tom Huxley.

There are several reasons. Tom and I disagree on many federal and state-wide programs and policies, but Tom is not running for Congress or state legislature. There are other candidates on the ballot seeking those positions and I am confident that the incumbents in those offices, regardless of party, are amply representing the citizens of Curry County.

Tom is running for county commissioner to perform the executive and administrative functions of our county government. And Tom and I agree on three basic premises.

First, Tom and I agree that the services the county provides for must be provided in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible. We cannot afford to waste even a drop in the bucket.

Second, Tom and I agree that county government must be transparent. Holding meetings without public access to the orders, resolutions and studies being discussed is not transparent government. Not many years ago there were public “team meetings” of department heads and elected officials. Today, those meetings are held behind closed doors, the public is excluded.

Third, Tom and I agree that the voters ought to determine how revenue is generated for services the voters want. Public discussion of a county business license shouldn’t be blocked by a commissioner worried about re-election. Whether the county should impose a transient lodging tax should decided by the voters.

That’s why I support Tom.

Carl King

Nesika Beach

 

A new direction

Curry County residents: Please take the time and make the effort to vote for Thomas Huxley for Curry County commissioner on Nov. 4 to replace David Itzen.

Curry County is in dire financial straits, possibly having to close the jail by next July.

Mr. Itzen obviously did not consider the county’s fiscal problems when he voted himself a raise. He will be making approximately $90,000. After public outcry he joined Ms. Brown in saying he will donate his additional income; nonetheless it remains on the backs of the taxpayers who may wish to donate to other entities or merely put food on their table.

Mr. Huxley was a businessman who had to be financially responsible. He has stated he will take the job of commissioner for $10,000 per year, which is an immediate savings to the county of $80,000 per year.

What we have has proven to not work. Hopefully, Mr. Huxley can be instrumental in taking Curry County in a new and more financially efficient direction.

Please take the time to vote.

Bob Thain

Gold Beach

 

Vote for honest man

I have been in the area since 2002 and have seen firsthand the way the “Good Old Boys” do business. Some years, special elections are called at the cost of around $25,000 each and every time for things like “emergency jail funds” or some other equally needed “emergency.”

It is my understanding that if these increases to property taxes had gone through, many would not have been able to pay the extra taxes. You “leaders” think that the 22,000 folks who live in Curry County are all making the same money as you. The mean annual income is around $35,000 for those 22,000 folks. That means that you “Good Old Boys” are making way more than the average income of Curry residents.

I see that we have a new horse in the running for County Commissioner, that being Tom Huxley. He is a breath of fresh air that this county badly needs. My vote will be for him. He is going to forego the salary and only accept the $10,000 stipend that will be needed for him to go about his county duties. That alone will save the county nearly a hundred thousand dollars of salary, bonuses, medical contributions, etc., the list goes on with some “hidden” entitlements that these folks have voted for themselves over the years.

It will be a Godsend when the good folks of Curry County wake up and vote for an honest man for county commissioner.

Robert Lake 

Harbor

 

And finally, one was published that sounded like sour grapes from someone who lost in the April primary election and continues to act as a politician who, for whatever reason, feels a need to protect his reputation.

 

A difficult choice

This is a very difficult election.

In my opinion both candidates for county commissioner, Mr. Itzen and Mr. Huxley, have positive attributes and both are seriously flawed.

I have known David Itzen for many years and supported his run for commissioner four years ago. He is a gentleman that I respect in many ways, but unfortunately in his four years in office the state of the county is substantially worse than it was four years ago and Mr. Itzen’s only response is “more revenue.” The voters have lost confidence in his four years in office and will not approve a “more revenue” solution. Recognizing this I would think he would be looking for another solution. I haven’t seen it. We need a different approach.

Mr. Huxley is also flawed in that he, also, does not have a plan for solving the county’s problems and more importantly he does not  have a vision for the future. He spends way too much time with “Gotcha” politics. Continuing to reveal flaws in the current organization and using inflammatory accusations may satisfy the extremists but does nothing to improve the situation. One has to ask the question, “What would Mr. Huxley do in office if there were no financial problems?” I suspect he would be lost.

So what is one to do?  Reluctantly, I will vote for Tom Huxley. He is at least working on the right problem, which is structure and expense that must change. Unfortunately I think he will be a one-term commissioner as this county is crying out for leadership and a vision for the future. Neither of these candidates provide that.

Unfortunately I think we are in for four more years of controversy.

Jim Relaford

Harbor

 

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Conservative Letters to the Editor http://www.brookingstea.com/2014/07/26/conservative-letters-to-the-editor/ Sat, 26 Jul 2014 20:01:55 +0000 http://www.brookingstea.com/?p=2578  

<<< Letter logic addict >>>

The letters to the editor last week are quite interesting.

They rise to a level of sophistry and bellicosity that is truly breathtaking. However, they seem to argue facts not in evidence.

One letter decries how conservatives do not care about the human cost of the border crises. Yet the conservative arch-fiend Glenn Beck is at the border with his personal charity providing food, clothing and comfort to the children there. I might also point out that the children are less then 10 percent of the people flooding the border.

I am amused about the assertion that Mr. Obama has deported more people then Bush. That argument is like noting a homeowner has bailed more water from his basement after he punched a nail through the water supply then the previous owner who tightened a leaky valve. What say we send the gang members, criminals and drug cartels home, eh?

Another letter mentions the presidential accomplishments, most of which revolve around the improving economy (a debatable point) and then blame the U.S. House of Representatives for the economic woes of the nation.

And then there is the cherry on top in the form of an accusation that Republicans are responsible for vandalizing the Democrats’ office space. Perhaps we should castigate the Pilot here for not reporting that the case was solved. As far as I know the perpetrator is unknown.

But I am just addicted to logic.

Kenneth Swanson 

Accomplish … or not

Obama accomplishments?

Desired accomplishment: Dramatically impose strong Federal control of weapons ownership in [the] U.S. Have a federal agency run guns to Mexico then have Secretary of State Clinton complain the U.S. is providing majority of illegal weapons to Mexico. Actual accomplishment: Murder of a U.S. Agent.

Obamacare (selling thereof): Lies out of the mouth of Obama: a. You keep your doctor. b. You keep your insurance. Cost of insurance goes down. Actual accomplishment: The opposite of above.

IRS suppression of possible Democrat opponents. Actual accomplishment: Over four years of nation level illegal voter suppression. Desired accomplishment: Unrestricted flow of Central Americans to front-load voting for one political party. Actual accomplishment: dumping of men women and children from Central America on unsuspecting American towns and cities to go behind Congress and get own way. Plus a demand of over 4 billion dollars.

Selected an attorney general who claims there is no illegal voting in the U.S. First act as attorney general was to stop prosecution of Black Panther Party members who stood in front of a polling station to intimidate voters. Still maintains he has no knowledge of voter fraud!

By-passing Congress repeatedly to change laws to his own desires in violation of the Constitution. Chaos and conflict between three branches of government. Declaring Red Line for Syria to not cross and then doing nothing at all when they did cross that line. Actual accomplishment: Putin of Russia woke up to possible invasion of the Ukraine.

Doug Bewall 

 

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