Lenny Curry Archives - Page 6 of 114 - Florida Politics

Lenny Curry political committee raises $110K in February

[Updated with new data.]

“Build Something That Lasts,” the political committee of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, raised $110,000 in February.

That sum follows a $63,000 January.

Curry’s committee secured the $110,000 from five donors, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Peter RummellGary Chartrand, and J.B. Coxwell.

While these are usual donors, the committee also got a $25,000 donation from Mori Hosseini, the CEO of ICI Homes who is a noted power player in GOP politics.

For those monitoring Curry’s appeal outside of Northeast Florida, the Hosseini donation is a strong indication of what may be a trend.

Of the $41,355 spent, the vast majority went on consulting fees.

Exceptions to that rule: $5,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, and $1,000 to Wilton Simpson‘s campaign account.

All told, the committee has roughly $240,000 on hand.

Rick Scott talks John Delaney leaving UNF, Lenny Curry as CFO

Despite a persistent narrative in Jacksonville political circles that Gov. Rick Scott wanted John Delaney gone from the University of North Florida, and wants Lenny Curry to replace Jeff Atwater as CFO, neither narrative got any traction from Scott’s remarks Wednesday to this outlet in Orange Park.

When asked about Delaney, Scott managed to avoid mentioning the longtime UNF President by name.

“My job is to focus on the entire state, and I have a good Board of Governors and trustees at all these universities,” Scott said.

“I think our presidents are working hard,” Scott continued. “U.S. News and World Report just came out and said that we’re the number one state for higher education, so I’m appreciative of all of them.”

When asked directly if he had any issue with Delaney, the governor said no, throwing cold water on that narrative.

Delaney adamantly denied this narrative, including an affirmative statement this week that the trustees wanted him to renew his contract.

Political friends and enemies that might want to see Lenny Curry gone from the Jacksonville mayor’s office might want to reassess also, in light of less than specific comments from the governor.

“I’m going to pick the right person,” Scott said. “Lenny’s been a good friend and a good mayor. I don’t think CFO Atwater’s even leaving until the end of session.”

In other words: while Curry is not out of the running, there’s no rush for the mayor to look for a house in Tallahassee.

Unlike the Delaney story, the Curry story will continue to develop, in a speculative way, until the governor officially chooses an interim CFO to replace Atwater.

Rick Scott to work Jacksonville media market Wednesday

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will be in the Jacksonville media market Wednesday afternoon, visiting Orange Park for a “Fighting for Florida Jobs” roundtable.

The Scott visit, which addresses the benefits of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, lands in the heart of Rep. Travis Cummings‘ district.

Cummings was among a number of Republican legislators called out in an email to media from Scott’s press shop promoting an op-ed on this very subject.

Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida both have recently gotten support on the other side of the Clay County line.

Paul Astleford of Visit Jacksonville made an impassioned plea for continuing the tourist program this week on a local television newscast.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce both defended Enterprise Florida last week as being necessary to local economic development.

Scott’s visit to Orange Park likely will lead to questions from local media related to a number of other subjects.

One such: the announced departure of President John Delaney from the University of North Florida.

There are those who assert the governor wanted Delaney to move on; Delaney vigorously contests this narrative, saying he heard nothing of that alleged charge from the new trustees or the governor.

Another local question: Scott’s dispensation on the potential of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to replace Jeff Atwater as CFO later this year.

As well, questions about the governor’s trip to Washington D.C., including what dining with Nigel Farage is like, likely will come up in a gaggle setting.

Lenny Curry lunches, talks policy with high school students

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry lunched Monday with students from Lee High School’s “EVAC” program, a leadership class at the Westside school.

EVAC is the word cave spelled backwards; the name represents the students emerging from the issues that can affect children from at-risk environments.

One student, describing the concept, said it was a way toward empowerment. Curry, meanwhile, would like to see the program extended to the entire city over time, with the Lee students as mentors and leaders.

“The big goal is replicate it everywhere. Let’s pick some folks that need to see the light,” Curry said, offering to facilitate.

Ribault High and Ribault Middle may be the first expansion points for the program, which could be a tool in modeling class mobility to those who may otherwise fall through the cracks so familiar to Jacksonville policy makers.

“We look at the news, only see the bad stuff … the thugs and violence … if we can show the positivity,” one student said, there would be a counter to the negative imagery in the mainstream media.

“As a group,” added another student, “we’re beating the odds and accomplishing things.”

—-

Curry started off the hour by relating to the students, noting that his background didn’t lend itself necessarily to being mayor, but that he had learned the same lessons they had to learn to get to the mayor’s office.

Students talked about their ambitions: an aspirant lawyer, an aspirant neurosurgeon, an aspirant dentist, and even an aspirant United States President were on hand.

Curry noted the importance of staying close to one’s passions, noting that even as a student at the University of Florida, he coached youth football — a trend that continues today, with his own son, who is a quarterback and a linebacker currently.

Coaching is not without its pitfalls. Curry got into hot water with parents at one point for “ranting and raving” on the field, a function of his trademark intensity.

The mayor also vowed to take the students to a Jacksonville Jaguars game … and host them in the skybox.

The mayor also discussed motivation, noting a podcast he listened to over the weekend about the subject of motivation, and tying it into the students’ own struggles.

“I love competing and I love winning, and I’ve learned to channel that into things that are good,” Curry said. “Hard work beats talent all day.”

Curry noted that he started off at a community college post high school: his grades weren’t strong in high school, yet “hard work and discipline” allowed him to become an A student in college.

When asked his vision for the city as a whole. Curry noted his “big-picture goal” is for a “city where every neighborhood knows we have equal opportunities, where young men and women know we love them.”

“I want a safe city with equal opportunity. That’s simple to state, but complicated to achieve,” the mayor noted.

“One City One Jacksonville means we’re all one,” the mayor noted, asking the students for input on his Jacksonville Journey initiative.

“We have to be very targeted,” Curry said of the program that is intended to prevent youth from falling into the behavioral patterns that lead to the criminal justice system.

—-

Curry noted that, during the 2015 campaign, he learned about the disparities in the city — a lesson not lost on his children, who went canvassing with him on occasion.

“What we focus on is the reality we’re in right now,” Curry said. “Focus on what you want to achieve, where you want to go, and what you want to do.”

Curry discussed the difficulties of campaigning city wide.

“It was challenging. We’re the biggest geographic city. A lot of neighborhoods,” Curry said, “but I learned so much and I carry that with me every single day.”

Curry told a story of a 9 year old boy who answered the door and told the mayor about seeing his best friend shot in the street.

“My son never experienced that,” Curry noted.

During the campaign, Curry posed the question: “How many more kids have to die?”

—-

The discussion continued past noon over Pizza Hut and cola drinks, ranging from TED Talks to after-school activities and YMCA access.

As is the case with these discussions, the students started off reserved, then the conversation became more natural as all parties adjusted to the conference room setting.

The program, said another student, “changes your mind … gives you hope.”

The students host roundtables and other events that offer concrete results.

EVAC students have met with everyone from former President Barack Obama to State Attorney Melissa Nelson, and that mentorship gives them hope that, despite the adversity they’ve faced, good things can happen.

Curry advised students to read biographies of historic figures.

“They wanted to win,” Curry said, pointing out that overcoming adversity is key to any of their struggles for greatness.

‘Bring him home’: Jacksonville remembers its missing adults

How long does it take to forget, when a loved one has gone missing?

Those who were on hand in the atrium of Jacksonville’s city hall on Friday morning can tell you.

The answer is indeterminate.

Grieving parents and loved ones were there for one of the more emotionally wrenching events on the city calendar – the Florida Missing Adults’ Day, hosted by the John Rowan Jr. Foundation and the Justice Coalition.

The slogan of the event – “missing, not forgotten” – is a great reminder.

Whether a person went missing in 2015, 2000, or 1982, the search continues.

There is no closure.

—-

Luckily for most who go missing, and for their families, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has a good clearance rate for adults that go missing.

In 2016, all but four of a total of 823 missing adults were found in Duval County, adding up to a 99.5 percent clearance rate.

Some cases, of course, are more difficult to clear than others – and a recent example of a case of a missing infant who became a missing adult before she was found illustrates the process.

Kamiyah Mobley, located in South Carolina’s Lowcountry recently, was abducted from a local hospital just after she was born.

Almost two decades later, Mobley was found.

The search was exhaustive.

Undersheriff Pat Ivey noted that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had followed up on 2500 leads over the past 18 years.

“By the grace of God,” Ivey said, Mobley was reunited with her birth mother.

—-

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, focused on public safety throughout his time in office, spoke by way of issuing a proclamation.

“I can’t imagine what you are going through … have gone through,” Curry said, before giving yellow roses of remembrance to those still searching

Indeed, for those who have not been through the specific hell of waiting and hoping, of knowing part of one’s heart is gone and knowing there is no fix and scant likelihood of a resolution – much less a good one – it is hard to imagine.

The raw emotion of the event was unmistakable.

Never more evident was it than when John Rowan sang a song for his son who had disappeared 16 years prior, however.

The haunting refrain: “Bring him home, bring him home.”

The Irish tenor voice, with heartache piercing through the notes, echoing off of the cavernous walls of the city hall atrium.

John Rowan, Jr. was declared dead over a decade ago.

Yet his memory lives on. And so does hope, a quality every bit as ineffable and stubborn as faith itself.

Lenny Curry outlines Jacksonville’s legislative priorities, talks pension and Enterprise Florida

This is a pivotal time in Jacksonville’s city hall.

With complete turnover in the city’s delegation to Washington and opportunities created by the new President, majority turnover in the city’s representation in Tallahassee, a revolutionary pension deal currently being approved by the city’s unions, and the imperiled fate of Enterprise Florida, this is a make or break time for Mayor Lenny Curry.

He discussed all these topics with us – exclusively – on Friday.

—-

Expect more from D.C.: The mayor met with Rep. John Rutherford on Wednesday.

“We caught up … talked JAXPORT, public safety,” Curry said.

In addition to leaning on Rutherford, an ally of long standing, Curry also will take advantage of connections within the Donald Trump administration – including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

“I’ve already got messages in to the Trump Administration. I’d like the federal government to be able to help us in some form in Jacksonville. I don’t know what that looks like yet. But we’re going to leverage every relationship we have to get help here with issues we’re facing, specifically on the public safety front, and the port is a huge issue,” Curry said.

Jacksonville is uniquely positioned in terms of the Trump administration. Ballard Partners employs Susie Wiles, a city hall veteran and a close ally and friend of Curry, and she will be doing work in the nation’s capital in addition to Jacksonville. And Marty Fiorentino is in Washington right now also, doing consulting for Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

The city contracts with both Ballard and Fiorentino on the state level.

“Certainly we have relationships [in D.C.],” Curry said. “I have direct relationships as well with Reince Priebus and others. We have an RFP [in process] regarding lobbying for the feds. Expect to see movement there.”

—-

Duval Delegation: There have been grumbles from inside city hall about the relative effectiveness of the Duval County Legislative Delegation.

Committee assignments: weak. Bills filed: often ancillary to city priorities. Leverage with leadership: dubious.

However, Mayor Curry was focused on what could be done.

Despite the relative paucity of appropriations requests on many key issues, Curry noted that he’d been “working with our delegation on priorities I’ve laid out. One of the big ones is septic tank removal. The city’s looking for a match – a big match. That is an issue that’s environmental … that will help us honor promises that were made pre-Consolidation.”

“I’m working with the delegation toward the priorities that I have, and I think we’ll work very successfully,” Curry said.

In a related note, Curry’s office announced Friday that the Florida Department of Transportation has committed $250,000 to a study of the Hart Bridge ramps.

Curry rolled out a potential $50 million ask to remove the antiquated ramps, which present public safety and aesthetic concerns, last year to the Duval Delegation.

Traffic would be routed on to Bay Street under the latest conceptual proposal for replacement, creating a direct route into the Sports Complex and a developing entertainment district close to the river.

That request got de-emphasized, however, and looks more likely to be done in a more gradual manner than the mayor’s office initially wanted.

—-

Pension Deal Will Save the City Money: Jacksonville’s Fraternal Order of Police overwhelmingly voted to approve the city’s pension offer on Thursday.

One union – the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters – is left to approve the pact, which will offer raises to current employees and defined contribution plans to new hires.

Curry was reflective on the process.

“This has been a very long road, this pension reform. Yet we’ve traveled this road aggressively and in a short window. It hasn’t even been a year since the last legislative session,” Curry said.

In fact, the referendum passed less than six months ago – which kicked off the collective bargaining that appears to be reaching its conclusion.

“So we are close. The yes vote by the police membership [shows] they recognize that this is good for them, it’s good for taxpayers, and it’s good for the city of Jacksonville. We’re going to continue to work for the fire membership vote, and the Police and Fire Pension Fund vote, and then the city council vote – and then be done with this,” Curry said, noting that the proposal yokes two of his campaign priorities – public safety and budget discipline.

“When this pension reform is done and final,” Curry said, “our budgets will be responsible and they’ll allow us to fund the things that I said I’d focus on – the things that voters voted me into office on.”

Yet questions remain, still, about whether this plan saves money for the city

The actuarial projections used in 2016, when last released to the public, were predicated on 10 or 12 percent contributions from the city to the employee’s retirement, far short of the 25 percent in the current proposal.

Though the actuarial projections have not been released and likely won’t be for at least a bit longer, Curry contends the plan will save the city money on its public safety retirement plans.

“Right now we’re spending 119 percent of [salary] for [pension costs] for every JSO employee and fireman,” Curry said. “If we hired you today, we would take your salary and put 119 percent of that in the pension fund. That’s not sustainable.”

“25 percent is a fraction of 119 percent. It works. It will attract and retain people.”

“As to when the numbers will be made available,” Curry said, “City Council will have to vote on this, and all of these numbers will be laid out before them, which is how the budget process works.”

“The public will see them, the council will debate it, people will be able to make their opinions known at the time, and I think they’ll have a favorable opinion.”

The Police and Fire Pension Fund will also have the data needed to make a decision, Curry said, before the Mar. 15 deadline.

—-

Enterprise Florida: Slowly but surely, locals are compelled to take sides on the Enterprise Florida debate.

The JAX Chamber endorsed the concept Thursday. And on Friday, Mayor Curry offered insight as to why.

One issue that many in the Florida Legislature have not considered: for cities like Jacksonville, Enterprise Florida has offered meaningful benefit, as Curry told us.

“Let me speak specifically to Jacksonville and how we work here,” Curry said.

“We use incentives – local incentives and state incentives through Enterprise Florida – and we use them successfully,” Curry contended.

The city’s scorecard, which ensures ROI for taxpayers when incentives are offered, is designed to ensure an “inflow of tax dollars that exceeds that investment.”

“I would say that incentives are important to us. They’re used in a way that respects the taxpayers. Without the state funding,” Curry said, “we would have had trouble closing some of the big deals that we closed.”

“They’re talking about reforms over there [in Tallahassee],” Curry said. “I can tell you how we do business locally. We use our tax dollars in a way that’s responsible to taxpayers, and we’ve been able to use the state incentives the same way. I hope they can figure out a way to continue to give us the opportunity to have access to state incentives.”

Under fire from the right, Lenny Curry responds to HRO critics

Pastors from Jacksonville’s First Baptist Church took a provocative position in the wake of Jacksonville expanding its Human Rights Ordinance to include the LGBT community.

They claimed that the expansion of the ordinance, which allows for civil fines for discrimination against the LGBT community in housing, employment, and public accommodations, turns Christians into “targets.”

And they lay the blame at the feet of a Republican-dominated city council and mayor.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry also took criticism last week from members of the public for not vetoing the bill.

In 2015, Curry said that he would have vetoed the 2012 version of HRO expansion.

We asked him what changed between the 2015 campaign and his decision not to veto the bill, which the city council passed 12 to 6 last week.

“Everyone here heard what I said last Tuesday night. The city council debated this, and voted the legislation into law with a supermajority,” Curry said.

“Those city council members were Republicans and Democrats, represent the city of Jacksonville, a supermajority from both parties. It’s law,” Curry said.

Curry cited his departmental directive banning discrimination against city workers and employees of contractors and vendors last year.

“I said that I didn’t believe additional legislation was necessary. I hold that position,” the mayor noted.

“But they got a veto-proof number of folks who thought this ought to be law. It is. And I remain focused on the issues I care about, the issues I campaign on, the issues people in Jacksonville care about.”

Those issues: crime, infrastructure, and jobs.

Arlington residents express crime concerns to Lenny Curry

The Arlington area of Jacksonville has seen better days, and the enclave of mid-century apartment buildings on Justina Road is no exception.

That’s where Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry went on Tuesday afternoon, on one of his regular neighborhood walks in areas that have localized challenges.

“There’s a lot of people that come to my office on any given day with ideas,” said Curry, “but the best input I get is in these neighborhood walks.”

Curry chose this part of Arlington, he said, because it’s seen “decline over the years … issues in terms of income here … crime issues.”

“I want these people to know that we’re here for them. I want to hear directly from them. This is the kind of information I can take back,” Curry said, with an eye toward crafting future budgets from the mayor’s office.

“It’s the most powerful information that I get from anywhere,” said Curry about these walks.

“When I’m out talking to people at their front doors in their neighborhoods, that’s when it gets real. You get to see families, hear them say what they like, what they’re struggling with, and what I can do in my role to make their lives better.”

Curry was greeted with hugs from the young and the old, amidst a series of appraising handshakes from locals who are not used to such attention from politicians when they aren’t running for office.

Some of the interactions were heartwarming, such as the mayor talking to a grandmother, who was sitting on a bus stop bench with a puzzle book, looking like a throwback from a pre-digital era.

And then there was the series of hugs from a elementary school girl who sported a Batman crest — one of Curry’s favorite totems — on her backpack.

“I wish my own kids were this happy to see me,” the mayor exclaimed.

But it wasn’t all sunshine and bon homie for the mayor.

The downside of the struggling neighborhood was brought into relief by a young woman, a mother of three, who spoke with great specificity about the issues in the neighborhood.

“It’s crazy out here,” she told the mayor, “and getting worse all around here.”

A story was told about a futile one-woman war against street crime, which ended up making her a “target.”

“They slash my tires, key my car,” the woman said.

Police response?

“Sometimes they come,” she said, “and sometimes they don’t.”

The woman’s suggestion: a police substation in the area.

It is precisely that kind of insight Curry will consider as his team works through its third budget later this year.

—-

Curry was expected to be accompanied on this walk by Rep. Al Lawson, who cited a last-minute schedule conflict by way of no-showing the event.

When asked about this, Curry noted that he reached out to the congressman a couple of weeks ago, and asked him to do a neighborhood walk with him.

“A couple of hours ago I found out there was a scheduling conflict,” Curry said, “and I look forward to walking with him in the future.”

Curry had also hoped to introduce Lawson to members of the “business community,” but that hasn’t come to pass.

Schedule confusion characterizes Al Lawson in Jacksonville

U.S. Representative Al Lawson may have had good intentions when choosing to spend the first part of an off week in Jacksonville.

But intentions are one thing. And delivery is another.

Lawson’s itinerary, arrived at last week, was pretty straightforward.

Among other things: the first-term Democrat from Tallahassee was to go to Eureka Garden on Tuesday afternoon, accompanied by Mayor Lenny Curry and Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis.

However, the plan did not come together.

For one thing, Lawson called an audible and made his Eureka Garden visit on Monday — Presidents’ Day.

Mayor Curry was camping with his family.

Councilman Dennis likewise was busy with personal business.

The end result?

With no local political backup, Lawson arrived with representatives of the management company and police officers inside and outside the community center at the Westside Jacksonville apartment complex.

He spoke in generalities about the improvements on the property, discussing potential collaboration with Sen. Marco Rubio on HUD reform.

Even so, there was a tone deaf quality to his remarks. From “Whenever I get my pay check, I think of you” to  his assertion that Eureka apartments — which made national news for months because of their issues — are “better than [his] apartment in D.C.,” Lawson’s presentation confused media on hand — especially those who have been immersed in the Eureka Garden story.

On Monday, Lawson announced his plans to accompany Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on a neighborhood walk — something Curry does regularly in neighborhoods left behind by Jacksonville’s progress.

However, those plans were for naught.

Lawson decided to cancel his participation on the walk Tuesday, hours before it was to kick off.

This visit to Jacksonville was pivotal for Lawson, replacing Corrine Brown — who was an effective legislator in terms of constituent service.

Brown was a Jacksonville Congresswoman, no matter how far her district stretched.

Locals, before this week, saw Lawson as a Tallahassee guy.

How do they feel now?

Rep. Lawson had an opportunity to prove to locals that he was as committed to the needs of Jacksonville, the biggest city in the district, as to the farmland out west and the state capital.

He needed those photo ops with the mayor and Councilman Dennis.

More importantly, however, he needed those insights from politicians who understand, better than most, the challenges of the local community.

Al Lawson talks HUD reform at Jacksonville’s Eureka Garden

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson visited Eureka Garden in Jacksonville on Presidents’ Day, and expressed optimism for the building’s current ownership, while suggesting that more comprehensive reform of HUD is needed.

Speaking to tenants in the 400-unit Section 8 complex’s community center, Rep. Lawson addressed the need for federal help allowing tenants to “make a different quality of life,” by making “funding available.”

The congressman will have an important ally across the aisle and in the Senate in this regard.

Lawson discussed a “sitdown” with an old friend: Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been an advocate of HUD reform for over a year, in reaction to the dilapidation at Eureka Garden and other properties once owned by Global Ministries Foundation.

Lawson asserted that Rubio, who said on many occasions that GMF had a “slumlord” approach to property ownership, committed to continue working on HUD reform.

“We want to make sure that they take care of residents,” Lawson said, and “make sure HUD has proper oversight” by “working jointly with HUD to make some changes.”

Among those changes: ensuring that federal dollars go into building maintenance, not into the pockets of ownership — something that was not the case in the past with GMF properties.

“It will take time,” Lawson added, “but we have made the commitment.”

Lawson also joins Rubio in believing that GMF should be held accountable for the conditions they allowed to happen at the Jacksonville apartment complex, though the mechanisms for that accountability are unclear.

Lawson also intends to engage the Donald Trump administration in his quest, vowing to get HUD Secretary Ben Carson to “come down and take a look.”

The Congressman’s approach to the residents of Eureka was jovial and joke-filled.

At one point, Lawson quipped that “every time I get a paycheck, I think about you.”

And at a couple of points, Lawson noted that apartments at Eureka were “better than [his] apartment in D.C.,” an endorsement of the ongoing rehab work that the new management company, Millennia Housing Management, is engaged in.

“I can give a good report,” Lawson said, noting that he will meet with senators to discuss HUD issues next week.

Though Millennia took over on Feb. 1, the company is already working through a priority list of repairs, focusing on major issues currently.

If all goes well with the Ohio company’s ownership bid, Millennia will hold the title on this and the rest of the GMF portfolio by the end of the year.

Though tenants groused at the slow pace of repairs, citing issues like missing screen doors, needed burglar bars on doors, and a lack of insulation in the walls, Lawson focused on positives, such as an improved playground and an eventual community garden.

“I feel like you all are going to take pride in the community,” Lawson said, advising those on hand to call police if they see “someone out on the corner selling drugs.”

Though Lawson’s appearance was appreciated by those on hand, he may have missed an opportunity for synergy from local politicians.

Lawson’s visit to Eureka Garden was originally expected to be on Tuesday, and was expected to involve Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Councilman Garrett Dennis – the local catalysts for reform in GMF properties.

Curry was spending Monday with his family.

Dennis noted that, while he couldn’t attend due to the “late notice of the visit,” he looked forward to getting together with Lawson at a future date and discussing “other issues plaguing our community and the City of Jacksonville.”

Lawson has a crowded schedule over the next few days.

He met with a group of preachers earlier on Monday.

On Tuesday, the first-term Tallahassee Democrat will discuss the Affordable Care Act with executives at Florida Blue, and will also discuss federal dredging dollars with the chair of JAXPORT.

Wednesday sees Lawson meeting with another phalanx of pastors.

 

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