A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

CARA update: $34.5M spent, $21.5M to go

Written December 11th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Downtown, in the heart of the CARA district, at about 5 o’clock on Wednesday night

CARA, Albany’s downtown urban renewal district, was created in 2001 and originally was scheduled to last until 2027. Now it’s expected to expire in 2033.

When the city council set it up, the Central Albany Revitalization District had a list of 50-some projects and the authority to borrow and spend up to $56 million.

On Wednesday the CARA advisory board received a financial analysis by an outside consultant, Tiberius Solutions LLC. It showed that CARA had used up $34.5 million of its authority, meaning it has $21.5 million yet to borrow and spend. Some of that has already been obligated for various projects including redevelopment of the Willamette riverfront.

Tiberius is projecting that CARA will reach the end of its borrowing authority in 2022 and will start levying less than its full tax after that. Its debts are expected to be paid off in 2033, and that’s when CARA must cease.

The urban renewal program is financed with taxes on the added property value within CARA since the district was formed. Those tax amounts would normally go to the city, county, schools and others but are diverted to the urban renewal district instead. The theory is that the added value created by urban renewal will pay off in higher tax revenues for the regular taxing units once CARA ends.

Through its life so far, CARA has received about $35 million in property taxes that otherwise would have gone to the other local taxing districts. According to tables published by the Linn and Benton County tax departments, this fiscal year the city of Albany is giving up about $1.5 million to CARA, the school district about $1.1 million, and other taxing units smaller amounts.

The consultant reports that the assessed value of the CARA district grew about 3.7 percent annually from 2003 till now, from $266 million in 2002 to $490 million in 2019, or about 84 percent overall. I looked up county tax reports, and they show that the assessed value of the Linn County portion of Albany, including the CARA district, grew by 64 percent during the same period.

Although there’s no information about how much of the CARA increase was caused by urban renewal, the comparison suggests that the district outperformed the rest of the city in assessed-value growth, in Linn County anyway, and that CARA-assisted projects such as Jefferson Lofts, the Wheelhouse, Edgewater Village and others were the reason.

Meanwhile, CARA is working on a couple of downtown real estate deals including the previously announced redevelopment of the former Wells Fargo bank. Wednesday’s CARA agenda at first included an update on that venture, on which the city is working with a group including Coastal Farm owner Buzz Wheeler and Sybaris Chef Matt Bennett. But that item was scratched, and Bennett and Wheeler instead appeared before the city council, acting as the Albany Revitalization Agency, in an executive session closed to the public.

Before the meeting, I asked Wheeler and Bennett about the Wells Fargo plans. They said they were still working on them. Their group has an option to buy the bank branch from the city if the two sides can reach a development agreement. So, more on that later, maybe when CARA and ARA meet again on Jan. 15, 2020. (hh)

52 responses to “CARA update: $34.5M spent, $21.5M to go”

  1. Ted says:

    5:00 on a Wednesday night. Looks like a swinging place. So now another 21 million of good money headed after bad?

  2. Bill says:

    The benefit is not obvious to the casual observer.

  3. Mike says:

    Mike. Stunning the council is giving a company 2.5 million for design work for the riverfront for a new 20 million dollar sidewalk. Know your history the flooding anything to line pockets of a few THERE S NO ROOM to do anything more than the Dave Clark path. Oh but we should totally believe the mayor that the city is going broke. Even though our city manager says no the city isn’t going broke Read state statute about fiscally running a city.

  4. Diane says:

    Those information/directional signs are a joke. Half of them are placed so you’re already past the point where you could follow. I would be very confused if I was a visitor.

    • hj.anony1 says:

      Yes, they are multi informational signs designed to make downtown Albany into a magical fantasy land of food, spirits, shopping and other delights to be named later.

      Too much info on those signs. This way, that way, whatever!

      21.5 mil to our Albany roads instead ….please.

  5. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    You need to re-check your numbers.

    Per Measure 50 the assessed value of every property in the city increases each year by 3%. Economic activity doesn’t drive the 3%, so you need to remove the M50 effect from the CARA growth rate.

    Additionally, county reports show that the CARA Area’s assessed value went up by about $22M in the first year of CARA’s life. Since CARA had virtually zero economic activity its first year, the $22M increase cannot be attributed to CARA “investments”.

    Also, it is interesting that the Wheeler/Bennett deal is being done in secrecy. There is no good public reason for lack of transparency.

    Taxpayers should expect CARA to spin the numbers to CARA’s advantage. Taxpayers should not tolerate secrecy in a deal that financially favors a few local cronies.

  6. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    In an article written by DH reporter Les Gehrett in 2001, here is what County commissioner Cliff Wooten said about CARA, “I would hope it would come to a vote so that everyone in the county could have input.”

    The article concluded with this, “The city does not need the county’s approval to adopt the plan.”

    CARA was born illegitimately. No sign-off by the taxing districts that CARA siphons money from. And, most importantly, voters were never asked for permission.

    Thankfully that changed about 5-6 years ago through the initiative process. Future CARA’s, and other debt obligations, must first be approved by voters. My biggest regret about living in Albany for over 20 years was that we didn’t stop the city’s nonsense through the initiative process back in 2001.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Stating a county commissioner voiced a concern is akin to stating a city councilor voiced a concern. The county did sign off on the formation of the URD. End of story

      “CARA was born illegitimately.”
      That’s a 100% fictitious statement – and you know it. ALL of the taxing districts signed off on the final plan.

      “And, most importantly, voters were never asked for permission.”
      There you go again. I get that you don’t seem to like elected representation — but only if they go against your ideas. But there it is.

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        Just to be clear, when I say “sign off” I mean “approve.” The only thing the city did was inform the taxing districts of the plan. The only body to approve CARA was the council in 2001.

        No permission from voters, no approvals from the taxing districts whose tax revenues get siphoned away from essential services. In fact, go back and read the article I referenced. Two commissioners were not supportive, but never had a choice. CARA was imposed by the city on the county.

        Fast forward to 2013. The council and Mayor fought the initiative to give voters the final say on future URDs. Chew on that for a second. The…..council…..campaigned…..against…..their…..constituents.

        The initiative passed with a large majority of votes.

        In 2013 you, the Mayor, and several other councilors had a choice. Listen to your constituents or fight them. You chose to fight your neighbors and you lost. Yeah, Ray, that’s great representation you provided.

        Like I’ve said before, when councilors like you leave the council it results in “addition by subtraction.”

  7. Kevin says:

    So, let me get this straight, because I didn’t know this until now. 100% of the property taxes collected from the CARA district go into paying off their debt? I guess I assumed the district had an additional tax.

    Instead, they are stealing 1.5 million from Albany, and 1.1 from the schools this year alone? But city council has to deal with trying to add fees or let voters decide whether to add a tax or not to generate revenue? That is frustrating.

    I suppose the money CARA is stealing from taxing units is just forgiven and not repaid after their initial debt is paid off. Why? Because of the value added by their pet projects? Not buying it.

    Unfortunately I was 5 years away from voting in 2001, but this will affect my son when he starts high school and the debt is barely paid off in 2033…

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “100% of the property taxes collected from the CARA district go into paying off their debt?”
      The property taxes due to the increase in property values over the frozen-base will be used to pay off the debt.

      “Instead, they are stealing 1.5 million from Albany, and 1.1 from the schools this year alone?”
      The schools are (and always have been) made whole by the state. There has been no reduction whatsoever in school funding due to the URD. Calling any TIF-funded program “stealing” speaks volumes of your perspective. Thankfully, URDs are very common in the state and haven’t stolen a dime.

      “I suppose the money CARA is stealing from taxing units is just forgiven and not repaid after their initial debt is paid off.”
      100% of the borrowed money is paid off (repaid) when the URD sunsets.

      “Because of the value added by their pet projects? Not buying it.”
      Buy it – because that’s exactly what happens in all URDs.

      “… this will affect my son when he starts high school and the debt is barely paid off in 2033…”
      No it won’t since the schools have always been kept “whole” with no reductions due to URDs.

  8. Patricia says:

    Agreed! Wow really happening place! And wow so many new businesses… but are they being visited when the sidewalks and shops appear closed by 5? And how can our school districts afford to lose valuable dollars? We definitely aren’t well rated in the education field! And geez if I poured 35 million into my property my assessed value would of course be higher and I would have to pay more taxes!

  9. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “And how can our school districts afford to lose valuable dollars?”

    The school districts haven’t lost a dime – they are made “whole” by the state due to any potential shortfall by any URD in the state.

  10. Anon says:

    …..and they are doing this at the same time they are claiming their budget is 11 million dollars short? Seriously? Why do we put up with this? Ray, if you are really such a financial master mind and you value this kind of spending, how about you just write the check for it.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      I’ve never claimed to be a “financial mastermind.” I do very strongly believe in the efficacy of our URD (and URDS in general). I’ll continue to pay my share of taxes to make it work.

  11. thomas cordier says:

    In spite of HH’s good news perspective—this is really out of balance. Albany wrings it’s hands because they don’t want to reduce people costs to stay within the budget constraints and can’t upgrade existing streets and yet considers it good practice to extend the time frame needed to start paying off CARA debt. By 2033 all the building upgrades (CARA investments) will need another upgrade. I predict CARA will never be retired–just a revolving cash drain on taxpayers while the City whines about not having enough money to keep up.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “Albany wrings it’s hands because they don’t want to reduce people costs to stay within the budget constraints…”

      Hogwash! The Albany City Budget *IS* balanced – as required by state law. You and a few others simply don;t like the choices made/being made to accomplish that task.

      “I predict CARA will never be retired…”

      I predict you are (& will be) wrong. Subject to us both being above ground, care to make a $100 bet? :-)

      • thomas cordier says:

        Of course Albany’s budget is balanced–on the expectation headcount = people costs go down. City never wants # of employees to be reduced—so they are wringing their hands hoping to avoid layoffs. we’ll see if they carry through

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Good point about needing more “investment” to upgrade the existing CARA projects given CARA doesn’t plan to retire its debts until 2033. It’s a vicious cycle.

      Albany citizens do have the safeguard of Section 43.1 (Urban Renewal Citizens Right to Vote) of the City Charter, assuming CARA uses what remains of its $56,000,000 borrowing authority on the proposed riverfront sidewalk project.

      My fear is the city attorney will make a determination that gives the council the legal ability to ignore 43.1. Remember the hassle of defining city “electors” back in 2013?

      Your instincts are correct. Never underestimate the city’s willingness to bastardize the rule of law (city charter, ORS, Oregon Constitution) when it comes to perpetuating CARA.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        If you don’t like the law change it. If you can’t articulate your beliefs that will stand legal inspection, you need better advice vs. inordinate fear it won’t pass muster…

  12. Jason says:

    The responses on this story and most others, from Hasso, warrant a very current phrase.

    OK Boomer!

    The signs are to big, or too small.
    The lights are ugly and cost too much.
    The pathway is…

    Ray has to be defending everything, because the rest of the Boomers don’t like change.

    Is it all great ? No.
    Is it all horrible? No.

    Has the money and focus made downtown a better place? Yes
    Higher property values and collecting more tax? Yes.

    Go ahead tell me more why CARA or ARA, shouldn’t continue doing what they have been? Careful though, you should use facts and not hyperbole.

    If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

    • centrist says:

      Well-stated Jason.
      The gaggle of naysayers seem so stuck on a position that facts are intrusive and unpersuasive.
      This boomer was raised different.
      Change isn’t wrong, just different.

    • thomas cordier says:

      Fact–Albany forgoes $1.5M of revenue this year alone because of CARA. That number is predicted by CARA to increase 10% year over year until debt is paid off so UR can be closed. So the City looses available property tax revenue and then complains it can’t improve the streets. Can’t fix dumb

      • centrist says:

        Let’s take a breath. Loosely stated, your premise is that CARA is responsible for road condition. Frankly $1.5million won’t go far. My observation of road condition is that most of the surfaces are serviceable. Some suffer from long-deferred maintenance. Deferral that predates CARA.
        By the way, your last sentence is a non sequitur that detracts from your case

  13. MsJ says:

    @ Tom

    “Can’t fix dumb”.

    Not with words in blog comments, but term limits would go a long way towards CARA and other fixes in this semi-permanent idiocracy.

    You were successful in the debt initiative, perhaps you could start one for term limits.

    Expect past & present councilors to not represent their electors & abandon their constituents though, as you well know.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Results notwithstanding, I get that a handful of folks have a visceral & fundamental belief that TIF is not a proper way of improving anything. We will always disagree on that point.

      However, since there have been *many* different councilors and citizen-board members over the years since the inception of the CARA, please reiterate exactly how term limits would “fix” CARA in any way-shape-or-form?

    • centrist says:

      Ahhh, the term limit canard.
      The presumption by some is that longterm incumbents do not represent the public interest.
      My observation is that those folks real issue is that THEIR interests aren’t served by the incumbents.
      Frankly, there’s already a path open to them—- run for public office.

  14. GoBeavers! says:

    Hasso, please follow up with additional photos not taken on a rainy weeknight before the dinner hour.

    I have been downtown recently and found it bustling with people in restaurants at the carousel, at the coffee shops, frequenting the local businesses. It was wonderful and full of far more energy and optimism than I remember it being 15 years ago. Surely with all of the new housing coming in near the railroad bridge, the downtown businesses will see even more consistent activity.

    This debate over the CARA needs to be considered in the context of a broader economic development strategy for Albany that will benefit everyone. Employers like to open and expand their companies in communities that have a vibrant downtown, a strong sense of place and local pride. Not only are these things valuable to the owners of the businesses themselves, but they know they impact their ability to hire and retain great employees for the long term.

    Lastly, the vast majority of people who serve the City deeply care about it and have its best intentions in mind. We should not attack people, our neighbors, and accuse them of only trying to serve themselves. These people give much of their time and energy to trying to make the City better for everyone. Surely, they could choose to do other things far more lucrative and less open to public criticism. We should debate policies but do our best to have faith in the character and motives of our neighbors.

  15. MsJ says:

    @ Ray
    ” …please reiterate exactly how term limits would “fix” CARA in any way-shape-or-form?”

    Please review my term limits comments here:

    But here’s a term limit bullet list for your reference —
    1. Encourages active representation
    2. Promotes new ideas
    3. Reduces opportunities for corruption
    4. Reduces short term political pressure
    5. Empowers new arrivals

    CARA was not voter-approved and is a semi-permanent institution imposed on Albany just like many of the mayor/councilor positions that have been around for an even longer period of time (coincidence? – nope!).

    Judging from Hasso’s first sentence in his article,

    “CARA, Albany’s downtown urban renewal district, was created in 2001 and originally was scheduled to last until 2027. Now it’s expected to expire in 2033.”

    it appears CARA will last forever, just like many mayor/councilor positions.

    What if Albany citizens don’t want a 6-year CARA extension?
    Can we vote on it? – of course not.

    And if attempted, current mayor/councilors will likely thwart the people’s right to democracy whether it’s term limits or anything else disapproved of — this is NOT representing constituents in any way, shape, or form with the clear message:
    “Get Over It”

    • centrist says:

      Your bullet list can be accommodated without another regulation.
      All it takes is for someone to get off the couch and run for office. Since there’s no party machine or embedded conspiracy, THE PEOPLE will choose.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      The URD was approved by duly elected folks in the community who made the decision on the community’s behalf — as they were elected to do. – and has subsequently been ongoing by same albeit many different people over time. That you or your candidates haven’t garnered enough support by no means the process is flawed. Your list is simply wishful thinking IMO.

  16. MsJ says:

    Term limits is actually the law for the highest office in the land and most State governorships – not just an abstract ‘wishful thinking’ idea put upon candidates for arbitrary purposes. The 5 bullet points illustrate why it’s so important.

    No one wants a tenured President or governor. Given the money & power such an incumbent has to secure that tenure, term limits will nullify said money & power. Same thing applies in Albany to a lesser degree.

    Same-party serious challengers to an incumbent President running for a 2nd term is a rarity. You just don’t see it because such challengers cannot garner the resources to mount an effective campaign against a powerful incumbent. The odds are better at winning the lottery & it’s simply not viable or worth it. Again, same logic to a lesser degree for Albany, but term limits evens that playing field.

    This is why the same core group of mayor/councilors have been there for decades & why people don’t want to challenge them. Unless there’s an open seat to compete for, it makes more sense to stay on the couch and wait for that opening or appointment.

    • centrist says:

      By waiting for an opening, some folks are enabling what they object to, but still complaining.
      If you’re not in the game, you’re on the couch.

  17. Ray Kopczynski says:

    I note this issue has been an ongoing conundrum in Oregon since 1992. Thankfully, SCOTUS (and later OR) stopped it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Term_limits_in_Oregon

    In our town, there’s definitely zero “power & money” being a city councilor. — You think people would clamor for the opportunity to wear a target on their back? LOL

    I seriously do not buy the idea a citizen can’t offer a new idea. There has always been AMPLE opportunity to affect change by giving very-direct input to (and developing relationships with) your city manager, city staff, your Ward councilors, and the other 4 councilors. In addition, you can also attend any/all public meetings of council and advisory-board/commissions to do same.

    I get you have no thought of ever getting directly involved and like to use anonymity in a blog, but I believe you have a “solution in search of a problem.”

  18. MsJ says:

    Anonymity sure gets your goat as you bring this up often & out of context/off topic, but yet you respond (vehemently) to the many in this blog who choose this option.

    I for one don’t want old, tenured ideas regurgitated from anyone in any elected office.

    New blood = new thinking & may lead to even better representation. You’re never going to get that with people entrenched in their positions.

    Take a look at the record lengths of service for U.S. Congressmen & Senators – it’s appalling. Many were re-elected several times over & were in office 30-40, even 50+ years!

    Strom Thurmond (R-SC) was 100 years old and still in office when he resigned in 2003 after serving 49 years.

    Think about it, is anyone at this age or even 25 years younger an effective elected rep ? If so, you have discovered the fountain of youth, my friend.

    The fear of term limits is apparent, as those against it want to quell a democratic process that may desire them. The fear is losing the power that they’re addicted to (& the lucrative benefits that the upper-level positions enjoy).

    Why not let voters decide term limits ? – it’s how major issues are decided in a democratic society.

    Why are you afraid of putting term limits on a ballot if your claim is that you represent your constituents ?

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      We agree to disagree for sure…

      “Anonymity sure gets your goat as you bring this up often & out of context/off topic, but yet you respond (vehemently) to the many in this blog who choose this option.”

      I totally agree! If you (and others) are unwilling to use your real name to stand by what you write, you seriously lack credence IMO.

      “Why are you afraid of putting term limits on a ballot if your claim is that you represent your constituents ?”

      When I ran, I had competition and the “constituents” in Ward II elected me. End of story.

      • centrist says:

        Seems that some attach great significance to a name while diminishing those who use a nom de plume. The humorous thing is that there’s no guarantee that any “name” is more than just a handle.
        What I find most important on this blog is that folks present a concept and develop it without exaggeration or bombast.
        Good day to ya

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          “What I find most important on this blog is that folks present a concept and develop it without exaggeration or bombast.”

          Yes – And I agree there is some of that here. However, I believe that whatever the position and articulation of same will go much farther with folks if you are willing to state it and back it up with their good name. Otherwise, to me, it will not have has much credence as those who are willing to “…suffer. The slings and arrows…” I also know of several folks who appear here who are now using their real name when a couple of years ago they did not. And even though I may disagree with them, they stand a tad taller in my respect solely because of their willingness to do so.

    • centrist says:

      I agree that Thurmond served SC beyond his shelf life, but he apparently met the needs of those able to vote for him.
      While forced term limits seems like a no-brainer solution to the symptoms that you present, it is not without a downside.
      I recollect a legislature in that couldn’t get out of its own way. Too many had no experience with negotiation or compromise. Too many felt they were more important than anyone else. It’s likely that anarchists and libertarians salivated, but it was a terrible example of governing.
      My take is that term limit is an inefficient way of inducing change. Further, the chatter of a candidate can induce constructive change even if the incumbent continues. Progress begins with a single step

  19. MsJ says:


    Second that.

    The mere fact that you respond irregardless of topic in venomous detail to almost everyone on Hasso’s blog, the majority of whom are indeed anonymous, contradicts your ‘lack of credence’ accusation.

    Yes, you did run a 2nd time w/ competition, but not the first – that’s what got you in the door and an edge for a 2nd term.

    New challengers don’t have that kind of advantage.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but had your constituents supported/wanted a term limit initiative, you’ve already indicated you would not have supported them.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “Yes, you did run a 2nd time w/ competition, but not the first – that’s what got you in the door and an edge for a 2nd term.”

      Wrong. I did have competition the 1st time. When Ralph Reid died, there was an “open call” to replace his unfurnished term. There were 6 applicants. 5 actually had a panel-interview with mayor & 5 councilors. I got the nod.

      • MsJ says:


        The word ‘run’ as used in my phrase earlier,

        “Yes, you did run a 2nd time w/ competition, but not the first …”

        is in the context of one of its definitions — “be a candidate in a political election”.

        I can see the confusion though, but being appointed is by no stretch equal to *running* a campaign for an elected office against other competitors.

        Kudos for getting the nod though.

  20. MsJ says:

    @ centrist

    Lol — ‘shelf life’, wish I had used that term.

    I agree with you that term limits are not without its cons, but I believe the pros outweigh them. The staggered elections of the different wards can alleviate the ‘greenness” of the newly-minted as the ones already there can serve as mentors. At the same time, the freshly-minted can instill some new approaches/thoughts.

    Perhaps the staggering can be done differently to allow more overlapping of old/new people or the length/number of terms tweaked. I was amazed at how many different ways term limits were followed as law in most of the 50 states.

    Yes, a candidate can chatter to try and effect change, but if that candidate was actually voted in, I think that chatter will be taken far more seriously.

    It’s the exchange of new ideas brought about by term limits that most appeals to me. I’d like many others to have a fair opportunity to experience it and not face a brick wall of entrenched incumbents that exist in at least some of the wards and mayor position.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “It’s the exchange of new ideas brought about by term limits that most appeals to me. ”

      I still do not understand how constituents are blocked (in any way) from offering new ideas to their sitting councilors – or councilors outside their Ward. Since councilors get but a single vote at any time (and some keep their thoughts held very closely so as to not tip their hand), it behooves folks to more actively get involved to induce change. I sure don’t see that happening via a blog. Especially since it’s rare to see more than one or two councilors ever “appear” here.

  21. MsJ says:


    Never once stated constituents were blocked – your words.
    But not listened to/taken seriously, yes – my words.

    I’ve seen in person and in videos the level of disdain & unprofessionalism on some councilor/mayor faces at times when an idea they don’t like is publicly presented and they are confronted with it (seat slouching, scowling, apathy, etc. – overall gross behavior) and makes my point on not being taken seriously.

    The sandwich board protest costume worn by one councilor some years ago takes the 1st place award for dishonor and in itself would never get my vote. I get the topic on hand was electrifying, but not to the point a councilor should dress up for Halloween and parade around like a child wanting candy. That display was unbecoming, laughable, and tells me that particular councilor’s ‘shelf life’ (thx, centrist) long expired.

    You’ve mentioned before councilors don’t clamor for the opportunity to wear a target on their back, well some do almost literally, & that’s very LOL.

    A vote on council carries a lot more weight as long as the constituents are fairly represented.

    Blog comments generally won’t change one’s thinking, but a term limits initiative sure will if passed.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      My memory may be failing me, but I don’t remember any council member wearing a “sandwich board protest costume.” Can you refresh me on who and when?

      • MsJ says:

        Hasso – I may be wrong as I did not witness the act firsthand, but believe it was Dick Olsen protesting Cordier’s debt initiative (while support signature’s were being gathered) near Monteith Park area at one of the summer concerts.

        Perhaps others may have seen it and could verify or not.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “A vote on council carries a lot more weight as long as the constituents are fairly represented.”

      How do you determine “fairly represented?” I have stated multiple times my job as a councilor was to vote for what I believed was in the best interest of the entire community after gathering information about the topic at hand. If constituents do/did not not contact me directly, I was left with getting limited info from staff or friends. Right or wrong, I would never based my vote on blogs or so called “social media.” How would you do it?


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