Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

April 14, 2018

One Hundred Days – Mayor Marc McGovern

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 8:31 am

Mayor Marc McGovernIt’s hard to believe that it was just 100 days ago when I was given the honor of being sworn in as Mayor of my hometown. So much has happened during that time. I want to express my sincere gratitude to my colleagues who voted for me as Mayor. I also want to thank my family and friends who have been such great supports as I settle in to this new role.

As I have often said, Cambridge is an amazing city. We are leading the way in so many areas that sometimes we lose sight of the great things that are happening. However, despite all the prosperity and innovation that surrounds us, we are still a city with a higher poverty rate than the state average. We are still a city with far too many homeless struggling on our streets. We are still a city that sends dozens of students to Ivy League schools, while others graduate without the skills needed to be successful. Despite the wonderful things we accomplish we must never be complacent and we must never stop working to become the socially and economically just community we strive to be.

Here are a few things we have accomplished in our first 100 days:

Constituent Services: Since taking office on January 1 we have made constituent services a primary focus. We want every resident of Cambridge to feel welcomed and valued in the Mayor’s Office. In addition to weekly, formal office hours on Mondays from 9 to 11 am, we have also met with hundreds of residents during other times of the day. We have fielded over 250 phone calls, have helped approximately 55 people with housing issues, and another 35 with issues pertaining to the Department of Public Works. We believe strongly that one of the main functions of municipal government is to be responsive to the needs of residents and try and help residents overcome issues they are facing.

Cambridge Immigrant Legal Defense Fund: We are living in a time when immigrants, documented or not, are under attack. ICE agents are sitting in court rooms to detain women who come to file restraining orders due to domestic violence. Stores and homes are being raided. DACA recipients, many who have lived in this country for their entire lives are facing deportation. Cambridge is one of the oldest Sanctuary Cities in the United States. We have spoken loud and clear that we support our immigrant friends and neighbors. Therefore, my office has partnered with the Cambridge Community Foundation to launch the Cambridge Immigrant Legal Defense Fund. This fund, through private donations, will offer grants to non-profit legal services agencies to provide legal representation to documented and undocumented Cambridge residents who are facing deportation. For more information visit:

Warming Center for the Homeless: On any given night, upwards of 500 people try to survive on Cambridge’s streets and shelters. Many are either unable or unwilling to go to a shelter due to safety concerns. Starting last term and then launching just a few weeks into my term as Mayor, my office worked closely with the City to open Cambridge’s first Warming Center for the Homeless. This center, located in the basement of the Senior Center in Central Square, provided much needed shelter to over 400 different individuals during this winter. According to one of the guests: “The Cambridge Warming Center has made the winter months easier for us. It literally saved lives.”

Opioid Working Group: Like communities across the country, Cambridge has seen a rise in deaths by overdose. Last term my office issued a report on the opioid crisis in Cambridge. One of the recommendations was to create a working group of experts to develop a short and long-range plan to provide better support and services to stem the tide of addiction. I am excited to announce that based on that recommendation, the City Manager has formed such a group and that we will be working together to address this emergency.

Public Schools: One of the most important responsibilities as Mayor is chairing the School Committee. As a Cambridge Public School graduate and parent, social worker with over 25 years of working with children, and a former 4 term School Committee member, returning to the School Committee has been exciting. Thanks to the work of our Superintendent and his staff, along with budget co-chairs Fred Fantini and Emily Dexter, the SC just passed a budget of over $191 million to support our students and staff. This includes the addition of 42 new positions. While other districts are cutting positions and services, Cambridge continues to increase public school funding to ensure that every child receives a high-quality education.

To improve communication between the City Council and School Committee I formed a joint committee of three City Councillors, three School Committee members, and city staff to meet three times per year (in addition to our many joint roundtables), to discuss ways in which decisions made by our respective bodies impact the other. For example, when a new development is built in Cambridge it often brings more students into our public schools. Until now, there were no discussions between our elected bodies on how to best manage and support the increase in enrollment. Thanks to the formation of this joint committee, we will now be able to better share information and learn from one another to ensure that we are planning better for our students, staff and families.

These are just a few of the issues and highlights the Mayor’s Office has been working on in partnership with our city departments, non-profits, community members and colleagues. As we move forward we will continue to be a voice for social and economic justice and to ensure that Cambridge is a city that works for all its residents.

If you would like further information on any of these topics, if you have questions, comments or concerns, or if you just want to follow up, please feel free to email my office at We release a weekly, email newsletter of important events going on in the city, please indicate if you would like to sign up, and you can always follow us on twitter at: @Cambridge_Mayor.

Thank you again and I look forward to continuing to represent you and the entire City of Cambridge over the next two years.

Marc McGovern

April 10, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 303-304: April 10, 2018

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:12 pm

Episode 303 – Cambridge InsideOut: April 10, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on April 10, 2018 at 5:30pm. The main topics discussed were the Alewife area, climate change vulnerability, and resiliency. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

Episode 304 – Cambridge InsideOut: April 10, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on April 10, 2018 at 6:00pm. The main topics discussed were the Pause Petition rebranded as the “Zoning Amendments for a Flood and Heat Resilient Cambridge”, EMF update, and upcoming events. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

April 3, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 301-302: April 3, 2018

Episode 301 – Cambridge InsideOut: April 3, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on April 3, 2018 at 5:30pm. Main Topics: Loss of space for musicians/artists at EMF building on Brookline St. and possible solutions. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

Episode 302 – Cambridge InsideOut: April 3, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on April 3, 2018 at 6:00pm. Main Topics: first week of citywide compost collection; Economic Development Committee meeting on retail strategy, Harvard Square; upcoming events. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

April 1, 2018

Preview of April 2, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 9:06 pm

Preview of April 2, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

City Hall postcardHere’s my pass at this week’s agenda:

Manager’s Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-33, regarding a report on whether or not Chapter 4.25 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance applies to the Inman Square redesign project and therefore whether or not a report should be made to the Planning Board.

The upshot: "Vellucci Plaza was taken by the City for a purpose (public open space) protected by Article 97 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution ("Article 97"), and as such is subject to the protections of Article 97. Therefore, it is likely that if a road is constructed through a portion of Vellucci Plaza at its current site, legislative approval will be required [the State legislature, that is, and not just the City Council]. Although the construction of a roadway on land protected by Article 97 requires legislative approval, it does not require relief from the provisions of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance."

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to compile a list of single family homes which could be purchased by the Affordable Housing Trust and converted to Single Room Occupancies or Housing Cooperatives.

And the train keeps a rollin’. Every week it’s another proposal to transfer private property to public or quasi-public ownership. Is this really the ideal "vision" for the future? Will such acquisitions be uniform across the city or concentrated in just some neighborhoods?

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to direct the appropriate City personnel to place a commemorative plaque at eye-level at the plaza in Harvard Square dedicated to former judge, Mayor, and City Manager Joseph DeGuglielmo so that it is more prominent to pedestrians.   Councillor Simmons, Councillor Toomey

For you newcomers, Joseph A. DeGuglielmo, better known as "Joe DeGug", began his public career in 1938 as Assistant City Solicitor of Cambridge. He first ran and was elected to the Cambridge City Council in 1945 and served 8 consecutive terms (1946-1963). He was elected every time he was a candidate and was chosen by his colleagues as Mayor for the 1952-53 term. Two years after leaving the City Council he was hired as City Manager in February 1966 and served through January 1968. In 1971, he was appointed an associate justice of the Boston Municipal Court by Governor Francis Sargent. He retired from the bench in 1978. He died in May 1983. His nephew is Jimmy Tingle – comic and now candidate for Lt. Governor of Massachusetts.

Order #4. That the City Council encourage residents to be more conscious of their water consumption during the month of April, to take steps to reduce storm water runoff on their own property, to prevent polluted runoff from entering our water system, and to find time to engage with our natural areas.   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

Being conscious of water consumption, reducing stormwater runoff, and engaging with our natural areas are clearly good things, but perhaps the message regarding the prevention of polluted runoff entering our water system is best directed to the inhabitants of Waltham, Weston, Lexington, and Lincoln where our primary water source is located.

Order #5. City Council support of House Bill 3857, “An Act providing tax relief for rent-burdened individuals and families."   Councillor Carlone, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui

This bill would increase the rental deduction for the Mass. state income tax and index it for inflation. It would also restrict eligibility for the deduction to taxpayers who earn no more than 100% of the Area Median Income (AMI).

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Law Department, Community Development Department and any other appropriate City departments regarding the feasibility of requiring property owners to give the City written notice when a storefront becomes vacant, including plans for finding a new tenant and keeping the premises tidy and in compliance with all applicable codes to mitigate any negative effects or safety concerns on the neighborhood.   Councillor Siddiqui, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon

This is a good intention that needs amendment. Property owners should not be required to inform the City the moment a storefront becomes vacant or be made to instantly submit future plans for tenancy. Perhaps the City Council could establish a time frame after which these steps might be required – somewhere between a few months and Gerald Chan time.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to notify the owners of the former Harvard Square Theater that the City Council has requested that they provide a firm schedule for when they will submit their application to the Cambridge Historical Commission and begin the public engagement process along with a projected timeline for the rest of the process through completion of the project, once the necessary permits are granted.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

Speaking of Gerald Chan, whatever became of those good-looking plans for the transformation of the old Harvard Square Theater on Church Street? Tick tock tick tock……

Order #9. That the City Council go on record in opposition to the oppressive policies of Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) and Saudi Arabia.   Councillor Zondervan

But they are letting women drive! Isn’t that generous? Seriously, if we’re going to single out repressive regimes that use religion and/or ideology to justify brutal repression, then let’s start a list. It won’t be a short list.

Order #10. City Council support of Massachusetts Resolve H. 4159: "Resolve creating a task force on sexual misconduct climate surveys for colleges and universities in Massachusetts."   Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons

Good idea all around. You have to first measure the extent of a problem if you want to adequately address it.

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to work with Trinity Property Management to give the nearly 200 tenants of the EMF building additional time beyond Apr 30, 2018 to find new space, considering the unique circumstances and outsized impact of this eviction.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

This a completely reasonable Order, but ultimately the only way to preserve space for uses such as these is through ownership of the building. Begging for handouts from the City is not a solution. Haven’t we produced a few nationally known artists who wouldn’t mind being seen as heroes by swooping in, buying and outfitting a building or buildings for this purpose? Where are you Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and Casey Affleck? Wasn’t this your neighborhood? Maybe you guys can assemble a team. Give Mindy Kaling and John Malkovich and Sam Waterston and Jane Curtin a call. Maybe Lenny Clarke can pitch in a few bucks.

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to allow autonomous vehicle (AV) testing in Cambridge provided certain conditions are met.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux

Please, just don’t. – Robert Winters

March 27, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 299-300: March 27, 2018

Episode 299 – Cambridge InsideOut: March 27, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on March 27, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: March 26 City Council meeting, Central Square Arts Overlay, Rooming Houses, and other housing issues. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

Episode 300 – Cambridge InsideOut: March 27, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on March 27, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics include short-term rental regulation updates, Housing Committee priorities, citizen activism for municipal broadband. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

March 26, 2018

Preview of Mar 26, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:33 pm

Preview of Mar 26, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

City Hall postcardHere’s my take on what looks interesting this week.

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as new members of the Planning Board for a term of three years, effective Apr 2, 2018: Nikolas Bowie and Corinne Espinoza

Though it doesn’t say it in the communication, both of these appointments are as Associate Members of the Planning Board replacing Ahmed Nur and Thacher Tiffany.

Manager’s Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-18, regarding a report on the success of the Polystyrene Ordinance.

Two notes:
(1) As Commissioner O’Riordan states: "We have heard from businesses concerning the cost of alternative products. For example; at a Harvard Square establishment, one service item increased in cost from $0.03/unit to $0.50/unit. In North Cambridge another retailer indicated that their new containers cost three times more after the ordinance went into effect."
(2) Plasticware that is marketed as "compostable" is, for all intents and purposes, not actually compostable (except under very specialized conditions).

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-19, regarding Central Square pedestrian signals.

The proposed modification seems like a good plan that will not unnecessarily add to traffic congestion while providing a degree of additional safety and clarity.

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to recommendations for the block rates for water consumption and sewer use for the period beginning Apr 1, 2018 and ending Mar 31, 2019.

The water rates are again held constant as the sewer rates continue to soar. The projections indicate that in the coming years the water rates will start to rise slightly and the sewer rates will moderate somewhat. It’s worth reminding everyone that most of these costs are fixed costs, so as people do a better job at conservation the rates inevitably have to rise to cover the fixed costs.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to explore the possibility of accepting the City of Boston’s invitation to join their intergenerational housing pilot program.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Toomey

People have been doing this since the dawn of time – renting rooms to younger people who can lend a hand as they benefit from decent rents, but it’s definitely an idea that deserves promotion.

Order #2. That the City Manager conduct, compile, and publish an inventory of all City-owned vacant buildings and lots with the City’s plans for them, if any.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons, Vice Mayor Devereux

Two words – Land Bank. This same concept was floated by then City Councillor Ed Cyr (and possibly others) about 25 years or so ago using the term "Land Bank". It inevitably led to a conflict among different priorities, esp. open space vs. "affordable housing", though there was at least one case in which a proposed site provided parking (and a turnaround) for a very congested dead end street. I’m sure there are some sites that should be made available for housing (whether "affordable" or just plain housing), but I’d hate to see the perception of "crisis" lead to the stifling of all other alternatives.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to appoint an appropriate City representative to work with the Historical Commission, the Veterans Services Department, representatives of the Cambridge African American Heritage Trail, Cambridge Historian Jon Hill, and any other appropriate parties in an effort to place markers on the graves of Mr. Cato Freeman and Mr. Neptune Frost at the Old Harvard Square Burial Ground, a marker for Mr. Agrippa Hull on the Cambridge Common, and markers for any other early unsung patriots of color that we may yet determine have been hidden in the shadows of history for far too long.   Councillor Simmons

This is a great idea. It’s probably also a good time to review and refurbish some of the historical markers all around Cambridge. We could also use an updated guide book for walking tours in both the Mount Auburn Cemetery and the Cambridge Cemetery highlighting the many significant people buried in these cemeteries.

Order #4. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with the Assistant City Manager for Community Development, the Executive Director of the Cambridge Arts Council, and the City Solicitor with a view in mind of drafting of an Arts Overlay District ordinance that would achieve the goals of creating and preserving spaces for the arts in the Central Square Cultural District.   Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern

While I think this is a good idea, I hasten to add that there are a lot of people who need or would want "live/work space" who you might not necessarily label as "artists".

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to compile a list of single family homes which could be purchased by the Affordable Housing Trust and converted to Single Room Occupancies or Housing Cooperatives.   Councillor Toomey, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

I think that the concept of Rooming Houses or Single Room Occupancy (SRO) residences is something that fell out of favor over the years but which might again make some sense in this age of micro-units, short-term rentals, and people choosing to live with relatively few possessions. That said, I’d hate to see this used as a pretext for the City to relentlessly buy up the city’s housing stock. The fact that this Order specifically asks to "compile a list of single-family homes available on the market in Residential A1, A2, and B zones" seems rather politically motivated. Wouldn’t it be better to simply provide some financial and other incentives to property owners to configure their properties so as to address current needs?

Order #9. City Council opposition to any legislation that would remove or limit the options of municipalities to pass local ordinances regulating short-term rentals to include accessing tax revenue similar to what is done with hotels and motels.   Councillor Kelley

This was at the center of the discussion at last week’s Public Safety Committee meeting on the subject of the City’s regulation of short-term rentals. Briefly, the industry people (AirBnB) wanted to influence legislation now on Beacon Hill to permit taxation on short-term rentals by amending it to remove local regulatory controls as a precondition for accepting the potential revenue. This crooked attempt was apparently thwarted in the House, though the bill is now before the Senate and will likely have to go through a conference committee prior to its final passage and, presumably, the Governor’s signature. – Robert Winters

Extra: Summary of what the House did last week on the AirBnB bill.
AirBnB is in favor of being taxed, but came out in opposition to the state registry where their hosts would have to share their personal information. The amendment referenced above in regard to Order #9 and referred to as amendment #11 in the House bill) was directed at the proposed (and now on hold) City of Boston regulations on short term rentals which would regulate them according to how many days a host rented out units. This amendment was apparently never seriously considered and will likely not have much support in the Senate either. It came from an industry lobbyist (possibly representing a short term rental group called StayAlfred).

Much of the work up to this point on other short term rental bills has been to tax them like hotels. This bill introduces a whole new tax structure for short term rentals and the Senate may return to that structure.

Summary of the current bill

  • The bill would require the Department of Revenue to maintain a short-term rental registry, record the name of each host and the address of each unit they offer, and give the department the authority to charge a "reasonable fee" for registration. An "easily searchable and regularly updated" list of unit addresses — without the host’s name — would be published online.
  • Rentals would be taxed at levels ranging from 4 percent to 8 percent, depending on how many units a host offers. Residential hosts renting two or fewer units would be taxed at 4 percent, investor hosts with three to five units would have a 5.7 percent tax, and professionally managed hosts renting six or more units would face an 8 percent tax per rental, under the bill.
  • Cities and towns would have the option to impose local excise taxes of up to 5 percent for residential hosts, 6 percent for investors, and 10 percent for professionally managed hosts. Communities that opt for the local tax would need to adopt ordinances or bylaws requiring any residential units offered as short-term rentals first undergo a safety inspection, the costs of which would be charged to the host.
  • Half of the local tax collected from professionally managed hosts would need to be dedicated to "programs addressing either local infrastructure needs or low- and moderate-income housing programs," according to the bill. A Rep. Kevin Honan amendment adopted Thurs, Mar 22 would require that at least 25 percent of that tax money be distributed to low- and moderate-income housing programs.
  • The taxes in the bill would kick in a year after the bill’s effective date and would not apply to units that rent for less than $15 a day.

Also, an amendment was adopted that provides:
“Any city or town that has a safety inspection program in place as of the effective date of this act may deem any previously completed inspections of residential units to be in compliance with this requirement.”

This should avoid the need for duplicative inspections for hosts who register with Cambridge and then must also register to comply with state law.

March 22, 2018

Current City of Cambridge Board and Commission Vacancies (Mar 22, 2018)

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge government — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 1:40 am

Central Square Advisory Committee Vacancy

City SealMar 22, 2018 – City Manager Louis A. DePasquale is seeking to fill a vacancy on the Central Square Advisory Committee. This committee helps review all major development actions in the Central Square Overlay District and monitors progress of the non-zoning recommendations of the K2C2 Study relevant to Central Square.

Members represent a cross section of stakeholders, which includes residents from abutting neighborhoods and representatives of Central Square’s business community. The Committee meets as needed to advise on non-zoning recommendations, undertake all Large Project Reviews, and review and comment on all Board of Zoning Appeal variances and special permits within the Overlay District. At this time, a representative of the Central Square business community (property owner, small and large scale merchant or office tenant) is being sought to fill a vacancy. This appointment, to be made by the City Manager, will serve a term of three years that will expire on September 15, 2020, with the option to renew.

The Committee meets, at minimum, every two months with additional meetings scheduled as required based on project review needs. For more information, contact Wendell T. Joseph at 617-349-9462 or, or visit the committee’s webpage at

Applications to serve on this committee can be submitted to City Manager Louis A. DePasquale using the City’s online application system at A cover letter and resume or applicable experience can be submitted during the online application process. Paper applications are available in the City Manager’s Office at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue. The deadline to submit an application is April 30, 2018.

Member Sought for Cambridge Police Review & Advisory Board

City SealMar 7, 2018 – City Manager Louis DePasquale is seeking Cambridge residents interested in serving on the Police Review & Advisory Board. Made up of volunteer members who serve five-year terms, the Board generally meets on the last Wednesday of the month at 6:00pm, except for July and August.

The Police Review & Advisory Board was established by City Ordinance in 1984 to:

  • Provide for citizen participation in reviewing Police Department policies, practices and procedures;
  • Provide a prompt, impartial and fair investigation of complaints brought by individuals against members of the Cambridge Police Department; and
  • Develop programs and strategies to promote positive police/community relations and to provide opportunities for productive discussions, improved understanding and innovative ways of resolving differences.

The Board consists of five Cambridge residents who are representative of the City’s racial, social and economic composition. Board Members must: possess a reputation for fairness, integrity and responsibility; have demonstrated an active interest in public affairs and service; and be a resident of the City of Cambridge. For more information about the Board, see its web page at

Board Members serve as volunteers without compensation and are responsible for: reviewing and evaluating completed investigations to make findings on the allegations contained in each complaint; identifying needs for changes to police department policies, procedures or training and reporting findings and recommended solutions to the Police Commissioner and the City Manager; and assisting in education and outreach to promote awareness and understanding of the Board and strengthen community-police relations.

A letter of interest and brief résumé can be submitted online at by Apr 6, 2018. Paper applications are also available in the City Manager’s Office, Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue.

March 20, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 297-298: March 20, 2018

Episode 297 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 20, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on March 20, 2018 at 5:30pm. Patrick Barrett was the guest. Main Topics: Tenant Right of First Refusal, Envision Cambridge. Host: Robert Winters [On YouTube]

Episode 298 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 20, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on March 20, 2018 at 5:30pm. Patrick Barrett was the guest. Main Topics: Envision Cambridge, Central Square. Host: Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

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