Archive for Thursday, November 6, 2008

Businesses urge city to get tough on downtown panhandlers

Damian Scott, 19, panhandles for change from the downtown lunch crowd Nov. 6, 2008, on Massachusetts Street near the Ninth Street intersection.

Damian Scott, 19, panhandles for change from the downtown lunch crowd Nov. 6, 2008, on Massachusetts Street near the Ninth Street intersection.

November 6, 2008


Businesses urge officials to get tough on panhandlers

The days of panhandling on Lawrence streets could be numbered. After concerns from downtown businesses, city commissioners are expected to talk about banning most panhandling activities downtown. Enlarge video

On the street

Do you think Lawrence has a panhandling problem?

No. There are cities with much larger homeless populations, and I think Lawrence does an admirable job helping those in need.

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Is panhandling a problem downtown?

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Tougher times may bring tougher regulations for panhandling in downtown Lawrence.

Spurred by complaints from downtown businesses, city commissioners are set to discuss a host of options, including the idea of banning most panhandling activities from the downtown area.

"We don't want to be completely intrusive, but we have to set some expectations for folks," City Commissioner Rob Chestnut said. "We don't want people feeling uncomfortable downtown."

But downtown merchants say that is increasingly what is happening.

"This is an issue I hear about nearly every day," said Jane Pennington, who serves as the executive director of Downtown Lawrence Inc.

Pennington said merchants have noticed a gradual increase in the number of panhandlers seeking money in the downtown area, and they've started to hear more from customers who say the practice makes them uneasy.

There is precedent for banning panhandling from prominent shopping districts, according to research conducted by the city's legal staff. Kansas City, Mo., has banned panhandling in the Country Club Plaza area, and other cities - like Madison, Wis. - permit panhandling only in specified zones of their downtown.

Staff members, though, also are warning that there can be the risk of future lawsuits if regulations go too far. Historically, courts have deemed panhandling to be an activity that warrants freedom of speech protections. Scott Miller, a staff attorney for the city, said some of the bans implemented in other cities haven't yet been tested in the courts.

The legality of any new regulations largely would depend on specific details. Miller, for example, said the city would need to become more specific about what constitutes panhandling. Some cities have limited it to verbal solicitations for money. Others have included passive solicitations, such as people playing music while having a jar out for donations.

Miller said depending on how the city defines the activity, bell ringers and other nonprofit groups that solicit money also could be affected by the regulations.

Other options besides an outright ban exist. Miller also said some communities make it illegal to panhandle at night, with the thought that the activity potentially could be more dangerous at night.

The city already has a law on the books that makes it illegal to "aggressively panhandle." That includes repeatedly asking the same person for money, touching a person, following a person or asking for money in areas next to an ATM machine.

Merchants, though, say that law has not eased their concerns, and city leaders said only a handful of cases have been prosecuted under the law.

Opinions from downtown visitors are mixed on whether panhandling is a problem.

"We get asked every time we're downtown," said Drew Pearce, who comes downtown a couple of times per week.

Others, though, said the practice seems to actually fit in Lawrence.

"It's part of the charm," Chris McQuiston said.

Merchants disagree. Pennington said the activity runs counter to the image that downtown markets.

"We want the downtown to be a very family-friendly environment," Pennington said. "With that many panhandlers on the sidewalk, it is difficult to maintain that sort of atmosphere."

Commissioners will discuss the issue at their 6:35 p.m. meeting on Tuesday. Commissioners, though, are being presented with any proposed ordinances, and will make no final decisions.


Bone777 7 years ago

A snow plow would clear that walk...

Zype 7 years ago

"About this Damian, I bet the dude got evicted from his apartment because he didn't pay his share of the subsidized rent. I will bet on that and even a loser can figure that one out."Sorry to disappoint you, oh high and mighty hawk.But no.Clearly association is not one of your strongest suits.

workingmom 7 years ago

Jane Pennington is nuts if she thinks downtown Lawrence is "family friendly." However, its not the homeless that recently posed a problem for my family. I have two small children and was verbally abused by a downtown merchant (a clothing store owner/manager) for placing a backpack with a handle on my youngest to prevent her from darting into traffic. Apparently I'm a facist for keeping my child safe. I discussed the situation with Pennington and she was less than concerned. I say "no thanks" to downtown and its multitude of problems. We'll opt for an actual "family friendly" environment.

ku_tailg8 7 years ago

part of me feels bad that someone has to resort to begging for money but the other part of me knows I work hard for what I have, and trust me it isn't much. I would never stoop so low to do something like this. Instead of giving these people money give them gift certificates to mcdonalds or something. I've heard too many stories where these people make well over $100 a day doing this. Besides all of this, I should be able to walk down the sidewalk on mass street and not get harassed from someone begging for money and then in return they yell at you when you don't pay up. I've seen it plenty of times. This guy in the picture looks perfectly capable of working a job but he would probably lose money in doing so.

feeble 7 years ago

I think folks playing musical instruments on should be condoned, assuming laws and ordinances related to sound and noise are followed. Perhaps by allowing people to leave a case open or a hat on the ground for tips, but discouraging other forms of direct solicitation? (cardboard signs, etc?) How about if the city were to implement a "no panhandling within 100' of a place that serves alcohol" law? That should cover some pretty wide swaths of downtown.

ddavis 7 years ago

are you kidding me.. everyone that lives in this town have no heart?? sounds to me like the town is filled with yuppies or posers!! today's job market, it is really hard to find a job. even min wage jobs are hard to come by!! get over yourselves and stop complaining over petty s@#$..

bearded_gnome 7 years ago

when walking downtown, I shouldn't have to worry about the safety of my wife, or out of town guests! this city has attracted "homeless" who are homeless by choice, living the homeless lifestyle, then provides for them in their self-destruction. that guy who cursed you because you wanted to buy him a burrito, he gets plenty of food at link etc., he wants the money for: stogies; booze; smack; a blunt; crack; etc., etc. no one need panhandle in this town. attract the homeless, maintain them in their homeless self-destruction, gee, whatdya gonna get? hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ... dat's a tough one ain't it!

MIke Mallory 7 years ago

notnowdear, you are exactly right, i dont go downtown to shop since i do not need the experience of these bums begging for money, all the money they collect just goes to the cork and barrel, so much so that they have instituted a once a day policy, what does this tell you, i employ some of these people and they spend the money they make everyday on cigarettes, booze and weed, once a bum always a bum.

spammer89 7 years ago

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lawrencechick 7 years ago

This city needs to get a spine and stop putting the civil rights of leeches in front of it's tax paying residents. There are tons of help wanted signs all over town. The business owners should be worried because it definitely keeps people away.

beerdrinkingfool 7 years ago

I dont mind if they have a good sign that would make me laugh like the one i saw several years ago " family killed by nijias need money for kung-fu lessons " , or if they are playing music. I mean do something read poetry out loud sing off key, anything but asking me for money while you are sitting in a cafe counting your money. NO!! The worse part is when they do yell at you for trying to help. That just wants me to smack them and tell them to shut up .

yankeevet 7 years ago

Get theses worthless lazy dogs off of mass street.......

dontslanderme 7 years ago

I remember when Damian Scott was a sweet and very smart kid in elementary school. Unfortunately, he seemed to be somewhat of an outcast among his peers. I know that he was raised by a grandmother who cared a great deal about him. I don't know if he had any contact with his mother, who was a substance abuser. I'm sorry to hear that Damian is not thriving. I'd always hoped life would turn out better for him.

Dwight_Schrute 7 years ago

I hope they do get tough on them. We now seriously consider whether or not we will plan a shopping/dining afternoon/evening in Lawrence for the very reason of being badgered by panhandlers. Doesn't really matter though, it's getting much easier to make that decision, especially since DG sales tax just went up a cent. They like our money in OP/KC/WYCO, or Topeka, or even Manhattan. Yep, let 'em take over downtown. Good luck City of Lawrence.

Keith 7 years ago

Just add it to the list of things not permitted on downtown sidewalks. No skateboards, bicycles or panhandling. All panhandling must take place in the street.

Zype 7 years ago

Oh, please.None of you people ragging on Damian to go get a job even know him.You don't know his history, you don't know what problems he may have.And yet you jump to attack him.@ddavis: Well said.

Janet Lowther 7 years ago

Buskers: Yes! Beggars: Mo!Musicians playing with a hat or open case set out for tips adds favorably to the ambiance of downtown (at least so long as they don't get TOO thick.) Asking for money detracts from downtown, whether it is asking people directly, or sitting with a begging sign.Run off the beggars, but allow the buskers to stay!

radicool12 7 years ago

well said davis i agree with you and to all you people who dont then i have to say to you this how would you feel if you were on the streets like the homeless and could not get a job because you dont have a address to give see what you dont understand is some people have been on the streets and that is all they no it is just like the people that have been in prison for 20 to 30 years and when they get out everything has changed and about 80 percent of them end back up in jail so what i am trying to say is why dont you money hungry hipocrits leave the poor people the heck alone if you dont like it just walk by or better off go another route i mean alot of the business have a back door and if they dont then go in the front and if there is someone there and they ask you for money of something politely say i cant help you today i am sorry instead of you saying leave me the heck alone i dont like people like you.

feefifofum 7 years ago

Go ahead and move them out. It is all BS about their sob stories. As far as the musicians go, it is ok for them to put out a hat for donations. But not OK to ask for them. I did throw in a quarter once if the guy would stop trying to sing. He kept on singing. I tell you honestly, I have never heard any music from any of these people that is worth a donation.

areyouserious 7 years ago

I got an idea...............FINE EM!!!......................oh wait.....

Phil Minkin 7 years ago

We have an ordinance already. #14-418 What we need is better enforcement. Scott Miller was correct in a concern about 1st ammendment problems. 14-418 AGGRESSIVE PANHANDLING.(A) Definitions. For the purpose of this section: (Ord. 7891)(1) "Panhandling" shall mean any request for or solicitation of animmediate donation of money. A request or solicitation to purchase an itemfor an amount far exceeding its value, in circumstances where a reasonableperson would understand that the purchase is in substance a donation,constitutes panhandling. Panhandling shall not include the act of passivelystanding, sitting, or engaging in a musical performance or other streetperformance with a sign or other indication that donations are being sought,CODE OF THE CITY OF LAWRENCE, KANSAS14-22without any verbal request for a donation other than in response to aninquiry by another person.(2) "Aggressive Panhandling" shall mean panhandling that includes oneor more of the following actions:(a) touching the solicited person without the solicited person's consent.(b) intentionally blocking the path of travel of the person being solicited.(c) intentionally blocking the entrance to any vehicle or building(d) continuing to solicit or request a donation from a person after thatperson has refused an earlier request.(e) following or remaining alongside a person who, after being solicited,walks away from the person panhandling.(f) making any statement, gesture, or other communication that wouldcause a reasonable person to feel threatened, fearful, or compelled.(B) Unlawful Acts(1) It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in aggressivepanhandling.(2) It shall be unlawful for two or more people to intentionally work inconcert to commit acts that would constitute aggressive panhandling if thoseacts were performed by a single individual.(3) It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in panhandling wheneither the panhandler or the person being solicited is located any of thefollowing places:(a) at any bus stop.(b) in any public transportation vehicle or facility.(c) in a vehicle that is parked or stopped on any public street or alley.(d) within twenty feet of an automatic teller machine or the entrance toa bank, credit union, or savings and loan.(e) on private property, without the consent of the owner of theproperty.

Meatwad 7 years ago

Panhandlers are RUINING our downtown. They aren't driving people away... they HAVE DRIVEN them away.Let the musicians alone, but the agressive panhanlers bothering us in every single block of downtown mass MUST GO. The police need to step up the enforcement of the ban. It's being ignored.

50YearResident 7 years ago

Damian is well on his way to become a 50 year member of the Lawrence Homeless Asso. Anyone that donates is an enabler, not a savior.

bearded_gnome 7 years ago

hey hawk:regarding you looking for who/where that saying about lawrence started:for several years now, there's been something called go there, type in what you're searching for, and incredibly, it finds it if it is on the web. its like majic! you just never know what they're going to invent next Hawk. maybe they'll come up with a machine that'll slice bread, or self-serve gas stations!something just has to change downtown. stop enabling, supporting, these people in their self-destruction! no, I'm not heartless. I've had to make tough choices in my own life too.that story of the sign "need money for bus ticket to Wisconsin," some people are just too stupid to have money. now, that's the kind of tax I would definitely support: a 75% tax on all money held by people too stupid to have money in the first place!

Deja Coffin 7 years ago

To get money out of me you gotta be creative. I once had a homeless guy in Denver tell me, "Doc Martins? Those look like Martins in need of a Doc. Shine your shoes for a dollar!"

alicenevada 7 years ago

There is nothing that makes me more disgusted than to see an able-bodied individual loafing around downtown asking me for a handout. Just recently I was called a "fu@*!ng whore" when I refused such a request. I don't know how Chris McQuiston can consider such verbal abuse to be "charming". Charm is the boutiques and outdoor cafes. Charm is the hotdog stand on the corner or the Zen Garden or the saxophone player who has some serious talent. Charm is not a smelly bum confronting me on my way in or out an establishment. Or, even worse, a grouping of smelly bums with mangey dogs and out of tune guitars. Get rid of em'. The sooner the better.

LA_Ex 7 years ago

One question. If you ran your own business and a homeless guy comes in for a job, would you hire him? Honestly. Maybe you will open up your house to them, offer them a shower, razor and some clean clothes. Maybe then they will have a chance. Let alone they can't afford the medications they probably need. Without the meds, they will probably never make it through the interview, even after you get them all cleaned up.It's not that easy for a homeless person to find work. Heck, it's hard enough for the laid off average Joe to find a job.

yoornotmee 7 years ago

There's a big difference between "homeless" and "bum". A homeless person is down on his luck and is trying to get back on his feet. A bum is someone who choses to live on the street and depend on the goodwill of others to pay for his life. Bums chose to have no responsibilities and they do quite well for themselves. What we have downtown are bums. Lawrence is a destination for many travelers; word is out about how our town caters to them and they make sure to stop here. The musicians are not bums. The musicians add to the charm of Downtown Lawrence while the bums act as unslightly human litter. I'm sick of them and would fully support a ban on panhandling.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 7 years ago

Let the panhandlers return to the jutting little state from which they strayed.If they wish to stay, then let them become... jayhawks.( ... or nota-, as the case may be. )

SofaKing 7 years ago

So the affluent obese folks who eat enough food for 6 people need a permit too, because they take up so much more space, and they look bad.

CarterFaucheaux 7 years ago

I talked to Damian once before. He was a nice kid and had a good sense of humor. I gave him fifty cents.

nuby 7 years ago

I will be at the City Commission meeting. I suggest everyone else that is sick of all the PoS homeless all over this town be there on Tuesday as well. This town has turned into a unsafe, disgusting, disgrace.We are spending a ridiculous amount of our resources on these people. Do you realize that it costs $75/ day to house them in the county jail, not to mention how much time and money our law enforcement and Parks & Rec spends dealing with and cleaning up after them? The answer is a couple hundred thousand of dollars a year!

justaverage 7 years ago

Recently I took a walk downtown on a Sunday afternoon and was approached by panhandlers on four separate occasions. I said no to all. After I said no to one pair of panhandlers, they followed me for a short while and then asked me again for money and AGAIN I refused.The last person I encountered blocked my way on the sidewalk and I told this person to move out of my way or I would call the police. Panhandlers = Not a good thing for downtown at all!

Rick Aldrich 7 years ago

there's a person working the stop light on Iowa st that turns to wal mart. hre's been working that light for about 2 months now. put them in work camps and after being arrested. Lawrence is a good town to work if you don't wanta work. the homeless have it made in this hippy town.

FormerCentralKansan 7 years ago

CarterFaucheaux (Anonymous) says:"I talked to Damian once before. He was a nice kid and had a good sense of humor. I gave him fifty cents."If I were you, I'd ask for a refund.

pissedinlawrence 7 years ago

"It's part of the charm," Chris McQuiston said.What a stupid remark. I love shopping downtown, I can't stand being harrased every block for "a few dollars for coffee" My mother doesn't even like going often because of all the people asking for money. I would not feel comfortable bringing my grandparents downtown. It is annoying. Shopping should be fun.

Scott Kaiser 7 years ago

It's fall, leaves are on the ground. They could buy a rake and rake leaves. It will snow soon. Buy a snow shovel. Get a paper route. Hell, even kids know how to work to make money.

geekin_topekan 7 years ago

Since all the haters aren't going to spend their money here to avoid the T tax, they dont need to be downtown anyway.The rest of us(including the panhandlers) can get on with life.

mellyandthejets 7 years ago

I would like to know how many people commenting on this article, actually work downtown and have to walk by the bums every day? Because I walk by them every day on my way to work on 9th and Mass. And in between taking 15 hours at KU and working two other jobs, which by the way ddavis, wasn't too hard to find, it annoys me to no end that these people can't do the same.I realize that every person's situation is different, however when you refused to take your medication or refuse help (which I know in some cases has happened) then it's your own damn fault. Do people think it's just coincidence that in the middle of June, around the time of, oh, I don't know, a little music festival called the Wakarusa Music Festival, that these people, in hordes, flock to Lawrence?But then again, what do I know? I'm just some KU student trying to get through school and go on with her own life....

Danimal 7 years ago

This kid in the picture asked me for money twice last night. Then when we were leaving the restaurant a dude asked me for out leftovers. I think in total I was asked four different times for money last night in the block I walked to and from my car. I genuinely feel for the people who are disabled and deserve some kind of care or treatment, but these kids who are panhandling and maybe not even homeless need to go. I haven't seen him recently but the guy from Iowa is a classic example. These kids should get jobs like I did right after I graduated from high school. I'm tired of seeing a bunch of fat, lazy kids laying around and asking me for money and any left overs we might have on the one night a week I can afford to eat out. Panhandling license and limiting shelter admissions are wonderful ideas. There's no other town in America our size with this many homeless people.

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

What downtown does have a problem with is the local chamber and local government flooding the retail market = negative impact = economic pollution = less dollars for each retailer = more taxes for local residential property owners. Some day current retailers need to come to the conclusion there are only so many retail dollars available in small town Lawrence,Kansas. Flooding the retail market takes money away from each existing retailer. More new retail does not magically create more available retail just spreads available dollars thinner.Local retailers organize, become very vocal and stand up for yourselves. Local government and the Chamber primary focus is keeping developers happy not current retailers or taxpayers.

JKBagby 7 years ago

Truth is any of us could fall on hard times and need to supplement our income in a manner that may not be "Condoned" by some in our society. Most panhandlers downtown Lawrence are not that rude or annoying. We just remember the one that was a total prick. Sometimes I hand out smokes. The LPD is actually realy good about taking care of the aggressive panhandlers out there so I see no reason to kick them all out of DT.

bakeru 7 years ago

I understand the need to toughen laws on panhandling. But shouldn't we work to improve the overall problem of homelessness in Lawrence? It seems by attacking the root of the problem, it will eliminate itself. By attacking the symptom, the problem still exists. It is like covering an odor with room spray : it's still there, just masked behind imitation flowers!!

Deb Engstrom 7 years ago

I don't mind giving a dollar to the folks downtown, but the ones at the busy intersections where you have to nearly stop your car to give them something are a real problem. My young kids usually have a quarter or two to give as well. It is good for them to understand that there are people who need our help and who knows, it might be them sitting there some day!!

deskboy04 7 years ago

Everyone who rides the T is a panhandler.

alakazam 7 years ago

doesn't damian sell computers and mow lawns. i saw somewhere someone named damian was selling stuff like that cause he couldn't get a job. i think he used to post on

justthefacts 7 years ago

Sometimes the most kind and loving thing you can do for another human being is not help them be such a screw up - make them suffer the consequences of their choices.There are already tons of service organizations who will help the needy - but the needy choose to avoid those options b/c they do not like being told what to do or do not want to follow society's rules (including "come here fine, and we'll give you free food & shelter, but you must get sober to stay here for long.").Those who want to help these "poor souls" are welcome to move them into their homes if they think they can save them. Good luck. I know I've tried that route. 99% of the time, folks living on the street got and stay there b/c they do not want to change a thing about themselves or their choices. So if you want to encourage them to continue living like that, fine - but don't think you are someting special or that you are "saving" them. They are using you all they can, to further harm themselves, and you are allowing it.

Victoria 7 years ago

I know this kid.He has a family who has gone above and beyond in trying to help him and yet he stubbornly chooses to do what he wants, when he wants. He is capable of obtaining and working a job. He has had social services assistance. He is not a victim of society or anything else, he CHOOSES to panhandle because it is easier than working. He CHOOSES to break rules and therefore gets evicted. He wants to live by his own code and therefore resides on the street, mooching off the kindness of strangers and mooching off the tax payer system.

acg 7 years ago

I'm usually a very generous person, and if the circumstances are right, sometimes I'll give $$ to a panhandler. But that 19 year old kid in the pic above? Hell no! Flip burgers at McD's, buddy, sack groceries at Dillons, do lawn care/snow removal work for one of the many businesses in the area that are always looking for strong backs for that type of work. Are you kidding me? 19 and panhandling? Now I'm not as cold as some of the posters above. I don't think we should close down all services that help people in this situation because a lot of us, especially in this current economic climate, aren't too far from destitute ourselves. But I also think you have to make them get involved in their own rehabilitiation and just letting them lay about on the streets harassing and begging those of us that have jobs is getting to be outrageous. 19 and begging. Grrr, that really ticks me off. When I was 19 I had two jobs and went to school full time and no one helped me pay for crap.

majiktami 7 years ago

I never give money to someone laying on a bench just asking for it. I ask them to do something for it! (with a smie of course) "do a little dance...... sing me a song" it opens dialogue and usually they will do a little something that makes us both laugh and if I have a buck or some change in my pocket I give it to them. If I do not have any to spare, then neither one of us have any money! Everyone has the right to say "no, I do not have any money to spare". I love our street musicians. Even the really bad ones! What nerve it must take to get out there with a guitar and a horrid voice to sing for the people. More guts then I have. It's lovely, really.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years ago

I'm sure glad I'm not homeless and begging on the streets, because that qualifies me to make look down on them and make disparaging remarks without having to know anything about who they are or how they found themselves on the streets. Ain't life great?

jumpin_catfish 7 years ago

I don't give money to beggers on the street and I am not a bad person because I don't. I am smart enough not to throw my dough away. I got my money the old fashion way, I earned it.

Bob Forer 7 years ago

Molly is absolutely right. There are homeless people, and there are bums. The foiks hanging around downtown are bums. There are plenty of social services to help those who are truly homeless. Its about time we focus our efforts on the homeless who truly want to help themselves. As far as the bums go, kick em out of town. The shelters and free food simply enable them. Its funny, but Loring Henderson and company never have provided us with data specifiying how many motivated homeless they help compared to the bums they enable. The experience of San Francisco proves the old adage, "Build it and they will come."

northsider 7 years ago

Yesterday a coworker told me a story about what his friend had done the day before. His friend had made a sign reading "Need $$$ for bus ticket to Wisconsin." He sat downtown for a few hours and made $65. My coworker laughed and said jokingly "I'm just going to quit my job and do the same." My coworker's friend had no plans to go to Wisconsin he was just short on cash. He actually lives in a house right here in town and has a job. The money was spent on beer and weed.This is a true story and a testament to how many suckers we have living in this town. We're miles ahead of ObamaRecession?

Grahambo 7 years ago

Nothing to be concerned about here: when Obama's income redistribution plan kicks in, all the panhandlers will have all the money!

Haiku_Cuckoo 7 years ago

"How many people with legitimate jobs spend their paychecks on booze, weed, and other drugs? I see no difference."The difference is that I buy beer with money that I earned by being a productive citizen, not by harassing people on the street. I had family in town a couple months ago and we were hit up by two able-bodied beggars within a block. When we politely said, "No" to the one guy's request for a handout, he responding by calling us "f*ing aholes." I have no sympathy for lazy bums like that.

jayhawkjg 7 years ago

As a senior citizen, my husband and I do not feel safe with all of the homeless downtown. I took my grand children to see the train in the park one Saturday, the gazabo smelled like someone had used it as a toilet, left their cloths, jelly, peanut butter and bread on the table, there were pillows and blankets in the train. Give me a break, my taxes are paying for the up keep of the parks, put the homeless to work cleaning up their own mess, then give them a meal only after they have completed the job. Tax money put to good use that way. Teach them you get something when you WORK for it.

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