Archive for Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Budget proposals would deeply affect community

Nature center, City Band concerts, wading pool, crossing guards among targeted items

Crossing guard Marilyn Wiggins assists Nate Robinson, a fourth-grader at Cordley Elementary school, cross Mass. St. at 19th Street Monday, Feb. 2, 2009. Wiggins has been a crossing guard for 4 years. If the state cuts its budget like planned, the city will respond with many cuts of its own, including participation in the school crossing guard program.

Crossing guard Marilyn Wiggins assists Nate Robinson, a fourth-grader at Cordley Elementary school, cross Mass. St. at 19th Street Monday, Feb. 2, 2009. Wiggins has been a crossing guard for 4 years. If the state cuts its budget like planned, the city will respond with many cuts of its own, including participation in the school crossing guard program.

February 3, 2009


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If a budget cut had to be made in Lawrence city government, what cut would you make first?

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City mulls massive budget cuts

Lawrence may be forced to cut more than a million dollars from its budget this year. Enlarge video

Take part

The budget proposals will be discussed at tonight’s City Commission meeting, which begins at 6:35 p.m. at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.

Birds would likely be euthanized, programs for at-risk youths would be trimmed, and staples of the Lawrence community would be eliminated or scaled back under proposals by the city’s top administrator.

Lawrence City Manager David Corliss and his staff have identified $1.1 million in recommended cuts to the 2009 city budget that would take effect in July.

Among the proposals: closing Prairie Park Nature Center and South Park Wading Pool; significantly reducing funding to area social service agencies; and eliminating city funding for school crossing guards, City Band concerts and bicycle helmet giveaways to children.

“These cuts are real. This is not imaginary. This isn’t just all paperwork,” Corliss said.

The potential cuts come as the city prepares to deal with Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ state budget proposal. Under her plan, local governments would forgo their share of a 10 percent excise tax that’s placed on liquor sales, Corliss said.

Now, Corliss said, the state returns 70 percent of the tax from purchases made in Lawrence to the city.

“We’re on it like ugly on alligator,” said Corliss, who wants to be prepared if the proposal passes in the Legislature and the city is forced to reduce spending.

A third of the money the city receives from the state goes into a special fund, much of which is used to fund social service agencies. A third of the money goes into a special recreation fund, and the rest goes into the general budget.

Without the special alcohol fund, many social service agencies would see significant funding reductions from the city. Corliss has also recommended a 32 percent across-the-board reduction for agencies that receive money from the general fund.

“You can’t lose those kinds of dollars for 2009 and not have an impact,” said Janet Murphy, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, which would lose $95,991 under the proposed recommendations. “I am certainly concerned about the reality of this, as it impacts the kids who need us the very most.”

The agency gives children a safe place to go after school, and 65 percent of the children’s families are low-income. Murphy said some of the agency’s eight locations would likely be closed if funding were reduced.

Under Corliss’ plan, some city employees would lose their jobs; the city’s pools and recreation centers would have reduced hours; and less money would be spent on beautifying downtown Lawrence.

The lengthy list of potential cuts isn’t sitting well with some in the community.

“People are upset that it’s happening, but also upset that they didn’t realize that it was even an option,” said Rachel Myslivy, a resident who is encouraging people to attend tonight’s City Commission meeting, where the cuts will be discussed. The meeting begins at 6:35 p.m. at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

Myslivy said she’s most miffed about city staff’s recommendation to shut the doors of Prairie Park Nature Center, 2730 Harper St.

“It’s the only place in the community you can go for free to experience nature,” she said. “It’s really important to have that opportunity for environmental education.”

Closing the center would have dramatic consequences, said Marty Birrell, the city employee who oversees the operation.

“There will be a lot of opposition to this choice,” she said.

The center hosts 400 programs every year for schools and community organizations, and it serves as a nature resource for the community.

She said new homes would have to be found for all the birds housed at the facility. But two of them are too old and would probably have to be killed because it would be difficult to place them.

Corliss has also identified additional areas where cuts could be made, though the city is not recommending them. Those include eliminating wage increases for many city employees, eliminating additional staff positions and reducing the amount of money spent on street maintenance.

City commissioners will have the final say on where any cuts would be made. They won’t have the ability to increase property taxes in the middle of the year to cover the potential loss in revenue.


Michael Capra 9 years ago

margene swarts,barry walthaw,sandy day, lynn zoiler need to go that would cut 275.000 of fat from the city these few dont have a clue that they work for the tax payers

Chengdu808 9 years ago

$360,000 for staff pay increases? In this economy, with so many people losing their jobs, I think city workers could do without pay increases. Save them for a better time.

Jennifer Dropkin 9 years ago

The city manager's proposed cuts for the city budget for outside agency funding are 32% for all services in the general fund, showing a lack of vision, thought, and compassion. As the economy gets worse, lives get more stressed. The city manager and the city commission should be looking to increase funding for essential social services to meet the coming increased need, not decrease them.In the city manager's proposed budget, even with the 32% cut, the Lawrence Douglas County Bioscience Authority would get $136,000. Women's Transitional Care Services, the Lawrence Community Shelter, and the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority would get a combined total of $31,411.Downtown Lawrence would get $28,900 for its efforts to sweep the homeless and troubled out of Downtown. The Salvation Army would get a bit less to address the difficulties of the homeless and troubled, $27,200.The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce would get $136,000 to promote its special interests. Douglas County CASA, Housing and Credit Counseling, and Health Care Access—Pharmacy would get a combined total of $42,900.The proposed budget reveals misplaced priorities and an inability to consider, or a lack of interest in considering, the needs of all Lawrencians in the coming months and years. The Bioscience Authority will not be a battered spouse looking for protection as destitution rises and emotions get frayed. The Chamber of Commerce will not be the family in need of shelter or housing as jobs continue to be cut and income for rent and mortgage payments disappear.The City Council meets tonight, Tuesday, February 3, 6:35, City Hall, to discuss the proposed cuts. The agenda and related materials are at

stuckinthemiddle 9 years ago

I agree with tumbilweed...there sure are a lot of cuts aimed at programs that are for children...cut all tax dollar funds to the golf course and if user fees can't keep it open shut it down...

gr 9 years ago

"But two of them are too old and would probably have to be killed because it would be difficult to place them."Two?How much should we be willing to spend for two birds - two OLD birds?Is there a limit?The majority didn't think there was for the empT.----------------All this whining about cutting "services", I'd like to see a list of those so-called services added when there was a "surplus" of funds. Looks like to me, those would be the first to do away with.

friedpoke 9 years ago

By the way, in the first chart it says 32% reduction which incorrect and misleading. It is actually a 68% reduction and 32% of the original funds.

cowboy 9 years ago

word on the street has it that corliss hates puppies

mwwag 9 years ago

cutting crossing guards is a danger to the young children who have to walk to school every day. If we do not have someone there to assist them with getting to school safely then how are we protecting our young? They are innocent and if we do not protect them then we are failing. Things that are based around the kids safety should not be something that can be considered for cutting out of the budget.

Staci Dark Simpson 9 years ago

I can't even believe the important services they are wanting to cut. As an advocate for children I find this deeply disturbing. The children I teach have utilized the nature center for years. It has really helped the children realize the importance of caring for the environment and the effect it has on our wildlife. Cutting crossing guards? Seriously? Is the well being of the children even being considered. Cut the T, I never see more than 5 people on it a time. We choose to help the transients more than our own children? We need to focus on what is really important, our kids.

gccs14r 9 years ago

I wonder what hole in the ground at 12th and Indiana is sucking $11 million out of the budget over the next ten years?

aldo 9 years ago

Crossing Guards get PAID? ... when I was a kid in the Shawnee Mission School District, the 6th Graders were the crossing guards and the 5th Graders were alternates. It was a position of honor and service to others that taught responsibility and many other lessons. A team of teachers chose the most responsible students, trained them and oversaw this important duty. There were always 2 students at each intersection, one on each side of the street. Why is it that only adults can hold a sign, wear an orange vest, look both ways and blow a whistle in Lawrence ?

Lee Eldridge 9 years ago

As tax revenues decrease during a poor economy, services must also decrease. Every decrease in service affects somebody. And budget cuts are never popular. Increasing taxes to increase services, or even to just maintain current levels of service, only hurt the economy more.Instead of whining about the need for crossing guards, maybe parents could volunteer their time one morning or one afternoon a week. Instead of whining about services for the homeless, maybe churches could pull the community together and help people find adequate shelter and food. More government is not the solution to our problems. WE are the solutions to our problems.

been_there 9 years ago

Would you want to risk the life of your child on a busy street either crossing other children or as a child being crossed by another child. Ask any crossing guard, the sixth graders want to take the most risks.

free2bme 9 years ago

Too bad City Hall employees aren't encouraged to attend City Commission meetings to advocate for their jobs. Discouraged might be a more appropriate word. No doubt citizens will show up to speak for crossing guards, Prairie Park and other worthwhile causes but who will speak for city employees?

chickenlady 9 years ago

What kind of people do we have running this city? They don't care about our children at all. Cutting crossing guards, CPR training in schools, and bicycle helmet giveaways? Come on people, those are essential things that protect our children. Where is the proposal to cut the wages of city officials?

lawrencian 9 years ago

Although I'm not sure that 6th graders could do an okay job, there are some crossing guards that are not stationed right next to a school where you need that person to be an adult just to be seen by the traffic speeding along at 40 mph in a 20 zone.

Emily Hampton 9 years ago

This is like a joke! No nature center or baby pool? I do agree there are alternatives to crossing guards, but honestly I don't even want to live in a city that makes these kinds of decisions. I'll definitely be there tonight. My daughter and I have spent so many wonderful times at the nature center--she asked me this morning what will happen to the animals if they close it. I guess I"ll have to tell her that two of the birds we've grown a bond with over the years will be Killed, huh? Nice!

campbellinsurance 9 years ago

It's not that these programs aren't worthwhile or quality programs. It is not the City's responsibility to provide funding for these programs.Why in the world is the City paying for crossing guards? This is something the school district should be doing.Some of these groups are going to have to find other means of support. It was great when we had the money but now there just isn't enough money to fund these groups.

mom_of_three 9 years ago

More than transients take the T. I know many students which take it to their jobs. But there should be an alternative besides bicycle helmets, and crossing guards. There are many people who aren't getting a raise this year because of the economy. Why should city employees be any different?

been_there 9 years ago

Your tax dollars support the school district. Either way Lawrence citizens pay the crossing guard.

quimby 9 years ago

wow - you people (aka 458 casul) are heartless. most of the decisions that are made at city hall in no way reflect the values of this community. keep Prairie Park to start with. Lawrence has already lost much of its uniqueness to bad decisions. don't let it keep happening with cuts such as this.

Flap Doodle 9 years ago

Remember what happened the last time crossing guards were the hot topic on LJW.

cowboy 9 years ago

This is so disingenuous to have the public stirred up over these things while distracting them from the real money in the General Operating Fund.2007 Expenditures 52.7 million2009 Budget 66.5 millionWhile showing some minor adjustments to the 2008 budget which was a bloated pig , just look at the difference from 2007 / 2009also look as the cash that DCCCA , Bert Nash , Bioscience , C of C , and the Convention and Visitors bureau sucks up.

SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years ago

My tax dollars pay for band concerts and a wading pool? I'm sickened.

free2bme 9 years ago

Call the City Manager's office 832-3400 or email and let them know how you feel if you can't be at tonight's meeting. Email addresses are listed on the city website on the City Manager's page. The first meeting is tonight!

Joe Hyde 9 years ago

I could be mistaken, but I think the school crossing guard operation has always been under the supervision of Lawrence PD's Traffic Division. Or at least, shared supervision between LKPD and USD 497.Personally, I would feel lots better if adults handled the important job of school crossing guard. If nothing else an adult stepping into a pedestrian lane stands taller, making their hand-held sign easier for approaching motorists to see.

Chris Ogle 9 years ago

WE have to make cuts to the budget. Of course it will not be fun. My own personal spending has been cut about 35%, and I don't like it either. But iit is better than spending myself into a financial mess. I will support cuts to services. Trash pickup could be once a week. Lots of services could be reduced.. .

Maddy Griffin 9 years ago

I understand that we all need to tighten our belts, and that the economy will probably get worse before it gets better BUT why do we have to cut programs that benefit our children first??The admission fee at the city pool has already been raised way out of my budget and now you want to close the wading pool? Why start with the kids? Do we really need 2 golf courses? Are there people waiting in line to use them both? Why must we always hit those who can least afford it, first?!!Put a pay freeze on City employees first, Lots of local companies have done this as a first response to this. I see too many city trucks with employees just sitting with their engines idling waiting for something to do. I think we should exhaust all other alternatives before we start hacking into social services and the things that are vital to our children's health and well being.

Thinking_Out_Loud 9 years ago

stuckinthemiddle wrote "there sure are a lot of cuts aimed at programs that are for children…" Which is true. But children don't vote. And mom_of_three wrote "There are many people who aren't getting a raise this year because of the economy. Why should city employees be any different?" On the other hand, there are many people who will get a raise this year. Why should city employees be any different? (In other words, that's not a very good justification.)

Amy McVey 9 years ago

Cutting funds to Boys and Girls club is a bad idea. Working class families depend on these services to help bridge the gap between when school is let out and when the work day is through. Where will these kids go from 3 to 5:30 pm? This program is a wonderful experience for these children. They do their homework with college students and are safe until their parents can come pick them up. I hate to think where these kids will be should this program close doors.

Danielle Brunin 9 years ago

  1. Keep Prairie Park Nature Center, but institute a suggested donation like museums, have fundraisers like the Humane Society. 2. Is it possible that KDOT has federal grants for crossing guards through the Safe Routes to School program? Has anyone looked into this? The wading pool cannot be that expensive, but I could be wrong. It would be a shame to see it go, but social programs, crossing guards, and Prairie Park are more important.4. I don't care about the bands in the park; it is nice, just not a priority in my book. How about reducing the number of concerts, or organizing community volunteers to take over them?I know this is simplistic, but programs such as Boys and Girls Clubs are too important. We can pay for them now, or we can pay for them later in the form of crime and an uneducated workforce, but either way, we will pay.

d_prowess 9 years ago

So, I would be curious to find out why the city thinks it is OK to eliminate positions and cut funding (some of which should be, but others probably not), but still then give raises to the people they keep. Do they worry the staff will be mad at not getting a raise and leave for a new job? It just seems like an odd decision considering the amount of other cuts that they seem to say are regrettable.

Boston_Corbett 9 years ago

we spend $30,000 a year on bicycle helmets?

blindrabbit 9 years ago

Why not just build more roundabouts; they will suck up any real "savings" the City is proposing by sacrificing really functional programs!Rodentgirl 16 has the right approach: keep the Prairie Park Center open as she suggests; same for band concert of maybe a $1 admission fee. Flowers in downtown Lawrence could be accomplished (and better done) by allowing Master Gardeners and/or local nurseries to provide plant material/upkeep. The City is stuck in an old patronizing mentality. Many of these issues could be addressed by appealing to the "volunteer community".Any funding for the Chamber is a sick joke; the "value" here is to support a social club made up of the Real Estate, Insurance, Banking and Developers Industries as well as a various association of Fat Cats.

blindrabbit 9 years ago

458casal is on to something! The City really needs to look at the effectiveness of many of it's Departments, but additionally at specific employees. I would agree that some of those personnel you mention in #1 comment are clueless; I'm sure there are others. Why sacrifice working programs by keeping the ineffectives in place.These programs are "pork" in my estimation:Poorly run Watkins Community Museum (this is an embarrasment, not a asset)Social Club named Lawrence Chamber of CommerceEagle Bend Golf Course (who does this really benefit)Freedom Frontier Project (maybe during good times, but not now, just a money-pit)Downtown Lawrence (as it is now run)

four11 9 years ago

The boys and girls club should remain along with all the other programs-if these kids don't have a place to go after school because their parents DO WORK --where will they go?Can someone on this sight who is so excited about people volunteering for crosswalk duty have these kids over before and after school too, because their parents do work and want to keep their jobs!what makes Lawrence different from other places is that we do care what happens to people~The funding for the chamber of Commerce and all the other junk is sickening!

scary_manilow 9 years ago

Any hand that signs on this travesty should be lopped off at the wrist.

Richard Heckler 9 years ago

I say let voting taxpayers decide which they want to keep at the same time they vote for city commissioners and USD 497 BOE.Then the city commissioners would need to find the money.Voting taxpayers are big boys and girls = ability to know what is working and what is not. Put everything on the table: * All of the road projects the multi million dollar Clinton Regional Park Projects Chamber of Commerce funding OR move economic development into city hall both new industrial warehouse projects new library or library rehab on site satellite libraries for the "westside" green industries which provide both blue and white collar jobs USD 497 elementary school maintenance Prairie Park Nature Center Crossing Guards sidewalk repair on major streets....... and last but not least let the taxpayers decide if they would like an opportunity to approve economic growth projects with their votes considering these projects will involve their tax dollars.

tellthetruth 9 years ago

Closing the wading pool may seem like something small to most people but it is the only thing in this town to do with children under the age of 5 besides go to one of the parks that the bums routinely use as a urinal. I take my kids to the wading pool several times a week in the evenings during the summer. I would have no problem paying a fee to use it, $.50-$1. It is not economically possible for me to take my small children to the main pool and pay $10 for my husband and I to spend an hour there. It is actually cheaper for me to go to Eudora, which I do. I guess I will just go swimming there, grab a bite to eat and spend my tax dollars there. If I want to do anything with my children during the winter in doors it takes a trip to KC. For that matter it takes a trip to KC to do anything with young children or to do any decent shopping. How pathetic. Love Deanna Rose in OP- it's free, but I would gladly pay to go there. This town is so backwards.Closing the community buildings on weekends is a terrible idea. I always see tons of teens playing basketball there. What do you think they are going to be doing if there are not there? Getting into trouble that the taxpayers will eventually end up paying for.The city commission is stuck in a time warp, Lawrence is not what it used to be. Downtown is filled with bums and bars. The city commission continues to block any decent retail businesses that want to come here because it may damage THEIR downtown businesses. Well downtown is already damaged. They don't need 4 people being paid $60,000/yr to beautify downtown, they just need someone to go through there and get rid of all the bums. Instead of just giving food and shelter away to them why don't you require them to do some community service, like clean up the messes they made in the parks the day before. This town is not even safe anymore because of all the trash we have invited into it.

lounger 9 years ago

This makes Lawrence Look VERY kid unfriendly!!

Danielle Brunin 9 years ago

Sorry to say, but Lawrence IS very kid unfriendly. Most people here don't like kids, and apparently Corliss and his cronies are some of those people. You know, my first thought was that if the plants and gardening materials were donated, we could have a downtown community gardening day or weekend and beautify it ourselves. To maintain it, maybe we could have something similar to the adopt-a-highway program where organizations could adopt a block, or even an east or west half of a block. Similarly, I bet there are a lot of people such as stay-at-home parents and even grandparents who would volunteer to be crossing guards, if it meant that kids could get to school safely. I am all for service and volunteering. However, I don't think city officials who failed to prepare for this mess should be let off the hook. Therefore, I propose that we organize these volunteer groups to help our city on the condition that those same city officials either scram, or actively participate in these volunteer groups (i.e., they'd probably just step down)

4chewnut 9 years ago

City Hall web site says eliminating salary increases and bonuses were not brought forward in order to remain competitive and help with retention. What planet is Corliss on? Who around here is giving salary increases this year? Keep the Nature Center. Eliminate bonuses and salary increases.

kamyssa2000 9 years ago

I think helmets are important now, no one use to wear them and those people are NOW in charge, and look how "smart" they are. I think we should be protecting the heads of our children at all cost! I'm laughing because we have a stimulous package in the senate right now for how much money on Digital television? and towns have to cut crossing guards (oh, what a wonderful voting system we have!) Obesity at its highest rate ever, insurance premiums people can't afford, and lets enhance the viewing pleasure so there will be less activity in the American household. Good luck tonight residents!

d_prowess 9 years ago

I agree with 4chewnut, as long as the Nature Center starts to charge something for admission. In these tough times, I think programs like that and the wading pool, should require some type of revenue.

Staci Dark Simpson 9 years ago

Just to let you know, there is a Save Prairie Park Nature Center page on facebook now to help get the word out. Looks like some high school kids put it up, the number of member joining has grown a ton just since noon

mwwag 9 years ago

lee_go_hawks (Anonymous) says…Instead of whining about the need for crossing guards, maybe parents could volunteer their time one morning or one afternoon a week.Well as a parent of two who are in school. I have to work and my kids need to have a safe way to get to and from school every day. How are parents supposed to volunteer their time to help at crosswalks when they are at work trying to keep their kids clothed and feed and a roof over their heads! amyamcvey (Amy McVey) says…Cutting funds to Boys and Girls club is a bad idea. Working class families depend on these services to help bridge the gap between when school is let out and when the work day is through. Where will these kids go from 3 to 5:30 pm? Kids will end up running wild on the streets because they have no where else to go after school. Not all parents have family or friends or can afford to have a babysitter watch the kids after they get out of school. Kids should not be the ones who are punished because of the economy and budget cuts.

denak 9 years ago

I agree with those who think that cutting the Boys and Girls club is a bad idea. The impact of families and the community would be dire. Parents need to work and there will be some parents forced to quit in order to care for their children. I would much rather do away with the wading pool, the Nature Center, crossing gaurds than for the the Boys and Girls Club to close. If we have to sacrafice things, let it be things we "want" as oppose to things we need and make no mistake about it, we need the Boys and Girls Club.Dena

independent_rebel 9 years ago

How many of you have ever seen the helmets that are given away? Seen the little ads on them from local businesses? I was under the impression that those companies donated the money for these helmets.Also, I would have thought that the "progressive recyclers" would have brought up the fact that there are literally thousands of these helmets sitting in people's garages and closets going unused once the child outgrows them. Hell, I see people trying to sell them at garage sales! Why not organize a "recycle helmet day." Isn't that what the Grassroots groups are good at doing? I know it would not be an event to organize and whine, but hey, even progressives should have at least some ability to be positive about something!Speaking of taxes. All of you on these boards attacking the employees should pause and realize that most of those people not only work in miserable jobs dealing with an often angry and ungrateful public, but they are also taxpayers themselves. They pay taxes like we do, at least those who live in Lawrence. I've seen one person whine about spouses who both work for the city or school district and see this as something bad.Well, if both spouses dedicate themsleves to work for us but have their salaries frozen while having their health insurance and prescription costs rise and benefits taken away wouldn't it figure to be even harder on them?Again, these school district people and city employees are not just stats. They work in areas doing jobs that you and I would never want to do.As for crossguards...Manhattan, Olathe, and most similar-sized communities pay for this. So should USD 497. If not, how about volunteers? Isn't that the liberal way? The Obama way? Put down the peace signs and Save the T signs and pick up a stop sign and volunteer to be a crossing guard. Be a positive part of the community and stop being a drag on the community. We should all be independent and wary of both government solutions and those who push for government solutions. As for prairie park being the only place to experience nature...only a wacky progressive would find it necessary for the government to provide them a place to experience nature.

spankyandcranky 9 years ago

Obviously, it's irresponsible for the city not to make cuts. However, I think there is an alternative for some of these programs other than taking them away completely. I haven't read the comments here yet, so maybe this has already been covered. But yesterday, I saw that charging for helmets instead of giving them away for free was suggested. I'd think that's a viable option for several programs that are currently offered to the public for "free" before closing them completely. Why not offer some programs for a reasonable price instead of taking them away -- especially if they're helping to educate and prevent costs elsewhere? For example, closing recreation centers on weekends (also suggested in yesterday's article, I believe) when more people actually have time to use them, could increase obesity and in turn, health costs. People who don't have money to pay for a club membership, probably don't have money to pay for their health care needs either. So who's going to pay for their increasing visits to the Dr. or emergency room? Maybe I'm drawing unlikely conclusions. But I also find it unlikely that people holding government jobs can justify their own pay increases, when so many people in the community are loosing their jobs. If I weren't at my job until 8 tonight, I know I'd be at that meeting. I'm curious to read about the meeting in tomorrow's edition -- I hope there is an article about it.

spankyandcranky 9 years ago

In reference to the proposed crossing guards funding cut, I have the feeling it's going to go through. I feel like this is unfortunate. But I'm hoping responsible citizens would fill these positions by volunteering.

spankyandcranky 9 years ago

Thank you to rodentgirl16. I hope you took your ideas to the meeting.

Tom McCune 9 years ago

waka1:It's an entertaining act, but who are you really?

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