Archive for Monday, December 5, 2011

Town Talk: Sales tax collections up 3.5 percent for 2011 so far; look for incentives request for Ninth and N.H. project; a little talk about a big police rifle

December 5, 2011


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News and notes from around town:

• The holiday season is make or break time for local retailers. (Funny, it seems like broke or broke time for me.) But a recent sales tax report from the city indicates that retail activity in Lawrence is entering the holiday season on a strong note.

Sales tax collections are up about 3.5 percent — or about $880,000 — through November. But sales tax collections lag by 30 to 45 days, so this only represents retail activity through about mid-October. In other words, retailers and the city’s coffers aren’t completely in the clear. What happens with sales in November and December will still a go a long way in setting the mood at City Hall and on Massachusetts Street. But so far, the numbers are positive.

I know some of you may scoff at a 3.5 percent increase, saying inflation makes up a large part of the increase. That may be true, but it is still a more welcome sight than what the city has experienced in past years. In 2009, the city saw comparable sales tax collections decline 3.1 percent, and in 2010 they declined by 1.6 percent.

As we reported last week, city commissioners on Tuesday will be deciding the future of a proposal to build a six-story hotel/apartment building on the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. The discussion Tuesday night will be about whether the building fits into the downtown design guidelines and is compatible with a historic neighborhood to the east.

But make no mistake, there will be a second train come through the station on this project. If the project proceeds, there will be a discussion about financial incentives for the development.

I haven’t seen a formal proposal yet, but in chatting with some folks involved, it sounds like using Tax Increment Financing will be the most likely form of assistance requested. A TIF, in simplified terms, is a type of incentive where a portion of the new property and sales taxes from a project go into a special government account that is used to pay for public infrastructure type of improvements related to the project. In this case, it seems that would include the private underground parking that the hotel/apartment project would provide.

The vacant property already is part of a TIF district that was created when the PepperJax’s Grill building and public parking garage was built. But it sounds like developers will want that TIF extended for several more years, or have a new one created.

A TIF does not cause an increase in the amount of sales tax that a consumer pays when shopping — or in this case, lodging — at the development. Those type of incentives are Community Improvement Districts or Transportation Development Districts. It will be interesting to see if the development group — which is led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor — will seek any sort of special sales tax district.

A special sales tax seems less likely than a TIF, at this point. The developers certainly have caught wind of the public’s concern about special taxing districts. But, is this the type of development where the city and the public might be more interested in a special tax? After all, it is mainly a hotel, although there will be some retail and a restaurant. But most of the people paying a sales tax at the location will be people from out of town. Have you ever got hit with a special tax when staying in a hotel in another community? (I won’t tell you everything I’ve been hit with while staying in a hotel in another community.)

One way to think of it is this: A TIF will take money that otherwise would be going into the city’s general fund and using it to pay for improvements related to the project. A CID or a TDD allows the city to keep that money, but creates a new tax to pay for the improvements. A TIF is probably more friendly to taxpayers, but less friendly to the city’s coffers.

I’ll let you know when I see some more details on what is being proposed. I mainly just didn’t want folks to think Tuesday’s discussion will be the last one about this major downtown project.

• A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about a program the Police Department wants in order to help officers buy patrol rifles to carry in their squad cars. It is basically a lease-purchase program that allows the city to buy the rifles upfront and then the officers can buy the rifles from the city on an installment plan. You can read the article for more details.

Well, city commissioners are going to consider that issue at their Tuesday meeting. The city had heard from at least one member of the public who wanted more information about why patrol rifles were even needed in the first place. Police Chief Tarik Khatib put together a memo on the subject here. But there were some numbers about gun usage in Lawrence that I thought were worth passing along. The report includes the average number of incidents per year from 2006 to 2010 for several gun-related police calls. The numbers are:

  1. 130 disturbances with weapons per year in the city. The high was 170 in 2006 and the low was 94 in 2010.
  2. 136 reports per year of sounds of gunshots. The high was 156 in 2007 and the low was 110 in 2006.
  3. 44 reports per year of suspicious activity with a weapon. The high was 52 in 2008 and the low was 38 in 2010.
  4. 26 shootings per year. The high was 41 in 2009 and the low was 14 in 2010.
  5. 0.6 deaths per year from shootings. The high was 2 in 2008. The low was zero in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
  6. 146 firearms per year placed in evidence. The high was 200 in 2006. The low was 111 in 2008.

Some of you previously had asked questions about the specific type of weapons and ammunition and other technical issues related to this subject. Well, we aim to please. (You aim too, please. Especially if you are a carrying a rifle.) According the chief’s memo, the currently authorized patrol rifle is .223 caliber Colt “AR” platform. It is semi-automatic version of a weapon utilized by the military. The police’s ammunition of choice is a 55 grain or about 3.6 gram, hollow-point bullet. The hollow point bullet is designed to expand upon impact of the target, making the likelihood of the bullet passing through the target and striking something unintended less likely. In fact, the chief writes that the heavier bullets used in the .40 caliber pistols carried by officers are more prone to passing through the intended target.

A bullet from a patrol rifle can travel up to 1.5 miles. A bullet from .40 caliber patrol pistol can travel a little less than a mile. A patrol rifle is reasonably accurate up to about 900 feet, but its more practical range is about 225 feet. A patrol pistol can be accurate to about 100 feet, but usually are used at distances of less than 10 feet.

“Accuracy is the best way to minimize collateral damage,” Khatib writes. “The patrol rifle is more accurate than either the police pistol or shotgun.”

City commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.


dcap 6 years, 4 months ago

0.6 deaths from shootings per year. This is a completely unjustifiable expense. There is also an increased danger of shooting by standers, since the high powered rifle has a much longer range than their pistols or shotguns. Why now? Vote No!

Evan Ridenour 6 years, 4 months ago

It is a very minor expense. Just because something has a low likely-hood of happening does not mean it will never occur. There have been plenty of examples of people all over the nation strapping on body-armor and using fully automatic rifles to commit crimes. Without a rifle the most an officer could do is standby and watch as the criminal continued doing whatever they pleased until the proper units arrived. I'd rather the community pay at most a few thousand dollars (if it even costs that much) just in case.

dcap 6 years, 4 months ago

Has there been plenty of examples of people using body armor and fully automatic rifles committing crimes? Because that is just not true. I believe your referring to the North Hollywood shootout in 1997, but since then I don't think you can cite any recent nearby cases that would justify assault rifles. The Lawrence Police Department also has a SWAT team that would address your doomsday iron-man machine-gun killer. And it is not just the expense of buying the weapons, but the liability if an officer used the weapon and accidentally hurt someone. There is no good justification for these guns, and police chief Khatib's explanation that everyone else has them so the LPD should too, is just bandwagon nonsense.

Evan Ridenour 6 years, 4 months ago

Yes, that has occurred more then once. Obviously you are only aware of what you have seen in the movies. That is the most extreme of examples. A thug with a bullet proof vest and an automatic rifle is not that uncommon in this country and an officer with a patrol pistol would be powerless to do anything about it. We aren't talking about some ridiculous movie-type event.

As to SWAT being enough to respond to such an event. Do you know what the response time would be? Would you rather the first on the scene be able to take down a criminal with a fully automatic rifle or just to cower behind his patrol car waiting and waiting for SWAT to show up while the criminal carries on with his business? The idea isn't that SWAT can't take care of it. The idea is that you are talking about the difference of stopping the person in a couple of minutes versus possibly tens of minutes. For an extremely small investment by the city that makes a big difference.

You are also overstating the increased dangers of these guns. They aren't going to be carrying them around using them instead of their patrol pistol. They will be yanking them out of their trunks when they are needed. You are being unreasonable.

dcap 6 years, 4 months ago

The facts do not support any of your claims. Other than the North Hollywood shootout cite one example of "thugs with bulletproof vest and an automatic rifle". You can't because it does not happen. Stop watching Fox news and Michael Bay films. The police are not Rambo. They are not going to go save the day by mowing down some serial killer. And shooting an assault rifle in a city is incredibly dangerous. What would you do if someone you loved were killed by a stray bullet from a police officers assault rifle? (That is my play on emotions for the day).

Missingit 6 years, 4 months ago

What would you do if someone you loved was killed by a subject with a high powered rifle the police could not get tosince they would have only handguns in your plan. Try and hit anything at 500 yards with a handgun. Heck see how many hits on paper your get at 250 yards. DCAP while you might be right about people with body armor there have been numerous incidents with subjects using high powered rifles. Look it up I found thousands!

kufan1146 6 years, 4 months ago

There is no burden on the taxpayers to finance them, so what's the issue? Did you even read the article? The OFFICERS pay for the rifles. If you were involved in a standoff, wouldn't YOU want the police to have adequate firepower to handle it?

dcap 6 years, 4 months ago

If I were involved in a "standoff"? Sorry, but I live in Lawrence Kansas, and not in Michael Bay movie. Violent crime is at a historic low all over America. Why do police need military assault rifles? They don't, and this is all part of the militarization of police in America. Assault rifles are unnecessary, expensive, and a step in the wrong direction. If a loan is no burden then will you loan me $10,000? I will pay you back so its no burden. Right?

kufan1146 6 years, 4 months ago

Remember Virginia Tech? Columbine? Any of the other dozens of large shootings in small towns? I'd say they are an asset to have in the police department. The rifles, if I recall correctly, cost about $1200 and the police officers pay for them out of pocket just as they pay for their duty pistols. I truly hope nothing ever happens on the KU campus, but if it did, how would LPD be able to handle a shooter if they were out gunned? Shotguns only have an effective range of about 40 yards with buckshot and pistols are very, very difficult to shoot accurately past 30 yards, especially in a high pressure situation, whereas a rifle is easily shot accurately to 100+ yards. I have no need for a loan, no that is an irrelevant comment. Why not let the police officers vote on it?

dcap 6 years, 4 months ago

The Virginia Tech shooter was armed with a .22 caliber pistol. The Columbine shooters had 9mm handguns and a shotgun. The United States has more than 300 million people living here. You simply cannot justify arming the police with military assault rifles, the fact just don't back it up. Violent crime is DOWN all over the United States.

Missingit 6 years, 4 months ago

They are not "military assault rifles" they will not offer 3 round burst of fully automatic weapons. It about responding to force with force we don't send troops out with rocks, we do not send police to work without at least a pistol. The weapon is a tool. The person who fires it is responsible for their actions. Let them get them.

Casey_Jones 6 years, 4 months ago

The Columbine shooters had 9mm handguns, two shotguns, a 9mm carbine rifle (comparable to what the police want), and enough high-capacity magazines to avoid reloading altogether-- easily outgunning any first responders.

I'm typically a big fan of police but the rifles they want will provide them more firepower, should they need it, at their own expense. Not only that but the rifles' greater accuracy and comparable penetration add up to more safety for unintended targets. I don't see any drawbacks here.

You must have a personal issue with the police department to be SO opposed to this.

Missingit 6 years, 4 months ago

There is no burden. The officers have the money taken from their checks and I bet sign paperwork like a bank if they lose their job or are fired and all wages and vacatio are used to pay the city first. If you need a loan to do your job better and 10,000 dollars is what it will take you should ask your boss

parrothead8 6 years, 4 months ago

"It is basically a lease-purchase program that allows the city to buy the rifles upfront..."

Sooo...the city, FUNDED BY TAXPAYERS, buys them first. Did you even read the article?

optimist 6 years, 4 months ago

While the city will front the money the officers will pay the money back over time, I would assume interest free. I'm totally in favor of the expense. I'm not necessarily convinced we should outfit every officer with a rifle right away. It would make sense that the department could lessen the fiscal burden by transitioning the program in over a couple of years. Of course any officer that was willing to purchase the rifle outright should be trained first. Let's not fear monger this issue. It is very practical for law enforcement to have the tools they might need for the job. I don't assume they will take these rifles out very often but if they ever do need them they should have them. This action will not make the city less safe or pose a risk to the community.

Randall Barnes 6 years, 4 months ago

9th and new hampshire the city should buy the lot and build a public transportation hub there instead of the amtrack station.

Clark Coan 6 years, 4 months ago

Doug Compton is perhaps the richest man in town. He doesn't need a tax subsidy.

puddleglum 6 years, 4 months ago

but he works so hard for a living....constantly toiling in the unforgivable kansas weather...can't we give the poor fella a break? lets give him money. He really needs more.

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 4 months ago

Thus far, the city has collected $25.52 million in sales tax receipts from its various sales taxes. Through the same time period in 2010, they had collected $24.64 million. Thanks, Chad

bornon7 6 years, 4 months ago

BECAUSE Doug Compton is the richest man in town....(are you sure it isn't a Fritzel?), he will be given whatever he wants. Just wait and see.

repaste 6 years, 4 months ago

Infrastructure normally paid for by developers, to be paid by taxpayers.

Matthew Del Vecchio 6 years, 4 months ago

When it's your family, friends, or hometown under fire your going to want your cops to have enough fire power to make a difference. Or you could just wait and see what happens. Best of luck to you.

dcap 6 years, 4 months ago

I am sorry, but I live in Lawrence Kansas. Maybe you have heard of it? No one I know, or anyone they know, has ever been pinned down in a cowboy shoot-out. I will in fact just wait and see what happens. I hope the situation improves over there in Baghdad. Your people deserve better.

Evan Ridenour 6 years, 4 months ago

Just because something is unlikely to occur doesn't mean it won't occur and when the cost of insuring against such an event is low why not insure against it? You seem to have an irrational hatred of cops, there is no logical reason to be such a troll on this issue.

dcap 6 years, 4 months ago

Your argument is absurd and ridiculous. It is unlikely that a meteor will land on City Hall, but meteor insurance is not that expensive, so why not? Your argument can be used to justify any expense. You also don't know how much this will cost, since exact figures have not been released. I don't have an irrational hatred of police, but I don't think that police need assault rifles, or tanks, or any other crazy military equipment, especially when you live in a pretty small town with no reason for that weaponry. I am not alone. The front page of the huffingtonpost has an article about the increasing militarization of small town police departments.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 4 months ago

Yeah, the meteor analogy is totally useful because you are comparing something that does happen (mass shooting events) to something that doesn't happen (or at least hasn't). I'm sure with your martial arts training - bad haircut and all - you can explain to us why one wouldn't want to be prepared. I'm sure not being prepared is something that is stressed quite heavily in martial arts as you roll around in your pajamas, right?

dcap 6 years, 4 months ago

Meteors strike the Earth on a regular on a daily basis. I will roll with your facebook creeping analogy. I don't teach my judo students how to defend themselves against someone who weighs 500lbs. There are people who weight 500lbs, but no one in the history of our club has ever gone against one, so I don't waste my time teaching what to do, just like the city shouldn't waste it's money militarizing the police.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 4 months ago

I'm curious: you seem to be an expert at risk management and risk mitigation. From where did you get this education? You've been totally wrong in other posts about high-risk deployment post-Columbine/VT so I'm curious where you've gained your wealth of information. Given your clear mastery of low probability/high impact events, how would you properly equip and train a police force for such an event assuming that such an event is possible if not probable? Also, how do you operationalize "militarization" in this context? Is it based on the tools one uses to accomplish a job? Is it doctrine?

kufan1146 6 years, 4 months ago

Blacksburg, VA, where the Virginia Tech shooting happened, has had only 5 murders since 1993, excluding the college shooting. That's an even lower than Lawrence. Sorry Chad, you're just plain wrong on this one.

dcap 6 years, 4 months ago

The Virginia Tech shooter was armed with a .22 caliber pistol. After shooting people in one class he hid in the university and the police department responded with their SWAT team. The exact same way the LPD would respond to a shooting on the KU campus. The United States also has more than 300 million people, so pointing out one random shooting does not justify our city arming the police with military assault rifles.

kufan1146 6 years, 4 months ago

Chad, any civilian without a felony or criminal record can own one of these. I personally own one. There are already 35 of the LPD officers who own theirs and carry them on duty according to the other article. Military grade would mean fully automatic.

You'll be the first one to cry wolf if there is a situation where firepower is needed and the LPD can't respond immediately because SWAT takes an hour to mobilize. If you're going to cry, go do it to city council, not in the comments section.

dcap 6 years, 4 months ago

I will be the last to cry wolf if a situation were to arise where the LPD were lacking in firepower, because that will never happen. The military no longer gives every soldier a fully automatic weapon. They are wasteful and inaccurate. We live in Lawrence Kansas not Baghdad. I am not alone in my position. The frontpage of the huffington post is about the militarization of small town police departments.

Missingit 6 years, 4 months ago

Lawrence is not as small town as you think. Lawrence is on a drug traffic intersate. I have seen people blogging on this site for years complaining about Topeka and KC criminals coming to Lawrence. I saw a documentary where a al-quada subject was in Lawrence trying to generate donations in the Late 1990's. The patrol rifles just give police a tool to use if necessary like your "meteor insurance" if your house gets hit or robot insurance if you are scared about robots taking your medications. A ounce of prevention is better then a pound of cure

fatheadff 6 years, 4 months ago

Ok so most of the cars have no gun locks in them or they are set up to hold a pump shotgun. So switching over to the AR rifles means they are going to also have to switch the gun mounts. Which are not cheap. And it's not safe to put a weapon in the trunk of a patrol car without a secondary security other than a trunk lock. So are the officers going to pay to install new gunlocks and mounts in the car also.

dcap 6 years, 4 months ago

This is how it starts. If they can justify one expense they can justify another. Where do we draw the line when the LPD ask for money. If we say yes to this what will they ask for next year?

Casey_Jones 6 years, 4 months ago

How about we draw the line the same place we draw it for civilians-- semi-automatic weapons only. No need to "militarize". Rifles like the ones police currently carry are not in the least bit uncommon. I could go pick one up from Cabelas today.

I understand wanting to save money but if police officers going to risk their personal safety enforcing the laws for everybody, the least we can do is LOAN them a little money so they're armed as well as they can reasonably expect any criminals to be.

somedude20 6 years, 4 months ago

Seems like a lot of people have a fear of working/ jobs so maybe the LPD should use that threat in lieu of deadly force. "Put your hands up and get on your knees otherwise we will make you work for 18-23 feel lucky punk?"

irvan moore 6 years, 4 months ago

heck, i think the city should pay for the rifles and have one in every car. remember, it is better to have a rifle and not need it than to need a rifle and not have it. i have kids the ages of a lot of the cops and i sure as heck want our police to be able to protect themselves. we support the homeless, we support the theatre, let's support the guys/gals who protect us.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 4 months ago

For those of you who got here late, I will sum this up for you in an easy-to-understand way:

Chad Steele has let us know that we do not live in Baghdad.

Food_for_Thought 6 years, 4 months ago

Relevant to this article, and to law enforcement officers in general, I've found few truer words than those in a speech once shared with me known as "On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs". I'd suggest searching online for it and having a read if you haven't already before...

Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

"Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)"

How government subsidies and new regulations have quietly funneled money from the poor and the middle class to the rich and politically connected.

But here’s what happens. And this is a good example of where the news media hasn’t done a good job.

I have tons of news clips that say, oh, this new shopping mall is coming or a new Wal-Mart or a new Cabela’s store, and thanks to tax increment financing, this store is going to be built.

Well, what is tax increment financing? I’ll tell you what it is. You go to the store with your goods, you pay for it at Wal-Mart, and there’s a very good chance that that store has made a deal with the government that the sales taxes you are required to pay, that government requires you to pay, never go to the government.

Instead, those sales taxes are kept by Wal-Mart and used to pay the cost of the store. And typically in those deals, the store is tax exempt, just like a church.

Now, there are two ways that it’s important to think about this. One is, that means your kid’s schools, your police department, your library, your parks are not getting that money. And you’ll notice we keep saying we’re starved for money.

We’re twice as wealthy as we were in 1980, but we’ve got to close hospitals, and we’ve got to close schools, and we don’t have money for all sorts of things like after-school programs, even though we’re twice as wealthy. The second thing to think about is, imagine that you own Amy Goodman’s or Juan’s department store across the street.

You suddenly have to compete with people whom the government is giving a huge leg up on. You think you would go broke after a while? Well, in fact, you will.

deec 6 years, 4 months ago

If infrastructure improvements are needed to facilitate a given development, then those improvements ought to be the financial responsibility of the developer, not the citizens at large. Otherwise it is a subsidy, corporate welfare, the 1% feeding off the 99% as usual. This particular developer has spent his entire career feeding at the government trough. Has he ever built anything anywhere that didn't get subsidized in some way by the government?

57chevy 6 years, 4 months ago

It turns out that any policeperson wanting one of these guns already has one, as do I. You can have one too. Go down to Cabela's or any good gun shop and ask for the Colt AR15 A2 Sporter. They'll hook you up. A fine gun, and .223 caliber is not THAT high power. Good for urban assault. Since both the police and lots of citizens like me can already have an assault rifle, the only question is whether the city should lend them money to pay for one. Not a big deal. I see this as a much smaller deal than the request for an armored car. Now they are NOT going to buy their own armored car with a loan. We are buying it for them. I have two issues with this. One is they already suck at basic police work. I get my car broken into so often I only call about every third time and then just to make sure they still couldn't care less. Before we prepare for Armageddon, maybe we should try and take of todays real problems, like good old fashioned law and order. Last I checked the police motto was Peserve and Protect (at least it is in LA on old Dragnet reruns), not stave off revolution. I'm pretty sure Topeka wil lend us their armored car if we need one. LA has twenty of them and when they all got shot up by those two bank robbers, both criminals were shot by the time it showed up. So problem one: Rediculously poor allocatiion of resources. My second problem is the concept of arming a civil organization with military weapons. The framers of the constitution (in my humble opinion) clearly feared the government more than they feared the people, thus the Second Amendment (my personal favorite) allows for citizens to have guns. The point of the amendment is to prevent the police from being armed better than the populace. It keeps the politicians nervous, thus a bit less likely to overreach. While I too can own an armored car, I can't afford one. It is interesting to not that the most corrupt police force in america (the New Orleans Police Department) is armed with full automatic weapons which, if you believe the newspapers, they regularly use to gun down law-abidig citizens. As long as the police are aware that the only advantge they have on their side in a fight is the law and the support of law-abiding citizens, they will value both. Once they have a bigger gun, its seems a short step to abuse of power. SO, lets help them the police buy a gun that they can have anyway but lets hold off on an armored car until they master community policing.

Missingit 6 years, 4 months ago

Such a dumb comment. They are asking for a rifle that each officer pays for. There is less statistical chance of a school fire then being the victim of a crime involving a weapon. Yet every person here agrees we need fire sprinklers,fire alarms, and fire extinguishers in school.

dcap 6 years, 4 months ago

Exactly! Or for example, could any other group of city employees ask the city to subsidize a loan for a business expense? Could the librarians ask for a loan from the city to pay for Lasik surgery? If they reealy want these assault rifles why don't they buy them themselves? It would be tax deductible business expense. That is what seems so dubious about this whole thing to me.

Missingit 6 years, 4 months ago

No the librarians could ask for loans for books. Lastly when places buy large amounts of weapons they receive a discount, this is especially true with firearms. So if a city buys the weapons up front the officer gets the added discount. Next the tax deduction is minor to begin with. Also do we make the road crews buy their trucks or parks guys do they have tobuy the lawnmowers or weedeaters? No! Why is it dubious to provide your employees a lower cost alternative to buying equipment the city should have?

Missingit 6 years, 4 months ago

Well if helicopters cost $1600 dollars then you would be correct that each officer should have one. It's called apples to apples not apples to planets. Plus the maintenance of rifles falls on the officers.

Evan Ridenour 6 years, 4 months ago

No that isn't the same logic at all. That is a horrible analogy. In this case we are talking about the total cost of the program being at most a few thousand dollars (probably even less) so the department can provide zero interest financing to the officers to buy the weapon themselves (also pay for maintenance themselves). In your example you are talking about a multi-million dollar aircraft that requires multiple millions of dollars of annual maintenance.

Wow, just... wow.

pace 6 years, 4 months ago

I don't have an objection to the police have the rifles as part of their armory. That was my first reaction. I do wonder how many police guns or police vehicles have been stolen in the last twenty years?

puddleglum 6 years, 4 months ago

what good is an ar-15?

pathetic little weapon. unless you enjoy annoying your enemies.

grow up and get a real man's 'rifle' : AK-47 is the tool.

or better yet, take off your skirt and buy yourself an MG-42. much more effective and really loud, too.

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