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September 25, 2005

Research Project

Research Project in themail, September 25, 2005

Dear Researchers:

Do you suspect that yellow lights are timed a little short at some intersections around town? Do you suspect that those short yellow lights correspond uncomfortably well with the intersections that have red light cameras? Are you of a conspiratorial turn of mind? Or, alternatively, have you received a stack of red light tickets that you’ve had no way to contest? There’s good news from California, if you’re inclined to do a little research.

The Oakland Tribune reports ( that Union City, California, has had to rescind every ticket given under its red-light enforcement camera program, because its traffic lights were set to stay yellow for a shorter period than state regulations required. Union City officials denied, of course, that the short time period was deliberately set just to increase the number of tickets and to raise revenue, but then they had also misstated the legal requirement for the length of the light.

So here’s the project: determine what legal requirement DC has set for the length of yellow lights, and get out your stopwatches. After that project is finished, then let’s take our magnifying glasses to NCRC documents, as Max Skolnik suggests below, so we can read the fine print.

Gary Imhoff


ANC 6D’s Resolution on the National Capital Revitalization Corporation
Max Skolnik, Commissioner ANC 6D,

At our September meeting, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D passed the following resolution concerning the National Capital Revitalization Corporation: “1) The NCRC shall become subject to all Federal and District laws and policies as they pertain to the Freedom of Information Act; 2) The NCRC shall become subject to the same ANC notification requirements as other District of Columbia agencies; 3) The Board of Directors of the NCRC shall be required to follow the District of Columbia’s rules for public agency meetings, including but not limited to giving proper advance notice of meeting dates and locations to be published in the DC Register, the publishing of an agenda in advance of the meeting, and following the rules for executive session discussions; 4) The City Council of the District of Columbia and its Committees shall have the unilateral right to withhold or withdraw District assets in the possession of the NCRC or its RLARC subsidiary if said entities do not submit biannual reports of their actions that are deemed acceptable to the Council or its Committees, including detailed financial reports; 5) Congress shall empower the City Council of the District of Columbia to unilaterally dissolve the NCRC/RLARC and allow any assets or holdings of said entities to be returned to the District.”

I submitted this resolution because of my deep concerns over the NCRC’s role in the Southwest community. The NCRC has shown an unwillingness to listen to the raised voices of local residents, particularly those living in the waterfront area. It has refused to deal with serious issues related to disruptive special events. Finally, it has shown a repeated lack of transparency, refusing to release information on basic operating procedures.

The Southwest community is not simply an inconvenient network of streets on the way to nightclubs and future baseball stadiums. We are a vibrant neighborhood with a strong sense of community pride. We only ask that the elected leaders of our city work to protect this way of life.


Unwelcome Relaxation by DC Parking Enforcement
Mark Eckenwiler, themale at ingot dot org

The longer I live in DC, the more I find the experience educational and invigorating. This week’s lesson: that when a church more than three blocks from my house privately approaches DPW seeking “relaxed parking enforcement,” DPW summarily grants it a) for a radius of several densely populated residential blocks b) for a full calendar week c) with no apparent notice to the affected community. This, at least, is what happened in my Hill neighborhood last week, in an area already rife with illegal commuter parking (owing to the proximity of Metro) and thus often sorely lacking in on-street spaces for actual residents of the area. (Naturally, most parishioners of the church in question drive in from Maryland or elsewhere — otherwise, they wouldn’t need parking "relaxation.")


It’s Always Tough to Say Goodbye
Paul Penniman,

For the first time in decades, I am saying so long to a couple of utilities, if one call them that: Comcast and Verizon. Comcast keeps sending me full monthly bills (that keep adding up) and won’t agree on the phone that I owe them for only five days of service, or 5/30 of my monthly fee. (Nor will anyone of any apparent authority return my calls.) Considering that Comcast got in trouble years ago for unfair late fees, thus earning a class action suit, I imagine that before long another lawsuit might develop out of their attempting to steal money from their outgoing customers.

As far as Verizon Wireless is concerned, their modus operandi is to make incorrect charges on your credit card bill. When I pointed this out, they merely told me I could easily call my credit card company and tell them to remove the charges. Has anyone had similar experiences?


Girl Gangs
Bryce A. Suderow,

Commander Diane Groomes told PSA 107 a couple of nights ago that in the District there are sixty-five to one hundred girl gangs, numbering in strength from eight to three hundred per gang. They include the "E Street Bangers" and the "D Street Mob."

Has anyone reading themail encountered these gangs? There have been turf fights near the Safeway at 14th and D SE.


In the Event of an Emergency
Annie McCormick,

My husband and I agree that if a major disaster happens in DC then we are totally screwed. We live in downtown, and from our apartment saw the streets filled with people on 9/11. Every bus we saw on that day heading out of town was "Out of Service," with no passengers aboard. And nothing got better. In March 2003 a farmer drove his tractor into DC and tied up traffic for over two days ( On January 29, 2005, a man threatened to blow up his van and snarled traffic for hours ( On May 12, 2005, a small aircraft flew into a no-fly zone and panic ensued. The Capitol building was evacuated, and no one knew where to go or what to do ( Moreover, most of us who live and work in downtown DC had no idea this was happening. We viewed TV later and saw the panicked and frantic expressions of the people leaving the Capitol building and losing their footwear. We learned that the White House had also been evacuated. I work fewer than eight blocks from the White House. I heard nothing and didn’t know anything until the evening news.

All the barriers and safety guards in the area will not protect DC, nor do we have any procedure in place to evacuate the city in the event of an emergency. With roads in DC closed (think E Street near the White House or many roads near the Capital building) just getting around town is getting harder and harder, much less actually trying to get out of town if necessary. The test on July 4th didn’t show or prove anything. As we have seen unfold from the horrific and heart breaking experiences of many Katrina victims, we will have no help from the federal government, Homeland Security, Red Cross, or FEMA in time to be of consequence. Heck, they won’t even be in the city. Those in the White House and Capital, OEMB, etc., will already have been evacuated, and we will not learn of anything until it’s too late. Mayor Williams will be out of town in some exotic foreign location, President Bush will be in Crawford clearing brush, Chaney will be at an “undisclosed location,” and anyone heading FEMA will be organizing horse shows.

And don’t think about public transportation: Metro cannot handle the simple task of keeping the doors closed during operation. “Metro has determined that coffee spilled by a train operator into the train’s operating console caused the train’s doors to open as it was pulling away from a platform a few weeks ago” ( and It took Metro ten days to figure this out. And that wasn’t the first time a subway car’s doors have opened during operation. Thankfully no one was hurt, but it does bring to mind WMATA’s ad campaign: “Metro Opens Doors.” Yeah, no kidding.

Nor can Metro manage to keep a train together. On Tuesday morning, subway cars became unlinked after leaving the station — at 9:07 in the morning, no less ( And the finger pointing is exasperating. Now “"Metro’s Top Cop Blasts Homeland Security” for “failing to make transit security a top priority” ( I wouldn’t trust Metro buses to get out of town, either. As I stated, all of the buses I saw on September 9, 2001, said “Out of Service,” and none had a single passenger on it.

We are simply not prepared for any type of disaster ( If a nuclear event, i.e. missile attack, were to happen to DC, we aren’t going to try to leave. There is no plan for effective evacuation and there will be no help. If some governmental help did exist, where would we run to? For a natural disaster similar to Katrina, we will buy canned goods, gallons of water, etc., in advance. If it floods to the point of us needing to leave our sixth floor apartment, where in the world would we run to anyway? If a meteor is going to strike and create a tidal wave of the magnitude of the one that supposedly made the dinosaurs extinct, we will follow the nuclear event plan.

Regardless of the reason for an evacuation, no one can get far enough away to be safe with only an hour or two notice. Our rush hour proves that daily. Look at the roads leading out of the metro area on a holiday weekend. Do our supposed leaders think that adding more vehicles to the current rush hour traffic will make it move more effectively? Our federal, state and local leaders will probably kill more people with their evacuation plans than would die if no plan existed.

If a Katrina-type or 9/11 catastrophe were to happen to DC, we won’t try to leave. There is no point because there is no plan for effective evacuation and there will be no help. Naw, we’re staying put. My husband and I have agreed that each of us will get a six-pack of beer and meet at Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. We will be polite when law enforcement tries to arrest us for drinking beer in public when we are standing in the DC Ground Zero. Anyone want to join us? Bring a six pack. We’ll see you in Lafayette Park!


Another Piece of the Plan
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

I’m still waiting for the mayor’s evacuation plan for DC residents in the event of some disaster downtown. Forget your cars folks. The safest and fastest way out of DC is by Metrorail. In the event of any CBR (chemical, biological, or radiological) event it would be much better to avoid the few main arteries that leave DC and would be clogged for hours. For Metrorail operators running trains through contaminated areas to pick up evacuees there should be Scape suits (Self-contained atmospheric protection ensembles) that protect wearers from CBR and have their own air supply. Large numbers of people could be carried out of all areas downtown if needed.


P. Walters,

There is a project in Rock Creek Park to change Rock Creek so that fish can swim upstream, past the dams and barriers, to spawn. Is this really an important priority? I don’t know how much remains to be committed on this, but surely no one would notice if the project was shut down.


Political Spam or Not?
Paul Dionne, news at paul dionne dot com

I am afraid I have to disagree with my friend Mr. Jaffe [themail, September 21] on his classification of an unsolicited E-mail from the Brown campaign as spam. If the candidate has done his research and knows that the recipient lives in the district from which he is running, then how is that any different from unsolicited bulk mail sent by post or phone banks? Candidates must inform potential voters of the issues on which the candidate is running and yes, even raise money to get such messages out there. If we don’t hear from candidates directly, then we are left to relying on media and other sources that may have a bias.

Mr. Jaffe also asks that the campaign divulge its source. I do not think that any campaign should have to divulge where its list came from unless someone steps forward and claims that the list was stolen or used without proper permission. However, if they generated the list on their own or via supporters, then more power to them. We do live in a society that declares us innocent until proven guilty, after all.

I would personally welcome anyone taking the time to link my E-mail address to my home address and keeping me informed of the issues that candidate thinks are important to my district. And just for the record (and I am confident that Mr. Jaffe already knows it) I am not affiliated with the Brown campaign in any way whatsoever.


Excise Tax on Cars
Matt Brukman, mbrukman at gmail dot com

Ms. Babers of the Department of Motor Vehicles has responded to my request for clarification [themail, September 18]. Here is the reply, verbatim. “Long story short: if you did not change the names on the car title (e.g., add a name) then you did not need to pay the excise tax. Gather your documentation and contact them for a refund.”

Many thanks to this forum, and to Ms. Babers for setting things straight.


Newspapers’ Death Spiral Continues
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com

Phil Shapiro suggested [themail, September 21] we check our watches “to count how many minutes before DC-area newspapers make their staff reduction announcements.” In fact, the same week the newspapers Phil cited announced staff cuts, the Post editor for whom I’ve written for ten years announced that they’ve hired a new editor to supplement the personal technology section staff. Phil’s comments seem pure speculation with no attempt to report facts. He didn’t even provide a “No comment” from a Post source or any statistics on Post staffing (on which I have no insights beyond the one hiring I mentioned).

And from his airline analogy, I guess he feels that as a passenger (reader) he has more awareness of the airplane (newspaper industry) spiraling towards the ground than the pilot (editors/publishers/owners), and better ideas on what should be done. Myself, I’d be much more worried about airline pilots taking guidance on notes from passengers than flying the plane according to their training and procedures. Unless, of course, you’re watching the Twilight Zone episode where there’s a monster sitting on the wing looking in the window.

Of course the newspaper industry has problems, but it seems a wonderful fantasy that solutions lie in ceding control of it to community activists.


Our Displaced Guests
Leonard May,

[Reply to Bryce Suderow, “Two Conversations on the Displaced,” themail, September 21] Our guests were displaced by a natural disaster. FEMA, from the federal government, and the Red Cross, a volunteer organization, gave them debit cards. Even WMATA was handing out checks, when they could. Who knows what Marion would have done. I know he was at the Armory to support Katrina evacuees. Not as a selfish act or to get a date, I hope. There are federal and local services to assist DC residents. How well do they work? I choose not to make a comment on that right now.

Those people who stated that “they were devil worshippers” were giving an opinion. Was it fair? Was it fair to mention it? Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. Perhaps a question needed to be asked of them, "What are you doing to help you fellow woman/man?" And to the person that is or was homeless, living in DC General Hospital. That person should have been asked, “Since you have been given services, what are you doing to pay it forward?” Also, there were some other folks there besides, Black People.


Conversations on the Displaced
Dawn Dickerson, ddd668 at aol dot com

I am unclear about the purpose of Bryce A. Suderow’s submission “Two Conversations on the Displaced at the DC Stadium Armory” [themail, September 21]. I am wondering if repeating the random opinions of a small group of African-American people was even worth his attention. And then to share those thoughts on this discussion board? What for? What type of dialogue are you interested in creating by sharing this conversation?

As a native Washingtonian and an African-American woman, Bryce’s submission feels mildly offensive to me. It’s OK for any person to feel that the same level of attention given to the hurricane victims should be given to the homeless. Homeless in DC is the same as homeless in Louisiana. So why is Bryce Suderow questioning or even surprised by the fact that a group of people would "resent what has happened"?


Reply to Dawn Dickerson
Bryce Suderow,

My posting was an account of two conversations I overheard between groups of low-income black people. They were critical of the DC government’s providing assistance to displaced persons from the Gulf at a time when DC’s own black population weren’t being helped sufficiently. To answer Dawn’s question, I reported the conversations because this was not a view I’d read in the Washington Post or the Washington Times or seen on TV. I read in those newspapers perhaps a dozen articles that highlighted how eager the DC government was to welcome the refugees. The only exception that I encountered among the newspaper articles was one column by Courtland Milloy, who expressed the same misgivings as the people I overheard. If someone kept a scorecard, that was a dozen articles welcoming the Gulf people with open arms while only one expressed a contrary opinion. The TV reports, without a single exception, espoused the same DC government line that the newspapers had.

It seems to me that the viewpoint of these two groups of black people needed to be reported because that viewpoint had been almost ignored. Last night at 14th and H Streets, NE, I heard a group of blacks again express the sentiment that the DC government ought to look after its own poor instead of the poor from another region of the country. As a practicing writer and historian, I feel it’s my duty to report facts when they occur, without regard to whether the facts make some people feel uncomfortable.


The Future of Your Back Yard and Our National Front Yard
Len Sullivan,

DC’s Office of Planning is about half way through a long, formal exercise to draft a new Comprehensive Plan for DC’s development over the next twenty years or so. It has a large, diverse advisory committee, many participating agencies, and access for citizen and interest groups. Ideally, the plan would become the bible for land use and zoning for the foreseeable future. In the real world, it could be a respected composite of current stakeholder hopes. But if you lurkers don’t participate, it will become the Guide Book of Strident Activists.

The issues are basic to the city’s future growth. Do you really want more residential than business growth? Do you really want to stop expanding Metrorail and clutter the streets with local trolleys? Can you tell Great Streets from Great Pork? Is more affordable housing, parklands, and historical nostalgia more important than a modernized city infrastructure? Do you really want to cling to "surplus" schools like some fading trousseau? Where will you let the city store its snow plows and police records? Are you serious about "transit-oriented development" in your own neighborhood? What are the real consequences of being the nation’s capital city?

The first of OP’s four fairs to gather more public input was held last Wednesday night at the impressive new Kelly Miller Middle School in Ward 7. Hundreds of hours must have gone into preparing for the fair, after thousands of hours of developing the materials. Well over thirty government people and/or consultants were there for over three hours to answer questions and take comments. I bet no more than sixty citizens listened or submitted comments. About one hundred made it to the Thurgood Marshall Center the next night. You could easily bone up on the draft texts at (click on “itinerary and handouts” right side cover page), and then provide your inputs at Eastern High on Tuesday evening or Wilson High on Wednesday evening. Why not go meet these good hardworking souls now and help define where you want the city to go, and stop harassing them later when they try their best to get there?



Surplus Schools and Surplus Government
Andrew Willis, willisa at gmail dot com

Correction to posting in September 21 themail: Councilmember and Government Operations Committee Chair Vincent Orange has indefinitely postponed the hearing on the disposition of five DC school buildings, originally scheduled for Thursday, September 29, at 10 a.m. For information on the status of the hearing please call Empower DC at 234 9119, or contact the Committee Clerk at 724 8035.


The Development of Resumes, September 26
Marianne Josem,

Over forty and looking for a job? Want to change careers? Energize your search with 40Plus of Greater Washington. Each Monday morning beginning at 10 a.m., 40Plus hosts an event that is free and open to the public. Join us this Monday, September 26, to hear Marshall Brown and Annabelle Reitman, head of the Career Counseling Program at The Women’s Center, discuss the Development of Resumes: Telling Your Professional Story for A Targeted Audience.

This event will be held at the 40Plus offices at 1718 P Street, NW, Suite T-2, in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. For more details about this event, or to learn more about what 40Plus has to offer, check out our web site at or call our office at 387-1582.


The National Daughter-Daddy Reunion Tour, September 28-October 2
Jonetta Rose Barras,

You think this whole issue of father absence doesn’t affect you. There were two parents in the home in which you were reared. You live in a two parent-household now. Well, think again. The entire city pays the price for absent fathers. From poor educational achievement of District students, to high juvenile crime rates, teen pregnancy rates, and mental health issues, every resident bears the burden. But don’t take Esther Production, Inc.’s, word for it. Come out Wednesday night, September 28, from 6-8:00 p.m. at the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives (17th and M Streets, NW) and hear for yourself. As part of The National Daughter-Daddy Reunion Tour a panel of elected officials and civic leaders including DC Councilmember Vincent Gray, Deputy Mayor Neil Albert, and Board of Education member Victor Reinoso will discuss the impact of what is being called a silent epidemic in America.

Then, on September 30, at 6:00 p.m., daughters and daddies take the first steps toward reconciliation, with the opening plenary session for the Daughter-Daddy Training Institute. A keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Jeffrey Johnson, president of the National Partnership for Community Leadership; a reception for participants follows. On October 1, at 9:00 a.m., Carol Fennelly, director of Hope House, starts the day. Later, experts including Annie E. Casey Family Services Male Facilitator Darryl Green help daughters and daddies examine the effects of father or daughter absence while cataloging the emotional historical baggage that may have lead them to make poor choices. Participants also are guided through the creation of a reconciliation plan for reuniting with a daughter or a father. In the afternoon, participants develop their plans further, learning how to manage potential obstacles such as meddling friends and angry mothers. The day closes with the screening of the movie I Am Sam, staring Sean Penn. On Sunday, October 2, at 9:30 a.m., participants review their plans and join in a closing ritual designed to create the spiritually affirming environment necessary for success. In the afternoon, the Tour officially closes with a celebration and tribute of the sacred daughter-daddy relationships. A. Scott Bolden, Bubbles Trio, and the Hope House Poets are featured during the celebration. Participants also receive guidance on forming support groups, and faith-based leaders learn how to establish reconciliation centers in their institutions.

Registration is required for each event. Participants for the Daughter-Daddy Training Institute must commit to the entire session, September 30 through October 2. Mail your, address, telephone, E-mail address, and the events you are registered for to Esther Productions/National Daughter-Daddy Reunion Tour, PO Box 21477, Washington, DC 20009. For more information, call 722-4639 or E-mail


Cultural Institute of Mexico Events, September 29-30
Barbara Ruesaga,

Thursday, September 29, at 6:30 p.m., at the Cultural Institute of Mexico, 2829 16th Street, NW. The Mexican Cultural Institute and Washington Sculptors Group present Experiencing Merida: A conversation with Washington’s Ambassadors to the City of Sculpture. Moderator: Twylene Moyer, Managing Editor, Sculpture Magazine. Panelists: sculptors Robert Cole, Jason Hughes, Craig Kraft, Dayla Luttwak, Wendy Ross, and Foon Sham. In 2005 the extraordinary project Merica: Ciudad de la Escultura (Merida: Sculpture City) is dedicated to the United States. Six artists from the Washington Sculptors Group traveled to Merida to install their works as part of that city’s open-air sculpture exhibition. A permanent part of the urban fabric, this changing roster of large-scale works (in a wide variety of materials and styles) has become a defining characteristic of local life. Participating artists will discuss their experience of Merida-from cultural inter exchange to the intersection of contemporary art and the ancient Mexican past, to the philosophy of public art programs. RSVP 728-1675. Free entrance.

Friday, September 30, at 7:00 p.m., Cultural Institute of Mexico, 2829 16th Street, NW. The Cultural Institute of Mexico will host the opening event of the second folk and traditional dance festival in DC, organized by the DC Commission on the Arts and the Humanities. Local dancers will represent Mexico and the Spanish speaking regions, celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. RSVP 728-1675. Free entrance.


National Building Museum Events, October 8, November 7
Brie Hensold,

Saturday, October 8, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Construction Watch Tour: Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. The 20,000-square-foot headquarters of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation in Landsdowne, Virginia, is conceived as a large house and contains offices and meeting rooms. A distinctive curved form of the office wing and extensive use of natural materials throughout the building respond to the site’s secluded, wooded surroundings. The foundation provides financial support to high school, college, and graduate students. Sean Wayne, AIA, senior associate with Hickok Warner Cole Architects, will lead a tour of this project, scheduled for completion this fall. Open only to Museum members, $18. Space is limited. Prepaid registration required. To register, call the Museum at 272-2448 or visit

Correction: this event was originally scheduled, and was listed in the last issue of themail, for September 26. It has been rescheduled to Monday, November 7, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Lecture: Sim Van der Ryn on Sustainable Design. Using his own projects and teaching experiences as examples, renowned pioneer in sustainable architecture Sim Van der Ryn will discuss the evolution of his thinking and the emergence of a new process of collaborative design that honors a building’s users and connects them to the earth. Mr. Van der Ryn introduced the nation’s first energy-efficient government building project more than 30 years ago. He will explain how architecture has created physical and mental barriers that separate us from the environment and will propose how we can recover the soul of architecture and reconnect with our natural surroundings. After his lecture, he will sign copies of his book Design for Life: The Architecture of Sim Van der Ryn (Gibbs Smith). $10 Members and students, $15 nonmembers. Registration required. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.



Classes at the Guy Mason Recreation Center Are Still Open
Toni Ritzenberg,

Even though most of the fall 2005 classes at the Guy Mason Recreation Center (3600 Calvert Street, NW) started on the 27th of September, registration after this date would be accepted and welcome. Since the Farmers Almanac says that there will be "much" snow this winter, why not use the opportunity to enroll in Ski and Snowboard Conditioning and also take a Yoga class on Tuesday evenings to prepare your mind, along with your body. And, for those who have been wanting to perfect your English, there are openings in ESOL (English as a Second Language or Other Language). And for fun there is ballroom dancing, with or without a partner.

For further information and/or to register in person, visit the Guy Mason Recreation Center, Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-10 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., or call Robert Haldeman or Caryl King at 383-2180. To register online, visit, click on Activities Program Registration, and follow instructions.


Ross Elementary
Dawn Dickerson,

[Submitted on behalf of Maureen Diner,] The children and families of Ross Elementary School join together to welcome families displaced by the Katrina Hurricane disaster to share our school and become part of our community. Ross Elementary is a small-sized, nurturing school in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC. Ross Elementary is a high-achieving school, exceeding all No Child Left Behind requirements and designated as a NCLB receiving school in the District. The school supports a very diverse student population and has ESL teaching support in place in all classrooms. In addition, the school has an excellent reading program, run by reading specialist Mark Lewis. Over the past two school years, Lewis’ program has ensured that 100% of the school’s students are literate by the time they complete first grade.

The school is supported by an active and highly committed group of community and parent volunteers, who ensure that the school’s library is well supplied and supported, who have recently completed an all-volunteer and grant-supported project to create a state-of-the-art new playground and playing field on the site, and who are currently pursuing more enrichment opportunities for the school’s children.

The school, which provides instruction for Pre-K through sixth grade students, can welcome students for immediate enrollment to all grade levels except Kindergarten, which is at capacity. Please contact the school’s special enrollment coordinators Maureen Diner (904-5004) or Debby Hanrahan (462-2054) to arrange a school visit and to get more information about enrollment.


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