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Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Reform, PDC-style

A week after the Willamette Week outed the Portland Development Commission's expensive "management coach" as a deadbeat, The Oregonian ran essentially the same story on its front page this morning, as if it were news. Although the piece was of questionable weight, given the staleness of it, there was a line toward the end that I think summed up the PDC's reality-detach perfectly.

Here's a typical PDC setup. They hire a deputy director, Wyman Winston (left), for around $130,000 a year. But the guy has some "areas in need of improvement," and so they hire another in-house staffer, an "organizational development manager," at who knows what salary, to "help employees work together more efficiently." Then she, the "organizational development manager," runs out and finds them an outside consultant to "coach" the no. 2 guy, at another $132,000 or so for the contract.

So now it turns out that the consultant, Anthony Harris (right), has a trail of unpaid personal bills, including some serious delinquent taxes at federal, state, and county levels. Big embarrassment for the agency. So what's its reaction? Swear off "management coaches"? Vow to hire better people, so that it isn't necessary to pay two additional people to get the job done? Take a look into streamlining the bureaucracy?

Of course not. Here -- here's the reform that the negative publicity is bringing about:

After receiving questions from The Oregonian [*cough*], [Tracy] Smith [the "organizational development manager"] said she will propose tighter controls on coaching work. She will recommend all future coaching contracts go through the documented process she created.


Mayor Potter, please, please, please. Enough of this. If this is the best we can do, then it really is time to disband the PDC.

UPDATE, 6/12, 11:20 p.m.: The Tracy Smith part of the story gets more interesting. Read more here.

Comments (38)

Coaching and Consulting. The two C's to success at PDC.

This is really, really funny in a sad, disturbing kind of way...

The PDC is indicative of most government agencies, albeit probably the most wasteful. Speak to someone who's worked in both the public and private sectors some time -- most will tell you the same thing.

And asking Tom Potter to try and hold government accountable is like asking Brittany Spears to quit wearing lipstick -- it's just not in their best interest.

Is every black executive in Portland working at PDC? Is that an intentional effort to shield against criticism? Or are there racist undertones to attacks on the PDC? Something is not right, here. I can imagine a nefarious plan to put underqualified black executives in the PDC so they mess up and lead to the collapse of PDC.

"And asking Tom Potter to try and hold government accountable is like asking Brittany Spears to quit wearing lipstick -- it's just not in their best interest."

There's just no real way to argue against that...

Accountability is the bane of all who are trying to accomplish "great things" in bureaucracy. Its impossible to fathom a reality where government officials are actually held accountable for their actions. Can you imagine?

Itd be chaos! Everything would shut down! Civilizations would collapse! Apes would rule the Earth! Jennifer Lopez would star in yet ANOTHER movie! I mean, were talking Apocalypse here!

So be glad the government works beyond the realm of reality and the nasty A word has been stricken from their policy manuals. The world is a safer place for it...

"...turns out that the consultant...has a trail of unpaid personal bills..."

So the PDC has a success story to tell after all! The coach with money problems got a cash injection to help with his money problems. I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or compare the amount to the contract the PPS awarded to the Super's boyfriend.

At least this snafu is costing less than the OHSU tram, which is what now counts as progress in Portland.

Obviously the "organizational development manager" Tracy Smith has got to go and the position as well.

Moreover, anyone in upper management who needs either a $200/hr "coach" or an "organizational development manager" is not qualified for the job.

I don't want to just take pot shots at the PDC.

I'll offer my services to the PDC.

For a paltry $75/hr I will go through every office at the PDC and take a look at the work product of each staffer.

First off, any employees or consultants, such as the "coach" who can't show any work product will be immediately removed and that position will not be filled.

Second, any staffer who can't easily demonstrate they are producing something worth their pay will also be terminated.

After a couple weeks of this purging process and there are only, say, 50 of the PDC 200 employees left the agency will be closed down and the 50 remaining jobs will be shifted to the city planning department. Temporarily if you know what I mean.

The PDC board will be given a thanks but no thanks good-bye and the PDC building and most other properties will be listed for sale on the open market with strict restrictions on any "deals" for PDC friends.

As an example, the PDC owned Holman Building (current plans call for a $3 million PDC renovation) can be sold for a net gain of 1.4 million and a private renovation can be done just as the Eastbank Commerce Center was without any public dollars. Many other PDC properties can follow suit.

Next stop the Portland planning department.

Half of the 100 Portland planners will be terminated immediately along with half of the remaining former PDC employees.

When the property sales and downsizing results is enormous savings and efficiencies and no calamity follows it will be time to visit Metro.

Then OHSU, then Tri-Met, then Saif, then the Lottery, then the OLCC...

hey Jack - I'm an LC alum and I can think of a few profs (yourself excluded) who could use some "coaching." I think I'm the right guy for the job. Should I pitch this to the dean?

... then ODOT, then LCDC, then ODFW, then Multnomah County, then Portland School District, then ...

Hey Mr. Schopp,

some interesting ideas, but hands off the Holman Building. After years of negotiations we finally have a light watercraft center in the bottom portion of hte building housing four different rowing clubs, a dragon boat club, the Willamette Riverkeepers, and Alder Creek Kayak retail all paying rent to the PDC and providing access to the river and river-oriented educational classes.

From what I understand, an architectural firm is buying the rest of the building outright from PDC.

PDC owns the Holman Building and it pays NO property taxes. Here's the long link to see the value and taxes.

It is fully tax exempt as of 2003. I understand the PDC and ODOT now own the building and it is being rented or leased to the businesses now located there.

That rent, if below market rates, is therefore subsidized if below maket rates. Why?
Tell me do yo know the rent amounts?
What was negotiated?
Why is the PDC owning (paying no property taxes) and leasing out a building?
I fail to see why the rowing clubs or W. Riverkeepers should be getting any subsidizing.
Perhaps the PDC is holding this building to accomodate those preferrable tenants???
I wonder if Bill Sizemore or Liars Larson could get such help?

The PDC bought the building as part of a larger aquisition at the south end of the Esplanade. Price $1.3 million

PDC could NET 1.5 million selling the building as is.

Instead the PDC is going to spend $3.1 millon towards renovation.

Why? There is no reason as demonstrated by the successful private purchase and private renovation of the Eastbank Commerce Center next door. Now nearly fully leased and generating revenue.
Do you have a problem with the same scenario
working for the Holman Building.
Why? It's prime real estate ready for the free market.
If we are going to clean up the mess at PDC et al, we can't be making exceptions and continue picking winners and losers every time someone wants special treatment.

Jack ""Then OHSU, then Tri-Met, then Saif, then the Lottery, then the OLCC...""

mac ""then ODOT, then LCDC, then ODFW, then Multnomah County, then Portland School District, then """

These would all certainly be in line but I am not sure about the order. The Port of Portland may have to follow Metro.

I may need a "coach".

The entire list may also take 12 to 18 months to get through.

But the entire cost would be far less than OHSU head Peter Kohler's 700k salary and the savings would be in the billions, permanently.

Every agency doesn't need an entire staff of "PR" people. ODOT doesn't need 1200 engineers. Portland doesn't need 100 planners.
Metro doesn't need planners to do the same thing Portland does.
The Port doesn't need to maintain an entire environmental bureaucracy within it's Port management.

and on and on and on.

If it weren't for the many lazy and gutless yet powerful downtown business individuals hiding behind various organizations much of this work would be already be done.
There are many powerful people downtown who have been sitting watching all the crap boil out without taking a single step to act on what they discuss over martinis and stock trades. I've discussed things with some of them myself. It's so obvious and laughable to most of them what is going on, but fear of being maligned, alienated, financially harmed or simple embarrassment prevents them from using their positions and power.
Fine, respectable people but it's sickening how so many influential people do absolutely nothing to correct anything.

Steve S. is right on target with his ideas.

Governmental consulting defined:

"If you're not part of the solution, there's plenty of good money to be made by prolonging the problem".

Great! Let's get rid of all government positions! Throw all the crooks, leaches and scoundrels out. They're all incompetents and money-grubbers, everyone knows that! Who needs 'em? Who needs any of these flakey agenices anyway? Shut 'em down. No more taxes, no more trouble. Right on!*

*(yeah, right. as in "right" wing.)

A few members of the PDC visited the Buckman Community Association a few months ago to talk about the Holman building.

Dig this: The building will be sold for only $200,000. I asked why the building was being sold at such a huge loss and didn't get a straight answer. Something along the lines of "it's all part of the cost of improving the area." More corporate welfare. Is there just no end to the lack of integrity in the PDC?


I"m sorry but you must have misunderstood.

I was recommending the purging of unneeded, unwanted and unjustified employees and tasks so that we can better afford and improve the things which are needed, wanted and justified.

I'm not sure what your message is but it needs work.


Buried on page 10 in a recent Portland Business Journal was a story on the Holman Building.
It reported that the
"PDC bought the building as part of a larger acquisition at the South end of the Esplanade. Price $1.3 million,,,, the PDC could NET 1.5 million selling the building as is.,,,Instead the PDC is going to spend $3.1 million towards renovation in yet another publi/private partnership development.
Fred Wearn of PDC says "the cost will be offset in the long run by job gains and business taxes"

That is pure foolishness.

The story also reported that the primary reason the PDC was keeping control and investing more was to make sure the building became multi-use suggesting that for some reason that is the only way it would happen.

You see folks the PDC is simply playing with tax dollars as if it is play money.
They enjoy speculating with other peoples money while risking nothing of their own. Zero consequences.
The Holcom Building is prime property and can be bought and renovated just like the Eastbank Commerce Center was right next door.
Brad Malsin (Beam Development) spent $7.4 million buying and renovating that building and it is now nearly fully occupied.

The PDC and Urban Renewal must be reigned in and limited to genuine blight and legitimate public investment.

No wing about it.

The Holcom Building is prime property and can be bought and renovated just like the Eastbank Commerce Center was right next door.

Question (and a serious one, I'm not being flippant): If done this way, what would have been the chances it would have included a public boat house?

I think you are missing the BIGGER point with the Holman building and the PDC.

Public boat house?

From what hilsy said it's
"four different rowing clubs, a dragon boat club, the Willamette Riverkeepers, and Alder Creek Kayak retail all paying rent.

Should the PDC be a charity for these renters?

Is it the job of Urban renewal, PDC and millions of tax dollars to provide what you call a public boat house?
That's a perfect example of the out of control nonsense which stacks up and siphons off general fund revenue from every basic service.
And it does so with PDC "coached" snow job central telling everyone it doesn't.

Why is Urban Renewal spending of property taxes now a free-for-all for everything nifty?

It's treated as free mystery money but it's fools gold. What's really happening is the rampant spending of tommorrow's property tax revenue before it gets to where it would otherwise be going.
Since it is taken before it gets to basic services budgets city officials claim it is not coming from them.

So Ok the boat house et al is nice.
What the heck is the point?
So are schools, police, fire, libraries, swimming pools and parks.

The BIGGER point is the willy nilly careless spending the PDC engages in without any accountability.

You have to keep in mind the broader system of basic services which does not have enough revenue and WHY.
It's OK to get sidetracked talking about the swell boathouse but come on. The Riverkeepers, rowing clubs and Kayak retail can go raise money, find facilities and set up shop like everyone else.

I just chuckle at you free-marketeers soometime. Yeah just go and raise the money like everyone else. If these kinds of organizations that offer public access to the river (they may be clubs, but the public can join them) were not given any kind of help, there would be no access to the river.

Oh, yeah. Let the free market make that determination. Hmm. Would there be any parks? Yeah, only if some private land owner thought it would be worth the money.

I'm sorry Mr. Schopp. But on this one, I think we will have to just agree to disagree. Not every subsidy in the world is wasteful give-away. But I doubt you will be able to leave it at that. Rant on.....

Sure I'll rant on.

The Willamette Riverkeepers were AWOL during the entire South Waterfront process. Any wonder why when the PDC is providing them a home?

You know about the South Waterfront?
$288 million and climbing giveaway to wealthy developers while sacrificing every conceivable public interest including river access, environmental interests and services covering many basic needs.

What kind of river access could that REAL public money buy?

1000 Friends or Oregon were also silent in SoWa.
Any wonder with Robert Liberty being "taken care of"?

If you want to narrowly yammer about the Holcom building subsidy being the only way to provide river access fine.
But you may be hopelessly out of touch with the enormous public opportunities lost, for decades, in the schemes to make you think so.

Now we have John D. Carter becoming the CEO of Schnitzer.
You folks all know who Carter is?


He's of the Goldschmidt Imeson and Carter consulting firm.

Carter served until 2002 as executive vice president and director of Bechtel Group.
How many of you knew that?

You all know who Bechtel Group is?
They were handed the Airport MAX no bid contract with help from the Port commission including none other than Tom Imeson and other Goldschmidt pals and help from the TriMet board where more Goldschmidt pal reside.

It's likely Bechtel pocketed tens of millions in windfall profits from that scheme.

With more Goldschmidt pals, including Imeson, on the OHSU board the public's goose was cooked from day one in South Waterfront.

Today the fools at the Oregonian editorial page talk about "Another PDC embarrassment" and totally misrepresent the biggest embarrassments.

Already calling South Waterfront a "success" they are hopelessly out of their minds. There is not a single component of South Waterfront which has been thoroughly thought out, legitimized and validated to be what it is claimed to be.
The editorial board, with their loony and reckless endorsement of it all shows us they have no ability or desire to detect BS.
Today's editorial refers to the PDC as having a reputation "shrewd judgment, quick entrepreneurial reflexes and quiet professionalism".
It's funny how the editorial board can acknowledge the recent embarrassments "are simply dumb. They make the agency look silly and wasteful."
The while they are backwards with the bigger PDC scandals, South Waterfront, the lesser embarrassments are bad because they feed "into the hands of its critics" and PDC is "such an easy target".

The O Board, in their near retardation, considers the "Convention Center hotel project and on the refurbishing of the Meier & Frank building as interegal to the future of Portland"

But they are far worse than the "dreadful decisions and embarrassingly wasteful expenditures" the O calls a couple hundred thousand wasted dollars.

The enormous "dreadful decisions and embarrassingly wasteful expenditures" (such as the Tram, South Waterfront and money losing convention center hotel) and a newspaper so full of BS are the real "threats to the city's future".

Oh yeah, it's all good at the Holman Building.

You want to know who will be buying or moving into the Holman Building with a cut rate deal?
Another "paid off" player.
Group Mackenzie, architect/engineering firm who does lot of business with the PDC and who's owner Eric "Rick" Saito is none other than the chairman of the PDC's North Macadam Urban Renewal Advisory Committee.

Saito, a nice guy, but Group Mackenzie/Saito, also owns property in South Waterfront now benefiting from the zone change and Urban Renewal giveaways his "advisory committee" helped usher along.
Other South Waterfront interests, benefiting from the decisions were also on the committee. In fact nearly the entire committee was equally conflicted.

A fine example of public involvement in policy making.

The whole process was fixed from day one.

Now the PDC owns this Holman building, (and pays no property taxes) and Mackenzie gets a sweetheart deal on it.

I don't see Mr. Schopp saying that all government is bad or that all subsidies are wrong;rather, imo, he is making the case for government transparency and subsidies that are truly in the public interest rather than in the interests of a clique of Good Olds. One of the problems I see with Portland-style debate is that is is too us v. them, not nuanced enough. The discussion seems to be framed "government: love it or hate it". Shouldn't we be asking instead what government should be and how to get there from here?

So are schools, police, fire, libraries, swimming pools and parks.

It's really difficult for me to read criticisms from people who keep saying things like this, as if PDC's money could just be moved over to schools, police, fire, libraries, and swimming pools.

Now, granted, if the Central Eastside URA had not been designated an Option 1 zone, and instead had been designated an Option 3, then a percentage of the taxes above the capped value would continue to flow to the various taxing jurisdictions, rather than all of it being restricted to the district's urban renewal functions.

I don't offhand, know why Central Eastside URA was designated Option 1.

b!x why do you avoid the obvious with
""""as if PDC's money could just be moved over to schools, police, fire, libraries, and swimming pools.""""???

Most of the money should not be going to the PDC in the first place.

The fallacy of our Urban Renewal system is one YOU continue to help convey.

UR diverts money destined for basic services and puts into the coffers of an agency with no accountability or even so much as having any genuine obligation to clarify what they are doing.

Every year ALL of the property, in any UR district, has their assessed value increased by at least 3%. (Additional and greater increases are produced from private construction and private renovation having nothing to do with the PDC or UR) The resulting increase in tax revenue is absolutely measurable and heading towards basic services unless or until it is diverted by Urban Renewal.
So YES, schools police schools, police, fire, libraries, and swimming pools
could and should be getting the money PDC devours.

Ironically it is otherwise involved and concerned people such as yourself
who stand in the way of correcting this out of control fiscal spiral.
You could be helping to lay on the pressure to stop the maleficence but you
are helping to defend and maintain it at every opportunity.
Unfortunately there are the biggest wastes on the table right now and you are doing nothing but enabling them.

South Waterfront for example is in an UR District encompassing 409 acres of mostly already developed property. The automatic annual property tax assessment increases of at least 3% would mean a steady increase in revenue for basic services if it were not diverted with Urban Renewal.

Instead we continually have city officials, (and the press), telling the public that Urban Renewal does NOT use general fund money.
That's pure dishonesty because UR siphons it away just before it gets to the general fund.
All of the UR districts covering many more hundreds of city acres are doing the same thing.
And all the money which should be going to basis services is about to be channeled, in monumental amounts, into unbelievably bad investments such as the Tram, South Waterfront and a Convention Center Headquarters Hotel.
Honestly is you have failed to grasp the fiscal maleficence underway I wonder what it is you are being impressed or influenced by.


Honestly "if" you have failed

There are lots of good comments on this thread about the "insiders' world" of local government in the Portland area. So why are these comments being posted here, instead of motivating public records requests and actual reforms?

Because you can't get most of the media (esp. the Boregonian to comment on this stuff. It's all part of the good ole boy network.

anonymous - Like Jack points out: the PDX is beholden to no one.

Lily and Scott-in-Japan...

You are exactly right about the good old boy network. BUT ... Take it from someone on the inside--you're underestimating the power of a public records request. A citizen can submit one. Most government agencies have a form to fill out. "The media" doesn't need to be involved. If there's anything interesting to learn (e.g., contract terms in employment contracts, patterns in the award of contracts), blogs can get the word out...

658 hours, or over 16 forty hour weeks of "coaching"?

I have to believe that the Portland Development Commissioners and the City Club are looking into this scandal, as well as public records requests being made by a few journalists.

Those requests would of course include a copy of the Harris contract and all documents relating to the work Harris performed over the nine month period including all PDC/Harris coaching and Harris/PDC research on "how to make Portland a world-class city".

Many people fully grasp this particular maleficence at the PDC, as this outline clearly states, making it pertinent for those responsible to be held accountable with timely and proportionate consequences.

The central charge is that PDC executive director Don Mazziotti, deputy executive director of the Portland Development Commission Wyman Winston and Tracy M. Smith, the agency's organizational development manager, were exceedingly negligent in the hiring of Anthony Harris as a "coach".

More egregious is that Mazziottti, Winston and Smith neglected to track (formally or informally) the work, or non-work, by Harris while he racked up and billed the PDC for over 600 hours at his highly questionable rate of $200/hr.


1)Wyman Winston, deputy executive director of the Portland Development Commission, hired a management coach.

2)Anthony R. Harris, the "coach" spent nine months, at $200 an hour, on work that included coaching Winston on how to become a leader.

3)Harris also researched how to make Portland a world-class city.

4)The commission paid Harris' firm a total of $131,641. His contract ended May 13.

5)Winston said he was pleased with Harris' work.

6)Winston says he has no documents to account for what work was done or what goals he set out to accomplish.

7)Winston and his staff talked to Harris about his work experience but never asked for his written qualifications, which would be required in all other city bureaus.

8)Agency officials acknowledge they broke their own rules by failing to issue a written outline of the work before awarding the contract to Harris' company and allowing Harris to exceed the value of his contract.

9)Tracy M. Smith, the agency's organizational development manager, helped write a leadership development plan for Winston in 2004. She said the plan identified Winston's specific leadership needs that she thought a coach could help. She declined to specify the needs, saying it was confidential.

10) Winston, who will earn $132,914 this year, said he sought a management coach to learn how to handle the job pressure better.
11)Smith, who was hired in 2003 to help employees work together more efficiently, said she created a formal process for the agency to follow when hiring a coach. The list includes meeting dates, goals and benefits for the development commission. The process was not used.

12)Smith recommended Harris.

13)The commission, which is semi-independent from the rest of the city, doesn't require the written qualifications for contractors that other bureaus do.

Harris racked up over 600 hours coaching Winston and/or had some other charges not clarified.

If the bulk of charges are indeed hours of coaching a logical question would be, "How did Winston fit 600 hours [16 forty hour weeks] into his PDC work days and weeks over the nine month period Harris coached?"
Didn't Winston have a job to do for the $130k (plus) salary PDC pays him?
Perhaps a case can be made that Winston should reimburse the PDC for some of the Harris payments.

In the billing, or "bilking" cycles in which the PDC dispersed payments to Harris who OK'd the invoices for payment?
What was on the invoices? What charges were included beyond the hourly rate?

Did Harris get a free parking stall, vehicle compensation, a PDC credit card, misc. expense reimbursement? Restaurant, Hotel, Health Club
Exactly how lax is the oversight of invoices and payments at the PDC?

Any public records request should obviously include copies of all invoices, who OK'd them, any PDC staff notations, copies of all checks paid to Harris and all related PDC staff records.


Why get public records requests? The DA is supposed to prosecute official misconduct cases already. Is the DA not doing his job? I know the DA has tripped over himself already, as if he has legs made of wet noodles, by not keeping the school district in line . . . confining any offer to that which rightfully belongs in the budget. (There is a 50 million dollar pot of illegal PPS spending this year and 100 million next year, of supposedly legally compellable demands for expenditures that exceeded the budget. This excessive spending, this unlawful spending, compounds as yet unmeasured increases in pension obligations that will be demanded by PERB at a future date when they get around to performing an actuarial report.)

The problem is not the PDC, in isolation, but is a systemic problem that pervades this city and nearly every other city and governmental entity across the state. The Oregon State Bar sits right there atop the list of power bases to authorize its' officers of the court to give license to the blanket wholesale theft of public resources.

Steve, can I invite you the think slightly bigger? I think the City of Portland should have an elected City Attorney to give the position freedom from the Oregon State Bar and the backing of the public. I have an idle, cosmetic rant in the form of an initiative that would put that question before the public in May 2006. I plan on making a few word changes and resubmit for the November 2006 election, where the election would coincide with the running of candidates to fill the position. This might even suit the interests of the host of this site. It surely could be no worse than we have right now.

But, of course, I am flat broke so I would need a rich sponsor so that I could go gather signatures. Think bigger, think systemic fix. Think about the ability of City Attorney being able to reach back in time FIVE years for ORICO actions. Think December 2006, and then five years before that date, to actions from December 2001 forward. Think positive waves, as did the Donald Southerland character in Kelly's Heroes.

Ron asked, "Steve, can I invite you the think slightly bigger?"
I would ask the same of you but put in this way.
Who is it you think would be candidates and actually win such a position?
Is it not abundantly clear that the status quo cabal stacks every government entity in this town, elected or otherwise? Every committee, every commission, every board and every council.

I would suggest any city attourney would simply end up being another cronnie cabal member rubber stamping all things current.

Just as we have a South Waterfront urban renewal advisory council chair, advising on and ushering through decisions that benefit himself (because he owns SoWa property), all other area activies are hopelessly riddled with similar conflicts of interest, misinformation and back room schemes called partnerships.

I AM thinking bigger in hopes the FBI is at least nosing around these parts before the current mammoth new agenda items become irreversable long term committments.

There are simply too many perpetual snow jobs around here for any hope of an in State fix.

The feds have a token quota of perhaps twenty to thirty cases nationwide reserved for cases of local government official misconduct.

Don't hold our breath thinking that they might ignore the lost bonding opportunity that might result from cleaning Portland's house of corruption. They are more likely to cheer it on, and inform local folks, in advance, of conduct that might be illegal but that they will nevertheless not prosecute.

Don't expect the OSB to suddenly wake up with a conscience tomorrow either. Not unless they are forced too. The OSB is looking for even more opportunities to let government folks wiggle around with the certainty that a lawyer can offer them immunity for knowingly unlawful conduct, with the stroke of a pen, in secret.

Jack must surely have endured a few polite requests to ban my whinings from his site. A quick look at how the elected City Attorney from San Diego is using his power and autonomy could give a clue to what is at least possible, though clearly not certain. Would Jack have the courage to take on the entire OSB? I would, in a flash, cause I have nothing left to lose; but I am not smart enough and I tend to piss people off in my first or second sentence; sometimes maybe the third.

I need some of that work, too. How can we apply?

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