Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

GOP Senate Primary Today — “Three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s Virginia primary are hoping to win a chance to defeat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner in November’s general election. Alissa Baldwin, Daniel Gade and Thomas Speciale will be on the Republican primary ballot.” [The Center Square]

Pike Housing Proposal Delayed Amid Outcry — “Faced with criticism on multiple fronts, Arlington County Board members on June 16 essentially threw a staff proposal under the bus, delaying for three months consideration of a controversial plan on how to prioritize affordable housing in the Columbia Pike corridor… It would have increased the maximum threshold, from the current 60 percent of area median income to up to as much as 100 percent, for individuals to qualify for assistance in buying properties.” [InsideNova]

River Rescues Near Chain Bridge Saturday — “D.C. firefighters and police officers on Saturday rescued eight adults and four children who became trapped on rocks in the Potomac River and were cut off from shore by rapidly rising waters in a sudden rainstorm.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Arlington Home Show Cancelled — The pandemic has led to the cancellation of the annual Arlington Home Show and Garden Expo, which had earlier been rescheduled for Saturday, June 27. [Arlington County]

ACPD Investigating Brandishing Incident — “On June 21, police were dispatched to the report of a brandishing. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was driving in the area of 31st Street S. and S. Abingdon Street when he was allegedly cut off by the suspect. The suspect then waved the victim in front of him and began following him. When the victim parked, the suspect pulled alongside his vehicle and a verbal dispute ensued, during which the suspect brandished a firearm.” [Arlington County]

Traffic Getting Back to Normal — “Car and truck volume trends in Virginia are moving back toward normal after plummeting during the COVID-19 shutdown, according to numbers released Friday by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Pandemic traffic on state-maintained interstates and primary roads hit a low on April 12, a Sunday… The numbers have gradually rebounded since, climbing back to around 20 percent below normal by the end of May.” [Virginia Mercury]

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Morning Notes

Hope for Arlington Summer Camps — ” As summer is approaching, we know many families are anxiously awaiting information on Summer Camp 2020. While we hope to operate summer camp this year, the ultimate decision will be based on our ability to operate safely within national and state guidelines.” [Dept. of Parks and Recreation]

County Board Primary Cancelled — “The Democratic Primary for County Board, originally scheduled for June 9, 2020 and subsequently delayed until June 23, 2020, will not be held… Accordingly, Libby T. Garvey is the Democratic nominee for County Board in the General Election to be held on November 3, 2020.” [Arlington County]

Call for More Coronavirus Transparency in Va. — “Several Virginia legislators are calling for the release of information regarding specific long-term care facilities, saying the public has a right to know how many residents and staff have tested positive or died at each location… ‘In a situation like this, transparency is very important,’ said Del. Patrick Hope, D-47th District, of Arlington.” [NBC 4]

GGW, Blue Virginia Endorse Takis — “This week, a select group of Arlington Democratic party members will choose a nominee for the county board seat held by Erik Gutshall, who tragically died of brain cancer in April… We recommend eligible party insiders select Takis Karantonis as their first choice and then Nicole Merlene or Chanda Choun as second and/or third choices in the ranked-choice ballot.” [Greater Greater Washington, Blue Virginia]

Parade for McKinley Teacher — “Arlington County students and their parents held a drive-by parade to honor their third-grade teacher at McKinley Elementary School. Almost a dozen cars drove by the home of Amanda Herr, honking their horns and holding signs” [Patch]

Dutch Foundry Working on New Carillon Bells — “It took more than a week for the big bronze bell to cool. Over that time, a glowing crucible full of molten alloy was transformed into a 7,595-pound behemoth nearly six feet in diameter that next year will sing out across Arlington. The big Netherlands Carillon is getting bigger.” [Washington Post]

Bayou Bakery Has Provided Thousands of Free Meals — “Since the beginning of March, Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington has been feeding Arlington County kids and their families for free. Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery enlisted Real Food for Kids to partner with him to serve free, plant-based meals 5 days a week.” [WJLA]

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There will likely be at least one independent candidate in the upcoming Arlington County Board special election.

While Arlington Democrats work to select a nominee internally, Susan Cunningham — a civically-involved mother of two — has announced her intention to run as an independent to fill the seat of the late Erik Gutshall.

“I believe good local government is non-partisan,” she said in her announcement Tuesday morning. “We are all Arlingtonians; I want to work for Arlington’s common good, regardless of party.”

Cunningham outlined a wonky policy agenda, anchored by “data-driven solutions that are financially sound and make Arlington a great place to live and to do business.” Among her priorities are:

  • Planning processes for north-south corridors like Glebe Road and George Mason Drive, similar to efforts underway for Lee Highway (of which she is a participant.)
  • “Needs-based budgeting and efficient delivery of core services,” including “proactive investments in sustainable infrastructure like stormwater, sewers, and emergency management.”
  • Improving transparency and access to public information, while “streamlining community engagement processes to make them more fair, less cumbersome, and more equitable.”
  • Long-term planning for public facilities and “selective upzoning to enhance business viability and housing choice and affordability.”

The filing deadline for candidates to run in the July 7 special election is this Friday at 5 p.m. Arlington County General Registrar Gretchen Reinemeyer tells ARLnow that she has “received some inquiries” from independent candidates, but so far only Cunningham has filed partial paperwork.

One candidate not likely to run: former independent County Board member John Vihstadt.

“While many of you have encouraged me to run in the July 7 special election for the remainder of Erik’s term, I’m enjoying being back into law practice full-time,” he told supporters in an email on Monday. “I’m inclined not to run and am channeling my commitment to Arlington in myriad other ways. But these are precarious times, and I hope someone will still step forward to run who (a) shows a blend of civic leadership and fresh ideas, (b) has a sober, well-informed and independent outlook on what local government can and can’t afford and (c) will question authority and speak truth to power.”

Arlington’s elections office, meanwhile, is expected to announce today that it will not be running a party nomination event ahead of the November County Board general election. The expected announcement comes after Libby Garvey’s would-be challenger, Chanda Choun, withdrew from the primary in order to seek the Democratic nod in the special election. Polls will still be open June 23 for a Republican U.S. Senate primary.

With elections in June and July, and a presidential election in November — all amid the coronavirus pandemic and some legally uncharted territory — Reinemeyer said Arlington election officials have been keeping “very busy” in 2020.

The full announcement from Cunningham is below, after the jump.

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Morning Notes

More Arlingtonians Getting Out of the House — “The District and its suburbs all saw an increase in travel and a 1 percent to 5 percent drop in people staying home by April 17. The biggest drop occurred in Arlington County, where 50 percent of residents stayed home, down from 55 percent the previous Friday.” [Washington Post, @Matt4Arlington/Twitter]

County Launches Homeless Outreach Effort — “Last week, Arlington launched a homeless outreach coalition to help identify unsheltered individuals at high risk for COVID-19 and connect them with available resources and services. The coalition is comprised of stakeholders from the Police Department, Department of Human Services, and Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN).” [Arlington County]

YHS Senior Photos on CBS Evening News — “For America’s nearly four million high school seniors, the end of this school year is not what they imagined would be. But as Chip Reid reports, one photographer is making sure some members of the class of 2020 are not forgotten.” [CBS News]

Dem Primary May Be Called Off — “Chanda Choun, who was slated to face off against incumbent Libby Garvey in the June 23 Democratic County Board primary, anticipates pulling out of that race to seek the Democratic nomination for the July 7 special election to fill the seat left open by the death of Erik Gutshall… if Choun does drop out, the Democratic primary will be nixed.” [InsideNova]

Video: School Board Candidates Forum — “The questions covered a wide range of topics – whether/how much new curriculum should be taught during the COVID-19 crisis; how best to feed families during the pandemic; distance learning access during and after the pandemic; equity initiatives; equality in the classroom; encouraging integrated classrooms; AP and IB classes; community engagement; boundaries; sex education; and the superintendent’s contract.” [Blue Virginia]

School Board Rejects Furlough Day Proposal — “Arlington School Board members on April 23 rejected a budget-cutting proposal from Superintendent Cintia Johnson that would have had every school-system employee take an unpaid ‘furlough’ day in the coming school year. Instead, the school system will use about $3 million in reserve funds to pay staff that day and fund several other initiatives that Johnson had recommended reducing or eliminating.” [InsideNova]

Amazon Donates to Va. Comp Sci Education — ” Amazon will donate $3.9 million to CodeVA through 2022 to support their long-term plan to offer computer science education and training to every high needs school across Virginia – more than 700 schools… The donation will support more than 500,000 students and more than 12,000 teachers.” [BusinessWire]

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Morning Notes

Biden Wins Virginia — “Virginia voters have overwhelmingly given former Vice President Joe Biden a sizable win over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Tuesday’s primary election. According to unofficial state election returns, Biden has been called the winner of the state with 53.3 percent of what was a record primary turnout, and will capture the largest share of its 99 delegates.” [Patch, Washington Post]

Bernie Underperforms 2016 — In the two-way race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in 2016, Sanders captured 33% of the vote in Arlington. Yesterday, he received 19% of the vote, a close third to Elizabeth Warren at 20%.

FAA Taking Comments on DCA Noise — “After changing the routes for planes taking off from Reagan National Airport, in Arlington, Virginia, the Federal Aviation Administration is holding a public comment period. The comment period closes March 30. In an email, Libby Garvey, chair of the Arlington County Board, said that even if people in the community submitted earlier complaints, the FAA will not be officially considering them.” [WTOP]

Tafti Defends Changes at Prosecutor’s Office — “There’s this false critique that these reforms are making our communities less safe. We’ve been fed a story for decades that we have to incarcerate and have zero tolerance in order to be safe. More and more we are finding that harm reduction — for drug use, mental illness treatment, restorative justice — is more effective.” [Arlington Magazine]

Police: Two Arrested in Stolen Vehicle — “At approximately 2:40 p.m. on March 1, officers [in Pentagon City] were alerted to a license plate reader hit on a vehicle previously reported stolen out of Washington D.C. Officers observed two subjects walking away from the parked vehicle and conducted surveillance in the area. The subjects were taken into custody without incident as they returned to the vehicle… A search of the vehicle located suspected narcotics.” [Arlington County]

Chamber Cheers Tourism Tax Bill — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce celebrates the General Assembly’s establishment of permanent funding for tourism promotion in Arlington. This 0.25 percent Transient Occupancy Tax surcharge on hotel rooms is used exclusively by Arlington Convention and Visitors Service… to grow travel and tourism in Arlington. Previously, the tax surcharge was enacted with a July 1, 2021 sunset” provision. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Bill Could Boost N. Va. Metro Funding — “Northern Virginia localities could soon have the ability to spend more money on Metro service increases after state lawmakers approved a bill that tinkers with the dedicated funding agreement for the transit agency… Virginia’s total financial contribution to Metro can’t increase by more than 3% each year, a condition designed to impose fiscal discipline on the agency. The bill from Del. Vivian Watts, D-Annandale would exempt any costs associated with service increases from that cap.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Morning Notes

It’s Primary Day — Today is Super Tuesday, the presidential primary day in Virginia and 13 other states across the U.S. In Arlington, polls are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Arlington public schools are closed to students today. [Arlington County, Twitter]

Beyer, Lopez Endorse Biden — Following his decisive victory in the South Carolina primary, former Vice President Joe Biden has picked up endorsements locally from Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Del. Alfonso Lopez (D). Lopez and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe were stuck in an elevator in Richmond for a half hour yesterday while heading to a Biden event. [Press Release, Twitter]

County OKs Five Scooter Companies — “The lone applicant seeking to provide electric-bicycle service in Arlington has been rejected by county officials, but five operators of electric-scooter devices did make the grade, County Manager Mark Schwartz told County Board members on Feb. 25. The five e-scooter firms – Bird, Jump, Lime, Razor and Skip – were among eight that had sought permission to operate in the county. The other three were rejected for various reasons, including having no speedometers on their devices.” [InsideNova]

Cristol Encourages Volunteering for Erik — “As you may have seen in the news, our colleague and friend, Erik, is facing a tough health challenge…  here’s what we can do for him: Go to a civic association or commission meeting. Volunteer. Embody Erik’s example & make this place better by showing up. And take a picture, and tag it #HereForErik so we can share.” [Twitter]

I-66 Tolling Deemed a Success — “About 700 more people each day total are commuting along the Interstate 66 corridor inside the Capital Beltway now compared to before tolls for solo drivers and an expanded rush-hour period began, and there are also fewer car trips each morning… Virginia state officials have said the goal of the tolls has been to move more people in the corridor, and see the higher count of commuters as a sign the system is working.” [WTOP]

Coworking Space Coming to Courthouse — “Flexible workspace provider Venture X is making its first foray into the Washington, D.C., market, after reaching a deal to take the top floor of the Navy League Building in Arlington, Virginia.” [CoStar]

Cupid the Cat Now Up for Adoption — “Two weeks after undergoing emergency surgery to remove an arrow from his head, Cupid is ready to find a new home. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington’s veterinary director cleared Cupid on Monday, March 2, for adoption.” [Patch]

ACFD Assists With McLean FireUpdated at 8:25 a.m. — Arlington County firefighters helped Fairfax County’s fire department battle a massive house fire in McLean last night. [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

HQ2’s Employee Count Keeps Growing — “Amazon.com Inc.’s Arlington headquarters seems to get larger by the week. At latest count, there are just shy of 715 employees in leased office spaces in Crystal City and about 125 pending starts.” [Washington Business Journal]

MS-13 Members Plead Guilty to Shooting — “Two MS-13 members pleaded guilty today to their respective roles in a December 2018 shooting and stabbing that occurred in Four Mile Run Park on the border of Alexandria and Arlington. According to court documents, Juan Francisco Rivera-Pineda, 25, and Jefferson Noe Amaya, 24, both Alexandria residents… confronted the victim in the park, shooting him in the throat and arm, and stabbing him in the back. The victim was transported to the hospital where he underwent surgery and survived.” [USDOJ]

Pentagon Suspect Was Out on Bail — “Matthew Richardson, who is facing charges in Arlington, Va., after police say he tried to blow up a car in a Pentagon parking lot, was released from the Washington County jail in December after The Bail Project posted his bond.” [Arkansas Democrat Gazette]

Vaping Is Prevalent in Arlington Schools — “Sneaking doses from e-cigarettes or, ‘juuling,’ has emerged as ‘the No. 1 offender at Arlington Public Schools,’ according to substance abuse counselor Jenny Sexton, speaking at the Feb. 12 exploration of the hot topic at the Arlington Committee of 100… It’s a tricky discipline challenge, said Sexton, who is “stretched thin” counseling populations at 24 elementary schools and two Arlington middle schools.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Strong Primary Absentee Voting Turnout — “Former Arlington County, VA Treasurer Frank O’Leary: ‘A new record has been set in Arlington for absentee voting in a Presidential primary. In fact, over the last seven days an amazing 1,722 absentee votes have occurred – 61 percent in person.'” [Blue Virginia, Twitter]

Beyer Campaigning for Mayor Pete — “As Pete Buttigieg struggles for momentum going into the South Carolina Democratic primary and Super Tuesday, two members of Congress from the Washington region are traveling the country to promote his presidential campaign. Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.) were early endorsers of the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Ind., who they say has the personal story and calm demeanor to unite a nation divided by Donald Trump’s presidency.” [Washington Post]

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(Updated at 9:15 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools will close next Tuesday, March 3, due to the primary elections.

The Super Tuesday primary in Virginia is expected to draw large crowds to the polls, as voters cast ballots for the Democratic presidential nomination. With 23 schools serving as polling places, and citing the “safety and security of APS students,” the school system said it has decided to cancel classes and instead make Tuesday a teacher work day.

In a brief statement on its website, APS said “we understand that it may be difficult for some families to make alternative arrangements for the care of their children given the timing of this decision.”

The full statement:

Arlington Public Schools will be closed to students on Tue, March 3, 2020 which is Virginia’s Presidential Primaries Day (Super Tuesday). Currently, 23 APS buildings serve as polling places and the decision to close is in response to the anticipated challenges as a result of the increased accessibility to our buildings by the community on Primary Election day. All APS staff will be expected to report to work on March 3.

We understand that it may be difficult for some families to make alternative arrangements for the care of their children given the timing of this decision.

As always, the safety and security of APS students is our top priority.

Prior to the announcement, some questioned why APS was seemingly planning to remain open, when neighboring jurisdictions like Alexandria and Fairfax County already canceled classes.

“Having hundreds of people in and out of the schools all day goes against the safety protocols already in place,” said one concerned parent. “I can’t even pick up my own student without showing ID and wearing a tag, yet a large number of people will have to be in and out of their polling place (our school). Also, where are the students going to be when their gyms and cafeterias are used for polls?”

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A caucus will be held in May to determine the Democratic endorsees for Arlington School Board.

The Arlington County Democratic Committee announced the caucus dates and format last week. It will be split between two separate days and at two locations, though caucus goers will only need to show up once:

  • Thursday, May 7 from 7-9 p.m. at Drew Elementary (3500 23rd Street S.)
  • Saturday, May 9 from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. at Washington-Liberty High (1301 N. Stafford Street)

The deadline to file as a candidate is March 2. This year’s School Board election will fill two empty seats. The announced candidates so far include:

  • Cristina Diaz-Torres
  • Steven Krieger
  • Sandy Munnell
  • Dave Priddy
  • Terron Sims
  • Symone Walker

School Board races in Virginia are considered nonpartisan, and candidates technically run as independents, but the Arlington Democrats endorsement caucus serves as a kind of de facto primary.

Separately, the local party announced that that it will hold a primary for the Arlington County Board race on Tuesday, June 9. (The presidential “Super Tuesday” primary in Virginia is happening March 3.)

The general election this year will be hold on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

The full press release from the Arlington County Democratic Committee is below, after the jump.

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(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) A County Board member is running for reelection but will be facing at least one Democratic challenger.

County Board Vice Chair Libby Garvey, and challenger Chanda Choun, made their announcements at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. Also announced: neither School Board member who’s up for reelection will be running again in 2020.

Garvey said she’s “enjoying my work more than ever” and wants to “continue to make Arlington a welcoming, inclusive community where everyone can thrive.”

“In my years on the County Board, I’ve continued to focus on equity and good fiscal management,” Garvey said at the meeting, commenting on how she helped lead the charge to cancel the Columbia Pike streetcar project in her first years on the Board.

County Board Chair Christian Dorsey also spoke on behalf of Garvey, praising her leadership.

“Libby has always proved to be gracious when prevailing, she doesn’t hold grudges, and she’s ready and willing to collaborate,” Dorsey said. “When I introduced equity as a priority for our county government this year, it was Libby who noted that this is a frame and a means to what should be the very purpose to public service.”

Challenging Garvey is Chanda Choun, who lost to fellow Democrat Matt de Ferranti during the 2018 County Board primary. Choun, who lives in the Buckingham neighborhood, said he would push for rent control and greater environmental protections in Arlington as Amazon moves in.

“As the County continues to grow, I am the right representative to be unifying bridge between Arlington’s past and Arlington’s future,” Choun said in his speech.

A Cambodian refugee, Choun highlighted his background as an Army veteran and cybersecurity professional. He stressed the need for bold action to solve difficult problems.

“We must fight for a Green New Deal for Arlington,” Choun said. “Climate change is here, we now face destructive flash floods and 100 degree plus days than ever. We can fight this from the ground up to protect and expand our natural environment.”

In an email to supporters, Garvey said one focus for her in a new term would be to improve Arlington’s public engagement process.

“We must continue to find new ways to include everyone in our public processes, from development, to education, to our public infrastructure,” she wrote. “Good government includes everyone from our newest and youngest residents to our older residents who have helped build our community over decades. Good government is inclusive and transparent.”

In addition to the County Board announcements, School Board member Nancy Van Doren said she would not be seeking reelection this year, following an earlier announcement from School Board member Tannia Talento that she would also not be running for another term.

“I remain committed to the goals and priorities that lead me to serve in 2014 and will work diligently through 2020 to see them through,” Van Doren said, thanking her supporters and family.

During her five years on the School Board, Van Doren says she oversaw over a dozen building and renovation projects, launched the Arlington Tiered System of Support, and invested in the expansion of the number of psychologist and social workers in Arlington Public Schools.

“Going into the next decade, the greatest challenge for Arlington Public Schools will continue to be to prioritize the instruction and well-being of our students in our classrooms while also meeting the unrelenting demand for physical space,” she said.

The 2020 primary in Arlington will be held on June 9, followed by the November 3 general election.

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(Updated at 4 p.m.) Last night, commonwealth’s attorney candidate Parisa Dehghani-Tafti defeated incumbent prosecutor Theo Stamos in a surprise victory that shocked many in the the county, and left some wondering about the future.

One person who wasn’t shocked was political strategist Ben Tribbett — also known as @notlarrysabato — of the Fairfax-based campaign consulting firm TRR Group.

“I think Parisa basically brought two very large groups together,” he told ARLnow today. “One are people newer to the county who really care about criminal justice reforms. The second was a coalition of people mad about internal Arlington politics.”

Tribbett said the first group is important because, “transient voters tend to get their info from national outlets.” He said the Washington Post’s endorsement of Tafti and the The Appeal’s critical look at Stamos’ handling of some juvenile cases could have helped sway those voters. The campaign even attracted an endorsement from multi-talented star John Legend.

A map of yesterday’s voting shows the densest support for Tafti was located along the county’s more dense and Metro-accessible areas — places where young transient voters often live. Tribbett pointed out state Senate candidate Nicole Merlene, who lost her race against incumbent Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st), performed well in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor but struggled in the leafier, single-family-home neighborhoods to the north.

Tribbett said Tafti’s other supporters, long-time residents fed up with Arlington politics, are part of the fallout from the election of John Vihstadt, who won the race for County Board in 2014 as an independent. Progressives are continuing a “decade-long war” against Democratic candidates like Stamos who supported Vihstadt over a fellow Democrat, Tribbett said, and could target County Board member Libby Garvey in the future.

But he said infighting costs the party influence at the state level, which comes at a time when Democrats across Virginia are striving to flip Richmond blue.

“What should have been a temporary rift has become a permanent rift,” Tribbett said. “It’s not good for the Democratic Party.”

Another perspective on the race comes from Paul Ferguson, current Clerk of the Circuit Court and former Arlington County Board member, who spoke to ARLnow in his personal capacity on Tuesday afternoon before polls closed.

Ferguson said Tafti has six months to settle in and choose which (if any) of Stamos’ assistant prosecutors she plans to keep on staff. (Stamos said last night she hopes her challenger will retain at least some of them.) Tafti will then be able to roll out policy changes, like her pledge to not prosecute low-level pot convictions, but Ferguson said it’s difficult to anticipate the impact because her victory is unprecedented.

“It’s reasonable to say in modern history, the last 40-50 years, the new prosecutor has always come from within the office, leaving very little policy transition,” he said. Nonetheless, he thinks it’s likely that there could be fewer misdemeanor cases cases in District Court, and perhaps fewer cases in Circuit Court, as a result of her changes.

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