Twaddle is as Twaddle Does: The Budget Follies Lower Merion Style

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carla's picture
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The EIT (earned income tax) is dead for 2011 - however, it seems Steve Lindner was the only vote against killing it? And of course, we all knew in our heart of hearts they wouldn't dare do that in an election year.

Hugh Gordon was kind enough to provide some insight in hisLM Budget Hearing -- Learned Anything New Yet? post, and truthfully, I have not ever spoken at a budget hearing because in the scope of all things Lower Merion it is the largest study in futility we have going.

But tonight I went. And I was glad I went and it was a PACKED house. And the ratio of average person to audience planted cheerleaders was more in the real people factor favor. I spoke in the middle of a cheerleader sandwich - in between 2 disciples of Reed and Taylor. They are entitled to their opinions, even if they do sound like ether bunnies Cash

Anyway, yes I did point out the obvious that it was an election year. It remains to be seen how that will play out. However, if some of them stay in office we only have ourselves to blame.

Yes I pointed out Boondoggle Fountain in Ardmore and mentioned again how we never seem to have an accounting of all things Ardmore - studies, consultants, etc. Come to think of it, there never seems to be an accounting of all the monies spent on studies and consultants does there? How come Radnor can show on a monthly basis what is being spent, where, and how and post it and we can't have this in Lower Merion?

Yes I pointed out Taj Mahal libraries (and did not say LIBARRY like even some of the commissioners mispronouce) - I love libraries, but while many other local municipalities have only ONE library, we have several. I have no problems with modest and necessary library building improvements/maintenance, but much like the two high schools, I think Lower Merion went overboard and have said it before.
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I find it egregious and insulting when commissioners in the majority and their cheer squad say things like "it's only" a $15 dollar increase per month or whatever the figure may be because I don't think small amounts just stay small amounts when they seem to multiply like gerbils annually.

I do think that the township should increase employee co-pays on insurance because face it, how many of us pay most or all of our health benefits now?

I did ask them if they had looked at increasing numbers of sheriff's sales, mortgage foreclosures and tax sales. They don't ever seem to acknowledge those in dire financial straits all over - young, old, in between. Have they not noticed even the food pantries?

I did basically say I don't know why I bothered to speak up since the majority is going to do whatever the hell they want to anyway - it's the truth.

I did say that LMT and LMSD were kissing cousins and if the channels of communications were opened to meddling with things like Unified Slate, Doe case, etc, so why NOT meddle when it comes to the taxes people pay to that infuriatingly obnoxious Lower Merion School District???

I did say I don't work to support Lower Merion Township, because damn it all, renter, homeowner, business owner whomever, we should not be working to support Lower Merion Township.

I was nauseated by the people who kept thanking the township for doing such a good job - it's not that good jobs being done doesn't happen, it's just I do not feel that the majority of that board of commissioners deserves atta boys/atta girls. Those are earned. Usually by township employees no one ever thanks.

When a cheerleader said they weren't a cheerleader, I almost had a fit of giggles.

I decided to close my remarks by thanking the citizens of Lower Merion. After all, the residents have the most thankless jobs of all as we as a collective get to pay for all the poor choices of current board majority.

Audrey Romasco was simply PHENOMENAL - especially with what was it she said at the end? Familiarity breeds contempt?

Ok well back to listen to the twaddle on channel 7....nothing Phil or Jenny or Lew or Scott has said has made a damn bit of difference thus far so it looks like the only option is to vote some of them out of office.

Apparently, we can't balance the books in Lower Merion until we once again balance the board.

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Hugh Gordon's picture
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A pox on both their houses, I say.  As Audrey pointed out, the process is broken and nobody lifted a finger to fix it. 

 

  I keep harping on 2012 and 2013 because everybody, including Cleland and Dortone, who know better, is being extraordinarily short-sighted.   The budget imbalances are going to get worse for the foreseeable future -- the state subsidy of the pension plans is going to end;  this will be a substantial new cost for the Twp to pick up.

 

The libraries used to depend on a state grant (with a little bit of help from donations from citizens) for their acquisitions --books, Cds, DVDs -- that's gone -- we really are facing newer, bigger libraries without any new materials to offer to their clients; even as budgeted, the acquisitions budget for next year is cut by almost five-eighths.  

The Township has an unfunded liability of $27 MILLION dollars for retired employees' and their families' health care to age 65 and other non-pension benefits, and at some point that liability is going to have to be funded.  Contrary to Brian Gordon's statement that the future is rosy because industrial production is up, there can be little question that unemployment is going to go way up, because state governments are in desperate condition, are going to get no help from the new Congress, and are going to be doing massive layoffs, which will have a ripple effect throughout.  It's actually nuts to dig deeply into the General Fund reserve -- it's just digging a bigger hole for the 2012 and 2013 budgets.  

It's truly disgraceful that a truly comprehensive review of how the Twp is spending its money, and what future obligations it is confronting over the next few years, wasn't conducted this year. 

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politeia's picture
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It amazes me how so many people can show up against the tax hike, yet the board majority ignores them and justifies itself by being voting in by the voting public - who can’t even name who they are. They just pull their party lever.

Those citizens who actually follow what is going on with the budget are in an easy majority opposed to what has been proposed - and they are not all Republicans. I noticed Democrats speaking up at the meeting and blogging here against the 12.7% tax hike.

This township really is run by commissioners who do not have the support of the majority of citizens who understand and are involved with the issues.

What we really have is the rule of a tyrannical minority that rides the coattails of an uneducated electorate - and I don’t mean that as a slam against Democrats. I’d say the same thing if the political parties were reversed.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves ~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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Hugh Gordon's picture
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The Township is really run by the Township Manager, without any effective oversight whatever from the Board of Commissioners.

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bobguzzardi's picture
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Thanks, Hugh, for the salient point that library acquisitions, that is, books, CDs and DVDs, have been reduced. Frankly, I am not sure why CDs and DVDs are lent at a library, which is supposed to enhance reading and not passive watching or listening. The Library has cut core service!

And we are spending $9 Million at Ludington alone to expand a bricks and mortar building at a time when information is going digital. It makes more sense to buy everyone in the Township an iPad or a Kindle rather than buy us more bricks and mortar. The insider group think appears impervious to complaints from the people who, actually, to have to pay for their decisions.

I did not know of the unfunded pension liability at Township. The recently House Bill 2497 deferred payment into the two State employees pension fund and, additionally, reduced the payments, but not the liability. Continuing to underfund an underfunded pension fund is not solving the problem just as not paying your mortgage does not solve your debt problem.

Brian Gordon has a higher regard for his intellectual and analytic abilities that observation would warrant.

And, Hugh, you have demonstrated keen insights. Could you tell us what Gil High does other than approve whatever the Majority Commissioners and Township want approved?  Perhaps, i is time to renogiate his compensation package. It is not clear what skills and insights this Soliticitor brings. It is not a competitively bid contract. In fact, as far as I know, no other lawyer has even been interviewed.

Will the Taj Mahal "Gateway" Fountain have all the Commissioners names on it. It is amazing what even a little bit of power can do to otherwise decent and intelligent people. Lord Acton may have been more right that we have thought. Even a little bit of power corrupts clear thinking.

November 2011 is about a year away. Not too soon to plan a challenging the incumbents.

 

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carla's picture
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Government
Commissioners' Majority Strikes Down Spending Cut Proposals
By Nathan Susanj

Proposal after proposal from Republican commissioners for spending cuts in the 2011 proposed budget was struck down by the majority of the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners on Wednesday, Nov. 17, in a five-hour meeting.

Government
Residents Speak: 'Keep Taxes in Check'A capacity crowd gathered for a public hearing on the 2011 budget to voice their frustrations with the proposed 12.7 percent tax increase

....Let's make "change" more then a pretty word. In order to balance the books in Lower Merion, first we have to balance the board. Excercise your right to positive improvements in Lower Merion - vote those who don't listen to a damn thing except themselves and their carefully crafted cheerleaders out of office in 2011.

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carla's picture
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Someone sent me a screen shot that I have to post because I am just giggling about it - after all I did not know if you were pre- Board leadership and a cheerleader that it was so upsetting to be identified as such? And do the mean girls think everyone is just supposed to take their crap all the time? Seriously?

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Dogwalker's picture
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Very well said, BobG:

--And we are spending $9 Million at Ludington alone to expand a bricks and mortar building at a time when information is going digital. It makes more sense to buy everyone in the Township an iPad or a Kindle rather than buy us more bricks and mortar.--

Libraries are going the way of the horse and buggy. I agree w/Carla 100% - I also don't advocate any major funding other than maintenance and necessary upgrades.

Who are these out-of-touch people (fountain boondoggle, 12.7% increase, trash trucks, Taj Mahal Ludington, Linwood Park, etc.) that need to be voted out of office? Can someone name the names, and let us know when these people are up for reelection? Do they get elected because they run unopposed? I'm new here and honestly don't know the answers.

I'm a registered Democrat and will be happy to vote for Republicans against any of these incumbents next time (whenever that is...). Very little of what is discussed on this blog seems to be about political philosophy (liberal vs conservative), but seems more about arrogance and ignorance vs common sense and knowledge. None of these are party-specific traits; they are traits of individuals with axes to grind, or who need to prove themselves. Who knows. These officials don't seem to have the common good in mind; and they seem incredibly uninformed.

Could someone list the people that have to go, and when we get the chance to vote against them? Also, is there a danger they will run unopposed? Thanks. 

 

 

 

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No, it's you who is well spoken, Dogwalker.

I think there are some who want to make this all about liberal vs conservative, Democrat vs Republican, etc., because they think they know exactly what liberals are and want to slap the label on them.  That plays right into the hands of the people running for re-election.  They really hope that forthcoming elections will be all about "us vs them," so that people will be scared into making a choice, and the winner will take all.  It's worth it to some people to stoke divisiveness and have one big showdown. Show them there's another way. Show them that liberals can be (and are) fiscally responsible.  Allow people to dig down into the issues and not just force them to choose sides.

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Elections are about choosing sides. If there were not a difference of opinion, we would not need or have elections. The Forgotten Taxpayer has to pay for the decisions of the Board and it is clear that the Democratic Majority is intent on spending in excess of current revenues. And, as you recall form the Teri Simon kerfufle, Bruce Reed will enforce party discipline. The Lower Merion Democrats will turn this next election into an election about GW Bush and heartless, greedy, selfish, out of control business people who exploit and oppress less fortunate. It will be the Ds who will demonize and not discuss the record of spending in excess of revenues and a public record of borrowing which only kicks the tax can down the road.

In my opinion, Lower Merion Democrats, in a vast majority, are psychologically incapable of voting Republican so in municipal wide election, that is, for School Board, it would be a useless misallocation of limited Lower Merion Republican resources to run a School Board slate. With a 2 to 1 vote for Big Government Joe Sestak against Limited Government Pat Toomey, a clear choice, Lower Merion voters have expressed an overwhelming choice for more spending. The same pattern held in Corbett v. Onorato, where Tom Corbett, adamantly, opposed new taxes requiring him to cut budget and local Democratic Tim Briggs who voted against the last Rendell budget because it did not spend enough and sent a letter to his constituents and to the voters proclaiming that as well as Mike Gerber who did vote for Democratic Governor Ed Rendell's budgets. All the Democrats voted against real pension reform in their votes for HB 2497.

Ward by Ward, however, there are enough independents, opposed to spending in excess of revenues, particularly, for Taj Mahal bricks and mortar libraries, economic development 'streetscape' improvements that benefit, primarily, particular landowners and businesses, like the Gateway Fountain to nowhere.

Sorry, the Democrats are the party of government and government enhanced spending and, slowly, perhaps even reluctantly, under the pressure of the Tea Party, the Republicans are becoming the party of The Forgotten Taxpayer and productive, job creating small businesses. Still, a lot of work to do, in culling the Republican herd and spending hypocrisy is no unknown among Establishment Republicans,  but he Tea Party is on the job.

Commissioner Brown is a consistent advocate for The Forgotten Taxpayer and small business person and has led the other Republicans, whose votes in the past have been squishy, to sympathy for the people who have to pay for government's coercive policies.

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Commissioners in Lower Merion are elected from wards, and serve for four years. Commissioners from even-numbered wards were elected in 2009 and will serve until 2013. Only commissioners' races in odd-numbered wards will be on the ballot in 2011 (May primary, November general election), so if you don't live in an odd-numbered ward, you won't get to vote in a commissioner's race in 2011.

If you don't know whether you live in an even or odd-numbered ward, here's a map.

Currently, the odd-numbered wards are represented by:

Ward 1 - Mark Taylor

Ward 3 - Paul McElhaney

Ward 5 - Cheryl Gelber

Ward 7 - Elizabeth Rogan

Ward 9 - George Manos

Ward 11 - Lewis Gould

Ward 13 - Bruce Reed

 

There are nine Directors of the Lower Merion School Board. They are elected at large and serve four year terms. Four Directors were elected in 2009 and will serve until 2013 (Gary Friedlander, Melissa Gilbert, Lyn Kugel, Jerry Novick). Five seats on the LMSD BOD will be up for election in 2011, and LMT (and Narberth Borough) voters will be able to vote for up to five candidates.

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bobguzzardi's picture
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Thanks, Dogwalker, for the supportive words. Positive feedback is useful as well as sympathetic criticism.

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carla's picture
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As the next budget hearing is TOMORROW

WEDNESDAY December 1, 2010 at 7 p.m. in Lower Merion, I thought I would highlight some articles I think some may want to read. Now I went last time to speak up as did many others, so I hope that many others will go tomorrow - please note the spotlight on speakers in the paper...read on....

Main Line Times > News
Speakers' comments range from support to outrage over budget
By Cheryl Allison

File under misery loves Montco company :

Main Line Times > News
Montco town facing whopping tax hike
Published: Tuesday, November 30, 2010

And I do not mean to be rude, but township personnel in this kind of economy should pay a little more of their benefits - teachers too - just like the rest of us....

Main Line Times > News
LM health-care benefits change prompts FOP to file grievance
By Cheryl Allison

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bobguzzardi's picture
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It is, unlikely, the Republicans will put up a school board slate because voter Demographics make it nearly impossible for a Republican to win municipal wide so we will have to learn with every increasing school board spending and every decreasing student learning performance.

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Bob, you really confuse me sometimes. A week or so ago you were saying that Lower Merion officials sould heed the message of the voters -- presumably the voters of other municipalities who elected spending-hawk Republicans, but voters nonetheless. Today you say that Republicans won't even try to run for school board in Lower Meroin because they don't have a chance.  Why not? Couldn't Republicans run in order to offer the voter a choice in tax & spending policy?  If the voters want a lid on school taxes why shouldn't they be allowed to vote for it?

The 2,000 names on your petition is impressive, and is more than enough voters to swinbg a school board election in Lower Merion.  Just saying, what's the harm in offering this as a campaign issue?

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carla's picture
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Rock on Jenny Brown!

KYW News
Tax Debate Continues In Lower Merion
December 1, 2010 8:30 AM

LOWER MERION, Pa. (CBS) - Residents have another chance tonight to voice their opinions on the township’s proposed budget which includes a nearly 13 percent tax increase, the highest in the township in seven years.

The first public hearing on the proposed spending plan last month drew a large crowd, most of the residents turning out to oppose the budget and the hefty tax hike. Many residents focused on the economy, telling the commissioners the township should rein in spending or cut services rather than hike taxes.

Republican commissioner Jenny Brown says her GOP colleagues on the board have tried to control spending increases:

“I have made a number of motions including a request that the township staff prepare an alternate budget with a zero percent spending increase, all of those motions which we make and have made throughout the year have failed.”

There’s also an online petition opposing the 12.7 percent tax hike that’s been signed by nearly two thousand township residents. Tonight’s public hearing begins at seven at the township building in Ardmore.

Reported by Brad Segall, KYW Newsradio

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carla's picture
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Nathan from Patch will be tweeting live from budget hearing tonight! 

 

http://ardmore.patch.com/articles/dont-have-5-hours-to-spare-follow-the-budget-hearing-on-twitter

 

http://ardmore.patch.com/articles/public-hearing-on-municipal-budget-tonight

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carla's picture
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YIKES Budget fireworks. How can Mark Taylor preach about civility when he just SCREAMED at residents? Reed too. Andy Meyers and Bob Guzzardi and Audrey Romasco were fabulous

Liz Rogan  bought up the EIT again. NICE

Nathan from Patch - just rocks it on twitter http://patch.com/A-cw58

 

 

 

 

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Taylor has by far the worst manners of anybody on the board.

Why is it necessary to canonize Doug Cleland?  He does a pretty good job in a lot of areas, knows municipal finance backwards and forwards.  He is also very thin skinned,  hates having his decisions second guessed, even though his judgment is quite often not that great, can't understand why having done something in a certain way for 27 years is not a reason to continue doing it that way going forward, and is quite impatient with people he deems less expert than himself or his staff making suggestions about how the Township is governed (including commissioners).   Since  virtually every single important decision affecting Ardmore in the last ten years has been seriously misguided, I'm less impressed.

Why is it inappropriate to treat non-union employees differently from union employees.  Why should non-union employees get a free ride?  If they don't like it, they should join the union.  I think it's inappropriate to NOT treat non-union employees differently.

 

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Hugh Gordon's picture
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Of course they should have had a full discussion of employee compensation structure, and other structural elements affecting the costs of running the Township,  about 8 or 9 months ago.  Now they say it's too late.  It's always too late because they have always had the budget discussions in November and December of each year, and God forbid they should ever do it differently.  Maybe they'll do a comprehensive review of Township finances early next year, as they should, but I'm not holding my breath. 

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Commissioner Gelber's motion that Cleland come back with what a budget would look like if the millage increase were limited to 5% instead of 12.7% passed.  Cleland says, in total shock, "Want it tomorrow?"     

 

Why hasn't he been thinking about this all year??

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Why hasn't he been thinking about this all year??

You already answered that question.

He is also very thin skinned,  hates having his decisions second guessed, even though his judgment is quite often not that great, can't understand why having done something in a certain way for 27 years is not a reason to continue doing it that way going forward, and is quite impatient with people he deems less expert than himself or his staff making suggestions about how the Township is governed (including commissioners).

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Hugh this whole thing is nuts. There is money for trails in Bala, pet projects, fountains that could be purchased at Waterloo Gardens somehow cost waaaay too much...it seems skewed as to where money they justify is spent.  I don't like the way they went after people who disagreed with Cleland and the board majority. 

The guy Dick Cuff was pretty good - Audrey and Dave were fabulous

 

 

 

They talk of civility, yet Joseph Carapico and Dave O'Connell are attacked by the podium? And that is ok??

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What was said to Dave O'Connell? I missed that. Dave is a mild guy; he lets his research speak for itself

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At 12:455 a.m., Mark Taylor, chair of the Finance Committee, suddenly realizes that they were supposed to recommend the Capital Improvement Program to the Board tonight.  So he moves for approval of the CIP as proposed by the Township Manager, calls the question, and wants it rubber stamped with no discussion.

 

When oh when will the Board learn that they have to set their own agenda??

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Hey everyone, if you appreciate Nathan Susanj's Tweets (local editor of Patch) from the budget hearing last night - as I surely did - please let him know. He's at . I think he's doing an awesome job in general, and the Tweets are a great addition to the local news tapestry.

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Government
Comments Heated at Second Public Budget HearingThe majority of residents continued to speak out against the proposed 12.7 percent tax increase.
By Nathan Susanj | Email the author | 6:34am

Thanks Nathan!

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Scathing comment received via e-mail:

“Doesn’t that Brian McGuire guy, who is quite obviously a Reed plant, work for AARP? And isn’t it a tad bit hypocritical to work by day for the American Association for Retired People, yet at the township budget meetings he lectures and pontificates that tax increases are for the good of all and he can’t understand why they aren’t embraced. How exactly is an unnecessary, outrageous raise in real estate taxes good for the people whom he advocates for by day…those on Social Security, who haven’t received an income increase in two years, who now will be paying more for Medicare, and who are scraping by trying to hang onto the homes that they’ve raised their families in. This man is the biggest tool in the box.”

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Why was Bruce Reed chuckling and smirking while the nice woman spoke who stated she had a disability and did seem to meander a little with some repetitions, but I give her a lot of credit for speaking up when she has a disability and even admitting as much.

Does Bruce Reed have no shame? Laughing while any citizen is speaking, let alone a person with a disability, once again goes beyond the pale, but then what else is new with Bruce Reed?

Last week he ignored complaints about a lost U.S. flag that flew on the battlefield in Afghanistan. What’s in store for us next week? Laughing while a quadriplegic is wheeled up to speak?

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves ~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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