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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Revenge of the worker bees

Ryan Frank of the O reports this morning that the Portland Development Commission's rank-and-file employees are about to vote on becoming unionized. The agency's top brass don't exactly sound thrilled at the prospect.

Comments (40)

taxpayers shouldn't be thrilled either. more PERS employees with outlandish salaries, retirement and health benefits is hardly what portland needs.

Why not? Real people with real salaries spread that money around in their local community in ways that golden parachuters never do. Taxpayers investing in real workers means more cash in more hands to support more small businesses right in our own neighborhoods.

THAT'S a free market.

This whole thing about "only rich people deserve to get paid well" is so shortsighted.....if it was your own kid, or wife, or brother, you'd WANT them to have a union job.

That's to ensure that an appropriate percentage of the graft trickles down to the rank and file.

I think they are already Pers employees, even without a union. From what I've heard about working at that place, they probably need union protection. Their turnover has been gawd awful.

Any workplace that needs a union to make it better isn't worth working for in the first place.

Does union protection automatically translate into a benefit for the taxpayer and community? Or will it mean a more adversarial atmosphere in an already troubled environment? Is the high turnover at PDC among the ranks of those workers likely to be a part of the union or is it more an issue at the supervisor/management level? And finally, are the "Real people" working there currently underpaid and without legal protection?

It would be interesting to hear from a few of the PDC rank and file who favor unionization as to how they think the change will improve their current situation.

Hold on a minute there Johnny....when I decided to take a job with the City, I took LESS money than I could make in the private sector but did so because of the benefits and PERS....only by the time I'm old enough to retire, it'll probably be bankrupt and I'll have to rely on my own IRA to do so!! Not to mention that the City has been cutting back the benefits every year since I came onboard. Things aren't as green on this side of the fence as you might think....

Yes, as public employees, they should be covered by PERS. However, if turnover is high, a sizeable percentage could be third tier, or later (if there is such a thing - if there's not now, there will be soon).

The adversarial relationship is there already. Having a union involved just helps equalize the adversarial relationship.

I also took a pay cut to enter the public sector, but I did so because, as an aging worker, I needed health insurance. Subsequent events have determined that to have been a wise decision.

Unions are far more than just wages. They deal with hours and working conditions, as well. From the tales I've heard, it sounds as though the imposition of a decent union could help management get its act together and improve both employee longevity and productivity.

All that said, what is the union which is involved? Are they having a representation election? Have the potential represented employees been identified and a bargaining unit defined?

...I took LESS money than I could make in the private sector but did so because of the benefits and PERS....only by the time I'm old enough to retire, it'll probably be bankrupt and I'll have to rely on my own IRA to do so!!

You have my most insincere condolences. But, seriously, you can't be serious.

Government would let the whole state go banko before it dumped PERS. Who do you think runs the show, anyway?

However chartreuse your bennies might have become since you boarded the train, they're still so much better than the private sector that your lament is laughable.

Don't forget, no one's forcing you to work for the city.

From the tales I've heard, it sounds as though the imposition of a decent union could help management get its act together and improve both employee longevity and productivity.

That's the best I've heard today - a union (a "decent" one, whatever that means) would " management get its act together..."?

I thought the "product" of the PDC was undesirable. Why would we want more of it?
All we'd get from unionization is a far more expensive dysfunctional bureaucracy that would be far more difficult to eliminate.

Of course it would further swell the ranks of city employees - which, I suspect, is the real point, isn't it?

...improve productivity...


Dave, from my experience with PDC, the issues creating the turnovers has much more to do with other issues than union representation can cure. Many of the turnovers have been hiring staff that are not qualified to do the tasks. Then the employees realize their jobs do not fit their qualifications, and they leave, or get reassigned elsewhere in Metro, City, County government.

The agency's top brass don't exactly sound thrilled at the prospect.

Unionization might offer better protection for rank-and-file whistleblowers, as the currents laws don't seem to do much in that regard. This could make things more interesting.

Although I guess it doesn't work very well over at the Police and Fire bureaus.

Sounds like they need to review their hiring practices if they keep putting the wrong people in the wrong jobs. I've heard a lot of the mid and upper level management over there is arrogant, abusive and horrible to work for.

If there is negligence in hiring practices why isn't the person in charge of HR getting sacked?

One of the many reasons workers go union is a percieved disparity in treatment between workers and managers.

Derrick Foxworth is a prime example. Any lower ranking officer that did half of what he did would have fired outright. Derrick slides with a "demotion." Clearly, he should have been fired.

I was a union president for 5 years. In most cases, you get the labor relations you deserve. Bad management makes strong unions.

Bad management usually makes the case for any union. If management were decent, then there would not be a need for a union and there would be no activity to move toward a representation election.

As for "decent", some are better than others in really representing the interests of the workers. Others are merely mechanisms to advance the power, wealth and influence of their "leadership"; which is not much different than the status-conscious management types.

Dave Lister says: "I've heard a lot of the mid and upper level management over there is arrogant, abusive and horrible to work for."

Yeah, that's what I've heard, too. I'm not really too surprised, as they are probably still working on the management model put into place by Don Mazzotti, who I know is arrogant, and I can readily imagine that he was abusive and horrible to work for, as well.

Those are the best conditions for labor organizing...when management is not readily distinguished from Benito Mussolini's style.

Dave and others; you are certainly right about "arrogant". I don't know, but I suspect the other two adjectives may be correct, having been around PDC for several years. I could easily name a few in mid-management who are arrogant. Being talked down to; being told that "we'll (PDC) answer your question(s) privately after the meeting" and never done because they are hard questions and an embarrassment; being told by PDC's attorneys and accountants that "you need to understand the whole picture, that is why we can't answer your questions"; "you don't understand how we do things" ; "that is not how WE do accounting and spread sheets"; etc.-this all gets old.

Several of the mid-management and higher have been long-time city, county, Metro employees that seem to jump around from job to job through the decades. Some without credentials, if that means anything to HR. It is a whole, perpetual job machine throughout all the governmental agencies with little accountability.

if it was your own kid, or wife, or brother, you'd WANT them to have a union job.

Nope. I would recommend they stay away from union jobs. If you cant represent and sell yourself, you dont deserve to be paid well.

I educated myself, and I fight my own battles. My wages have always gone up. Either by merit, or on to the next job. And now I have my hourly, non-union $26/hr job to show for it.

I educated myself, and I fight my own battles...

And you work a 70 hour work-week, 7 days a week, where the rule is if you don't come in Sunday, don't come in on Monday

It's easy to forget and take for granted how badly workers were treated before labor unions.

I say good luck to AFSCME organizing PDC's work force.

I believe in unions, and I particularly like the whistleblower-protection possibilities in this case.

To Lazy City Employee:

Your post came in at 10:24am. Surfing on the taxpayer's time, are we?

And you work a 70 hour work-week, 7 days a week, where the rule is if you don't come in Sunday, don't come in on Monday

Nope...40-50 hours/week. 60 hours once in a while.
See, if a company treated me like that, I would take my skills elsewhere. And I work in an engineering office, in front of computer all day. Never been forced to work any weekend either. Its about work ethic. If you have a job to be done by a deadline, you should want to do whatever it takes to get it done on time. Not bitch that its unfair you have to work more than 8 hours a day.


And you work a 70 hour work-week, 7 days a week, where the rule is if you don't come in Sunday, don't come in on Monday

Is that the party line on non-union employment? How does that blatantly hyberbolic generalization reconcile with the fact that union membership nationally has declined dramatically?

It's easy to forget and take for granted how badly workers were treated before labor unions.

It's apparently equally easy to forget or overlook how many unions have become as corrupt and, in some cases, more corrupt than the employers you and they demonize. Or does the party line help rationalize that "inconvenient fact" too?

Which leaves us with P/E unions, which have shown remarkable growth in recent decades. (I prefer to think of them AS a growth - which should be no surprise to anyone here.) Obviously, they must have bucked the trend because of the horrible track record of their cruel, uncaring, exploitative employers...

...wait, that's us!

Hmmmm, what other reason could there be?

When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.

-Ben Franklin

It's apparently equally easy to forget or overlook how many unions have become as corrupt *as*....

Frank, all my grammatical errors and misspellings are your fault. You public employees are surely the root of all evil and will bring about the end of civilization as we know it.

I hope you're happy.

...there, I feel better now.

Don't forget, no one's forcing you to work for the city.

No one's keeping you from working for the City, either. If the salaries are so high, the benefits are so good, and the working conditions so luxurious, why aren't you working for the City right now?

(Truth: Public sector total compensation (salary + benefits + retirement) is lower than equivalent private sector jobs. Everyone who does a simple job search knows that.)

As a finance person, my skills are readily transferable. I work for the government because I like working to improve my community . . . I find it more fulfilling. And I took a compensation cut to do so.

(And yes, Al, it's about 2:30 on a Thursday when I'm posting this. But I figure the 40+ hours I've put in so far this week, plus tomorrow and some likely weekend work, entitle me to a blog break. That okay with you, boss?)

LOL...Yeah, right, rr.

We should contract those jobs out so some sleazy elected official can get his deadbeat stepson an important job and exploit the handicapped, ignore the immigration laws, circumvent the labor laws, and stick it to the taxpayer while lining his pockets. The money is in the change orders; make sure the original contract is appropriately vague. It doesn't really matter what the true cost is, we'll pay for it. And sell more bonds to do it, too.

I don't know where you picked up the attitude, rr, but I've been in and out of both the private and public sectors, and my observation is that the inefficiencies are there, regardless. In the private sector, they are just farther up the status ladder and consequently usually far more expensive. I have yet to see a lower management type be laid off after fouling up corporate systems for years with a multi-million dollar "golden parachute"...yet it happens every day in the private sector.

...corporate executive suites.

Attitude?, everyone's got an attitude. Yours differs (as far as I can tell) from mine - so what?

Are you all right, man?

If the salaries are so high, the benefits are so good, and the working conditions so luxurious, why aren't you working for the City right now?

Odd, I don't recall writing anything like that.

Your autobiography of selflessness and altruism seems forced. Who are you trying to convince? And your "truth" is positively Clintonesque - it all depends on what your definition of "equivalent" is.

Methinks thou protesteth too much...

Your ghostwriting notwithstanding, MY point was that those who choose to work for government and then whine about their job security and bennies can't beef when they get called on it. Nothing more, nothing less.

It's the "public" part of public employee.

And enjoy the freedom to "figure" that it's OK to blog at work - we've come to expect that. It explains a lot.

Well, your attitude about labor unions seems to be entirely misguided and misinformed. You'd think that public employee unions had killed your dog, raped your girlfriend and burned your house down the way you carry on. The truth of the matter is that unions would not exist if there were not a need and a purpose....yes, even in the public sector. You see, there are many of us out there who are members of the public who don't pay nearly close enough attention to what those we have selected, directly, or indirectly through public hiring practices, to oversee those rank and file public employees. Consequently, upper management positions tend to be filled by political cronies of those who have their hands on the wallets that open to support political candidates. As a result, our public agencies fill up with top level managers who are incompetent cronies, who then hire their assistants on much the same basis. This means that all too often, we end up with ignorant, arrogant sphincters in positions of responsibility. That is, managers. Of course, if they are found out, they are dumped back into the private sector, where they use their connections to obtain yet another position for which they are not qualified, only this time in the private sector, where their mistakes and stupidity are hidden in the incremental cost increases of the products and/or services their new employer flogs. That such wastes of resources are limited to public employees is ludicrous...and I think you know that, but prefer to prod those here with your assinine assertions.

Godfry, you seem to be talking about the recent incident at PDC where a new manager position was filled by an incompetent. PDC allowed the hiring of a consultant to teach the new manager how to manage. As you would agree, incompetency is on both sides of the union/non union issue.

Greetings rr....I'll be sure and consult you next time I need to know what's going on in my life. You seem to know me and the reasons behind my decisions better than I do!

I ran a spreadsheet when I got hired 5 years ago since I had another job offer in the private sector at the exact same time the City offered me one. I choose the City for the benes, but once I got hired tier 1 went away and was replace by tier 2 which is what I'm on and health benes have been steadily declining over the last 5 they have everywhere. The math doesn't lie, and I don't 'figure' I can take a blog break. My break is MY time, so I WILL post on here during my morning, lunch, or afternoon break as I so choose.

Thanks for your concern.

Ok, as a PERS member and PDCer I'm going to weigh in here.

The pay at PDC is definately less than the private sector for some jobs, on par for others, and woefully underpaid for many. In addition, I agree with Lazy, Tier II is not anything to rely on for retirement - I'll be lucky to afford a can of cat food for dinner when I retire if I rely on PERS. Plus without hiring bonuses, yearly bonuses, stock options and other bennies found in the private sector (especially for highly skilled in-demand workers), PDC is not that great.

But to get back on topic about PDC. Here is an insider slant: The unionizing effort at PDC is based on the absolute frusteration of many PDC employees who have seen their agency get worse and worse over the past few years. There are many good people there who would like to see the agency more open, more accountable, and practice more equitable and fair business practices. However, without any protection or representation, and with an HR department whos number 1 job is to protect management above all costs, there is no way for employees to effectively whistle blow, complain, etc. None. Think an appraisal method is bad? Too bad, better play along or you will get fired. Just a little example.

Look, Potter and Bruce Warner have had plenty of opportunities to fix the internal problems at PDC and continue to play the denial card. They have been informed about these problems through consultants and chose to ignore them, they have been told by exiting employees, and they have been told by current employees, and they are just unable or unwilling to do anything. Many employees feel that if the Mayor or Bruce Warner won't do anything, than the only recourse other than quitting is to take matters into their own hands.

Will unionizing improve PDC? Can't say. All I know is that many people feel it can't get any worse than it is there right now, and the Union is the only group offering some kind of tangable support that employees feel will protect them from retaliation, bullying, and unethical management.

Dear Mayor Potter, do you have anything to offer?

Many of us have given many years of our working lives to PDC, believing in the work we do and confident of the contributions we make individually and collectively to Portland.

PDC staff supporting this effort do not take this decision to pursue unionization lightly, and have considered the pros and cons of this effort. To be frank, we felt like we reached the point of having no other option. And the supporters of this effort are a significant portion of our non-management workforce.

We make no apologies for wanting a fair workplace that will treat employees with dignity and respect; and wanting this does not mean employees are trying to undermine the agency in any way.

PDC's compensation has fallen behind similar positions with the City of Portland, and we have not received any adjustment for cost of living increases (based on the Consumer Price Index statistics for Portland) for 10 years.

Typically, open and frank dialogue has not been welcomed by management at PDC. Serious outstanding concerns about our work environment have been raised repeatedly, yet not addressed by management.

The concern first and foremost is a a demand...for RESPECT toward staff, particularly from TOP management. Additional issues include inconsistently implemented personnel policies including hiring, promotion, and grievance procedures which, along with fair/equitable compensation and performance reviews, have been neglected for too long.

If they treat you the way they've treated the neighborhoods, you have every right to be upset. And I'm sure the neighborhoods are rooting the union on.

Sorry, I'm still all fired up about this.

I think pdcstaffer is, not only someone I work with, but right on the money.

We aren't talking the big old fat cat union days of Hoffa and the teamsters here. We are talking about some basic checks and balances for workers and management. Right now the balance is so out of whack, and in favor of a few, and unfortunately, ill equipped individuals in upper management at PDC that it is creating not only internal havoc (such as that little old 26% turnover rate), but is absolutely filtering down to the outside community and project level.

PDC is also doing some very basic illegal things right now when it comes to their employees. Such as denying breaks to a woman with diabetes, hiring friends over others who are better skilled (There is rampant PDOT nepotism going on), hiring people without following the stated standard open recruitment process, and switching people's job descriptions suddenly without any preparation on the part of the employee. These are legal issues kids, and PDC keeps getting in trouble because they refuse to follow the rules.

When employees are denied basic training for things such as what is expected of them on a daily basis (things such as complex appraisal ethics, or some legal training concerning contracts), when staff turnover rate is so high that no one can find important documents, or a newbie asks, "hey, have we ever done any work with a guy named Homer Williams?" (I'm not kidding this really happened recently), you bet there are going to be big problems in the community and with projects.

Finally, there really is a fostered culture from leadership at PDC that has set the tone that abusive, unprofessional, and bullying behavior is ok from management. Things like threats to employees, belittling employees in front of others, saying horrible (and sometimes personal) rude things about employees in front of others, and a refusal by leadership to do anything when these issues are brought forward to HR.

If PDC has set a tone that it is ok to treat staff this crappy, how do you think they treat the community as well?

Some have been told by upper leadership that if they are unhappy they can vote with their feet. Yes, some of that 26% turnover has. However, some have also said, screw that. I'm voting with my voice and ability to organize to try to make this place better.

Honestly, I think this effort is PDC's last hope to get it together, otherwise they will end up destroying themselves front the inside out.

And it will get ugly while it happens.

RE: Oregonian editorial

Mon, 2/19/07
Just posted:


No, we never agreed to pursue prestige in exchange for a lack of respect or protection from our employer. During past years and previous leadership, we understood that there were PDC policies and procedures in place, and we simply trusted that they would be followed. We did not expect PDC to violate its own personnel policies.

We never anticipated that hiring and contracting decisions would be made contradicting documented agency policies, and that increasingly positions would be filled outside of policy, with appointments occurring at an increasing rate during the past several years.

We did not expect to endure abusive management in recent years, to be disrespected so, or to be completely ignored as we raised our concerns. We have felt the resulting hardship of employee turnover resulting in increased workloads for those who remain, and brings about unnecessary training and retraining.

We never thought we had to endure abusive management in recent years, to be disrespected so, or to be ignored as we raised our concerns. We have felt the hardship of employee turnover resulting in increased workloads for those who remain, and results in costly and unnecessary training and retraining.

We did not understand that the years of more open communication and trust during Executive Director Felicia Trader’s leadership would deteriorate so during the reign of Don Mazziotti, and the years that followed.

And we did not realize that those years of feeling supported by Mayor Katz would grow distant, and we would no longer be reminded of our important role in improving the city, and how we pleased the Mayor’s office, City Council and Portlanders by our dedication and commitment to the city, good work.

PDCperson, regarding your post "have we ever done any work with a guy named Homer Williams?", that is funny. But I think it would be ever better if more of PDC employees could honestly ask that same question over and over. "Favoritism" is just as rampant as nepotism at PDC.

The problem is that staff are not allowed to ask this and other questions repeatidly or honestly, nor is PDC management or the Commission willing to address these questions.

Only a newbie could get away with asking in a naive way.

Man, I just wish people could experience and understand the culture of fear and opression as a worker at PDC. It's really unbelievable some of the stuff that goes on.

The overall culture at PDC is shut-up and put-up.

PDCPerson; I have had PDC staff openly tell me (and even at a public meeting) that they like working with a particular developer, architect, etc. because "they are on the same page", "likes their(PDC's) agenda", "understands our goals", etc. These remarks have been attached to Homer and Dike, Mark Edelen,and several architects/planners, builders (Walsh Construction). Many times these comments have been made prior to the selection, awarding of a land purchase/builder based on "supposedly" competitive proposal for a project. I would love to be listening to the discussion of how "points" are awarded in the "competitive bid analysis". To me this is graft, corruption, and not following the bidding formula. But who cares? These comments are reflected in the Burnside BridgeHead project outcome, SoWhat, and more.


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Beaulieu, Rutherford Cabernet 2013
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
King Estate, Pinot Gris, Backbone 2014
Oberon, Napa Cabernet 2013
Apaltagua, Envero Carmenere Gran Reserva 2013
Chateau des Arnauds, Cuvee des Capucins 2012
Nine Hats, Red 2013
Benziger, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Roxy Ann, Claret 2012
Januik, Merlot 2012
Conundrum, White 2013
St. Francis, Sonoma Cabernet 2012

The Occasional Book

Phil Stanford - Rose City Vice
Kenneth R. Feinberg - What is Life Worth?
Kent Haruf - Our Souls at Night
Peter Carey - True History of the Kelly Gang
Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games
Amy Stewart - Girl Waits With Gun
Philip Roth - The Plot Against America
Norm Macdonald - Based on a True Story
Christopher Buckley - Boomsday
Ryan Holiday - The Obstacle is the Way
Ruth Sepetys - Between Shades of Gray
Richard Adams - Watership Down
Claire Vaye Watkins - Gold Fame Citrus
Markus Zusak - I am the Messenger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
James Joyce - Dubliners
Cheryl Strayed - Torch
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 113
At this date last year: 155
Total run in 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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