August 06, 2014
Washington Ferries and crazy policy solutions

A report on KUOW this evening entitled "Why Washington Ferries Are Such A Headache To Replace" provided an excellent service in highlighting some, but not all, of the absurd rules and regulations surrounding this government monopoly.

As Carolyn Adolph reported:

By law, ferries must be built in the state. The purpose is to create jobs, even though it reduces competition and increases cost.

This sort of policy is great for the handful of workers that get to build the ferries, but not so great for taxpayers who pay more for them. In addition, reduced competition not only leads to higher costs, but usually reduces choice in terms of options such as design, quality, delivery time and more.

Adolph continued:

The state also demands that a portion of the Washington workers hired to build our ferries be apprentices. These two rules reduce the number of eligible shipyards.

Again, these policies are likely to lead to increased cost, poorer quality, fewer choices etc. They're fine for the few apprentices that get experience, but poor for the many of us who foot the bill.

One thing Adolph didn't address head-on in her report was asking the question as to why the state is even in the business of owning and managing a system of state ferries in the first place, although she touched on some of the inevitable governance failures typical of state run businesses. For example:

T]he state auditor found that the state made so many changes [to an off-the-shelf design while a ferry was being rushed into production] that it doubled the cost.

Fortunately, KUOW addressed this in a report earlier this year "Washington State Ferries: Born From A Rates War". As the reporters explained, when the state took over the ferries from Captain Alexander Peabody's Black Ball Ferry Line in 1951, it was intended to be a short term measure. The state never planned on running them long term. But as with so many government measures in Puget Sound, such as temporary taxes and levies, once they're in place they're hard for legislators to give up.

Washingtonians generally have no tolerance for private monopolies and corporate welfare, yet for decades we've put up with a state ferry system that year in and year out delivers poor service and limited choice to consumers, and is extremely costly for taxpayers.

There are numerous policy solutions to the problem, including permitting competition, public-private partnerships, outsourcing or privatization. All have been successfully adopted in one form or another in other countries. They've removed the burden and risk for taxpayers, increased choice and led to higher customer satisfaction. And we should end welfare programs for shipyards, which ought to stand on their own two feet, or should that be keels?

Posted by Nicholas Kerr at August 06, 2014 07:56 PM | Email This
Comments
1. Why are ferries a failure? They are part of WSDOT.

Driven by the Alaskan Way tunnel mess lately? This state and its Demokrat bureaukrats and leaders are hooked on incompetence and largess. And when the tunnel is done it will have less lanes and cause more traffic than it ever did as a viaduct.

Failure is a way of life for Obamabots.

Posted by: Mike on August 7, 2014 04:00 AM
2. Protectionism of ferry building is similar to our state's protectionist attitude towards Boeing, our very own Golden Calf, which all WA politicians are forced to worship.

Posted by: Ten Years After - Roger Rabbit is just a liberal progressive troll. THERE, FIXED! on August 7, 2014 06:01 PM
3. Maybe your "policy solutions" would be good, but what evidence do you have for "All have been successfully adopted in one form or another in other countries. They've removed the burden and risk for taxpayers, increased choice and led to higher customer satisfaction."? Do you have evidence or is this just wishful ideology?

There are certainly plenty of examples of successful government-owned ferry systems and horribly-run, dangerous private ferry systems. Most private ones serve far fewer people than WSF. Indeed, the only ferry systems in the world that are larger than WSF -- those in BC and Sydney, Australia -- are also publicly owned.

But I agree with you that the requirement to build WSF ferries in WA is short-sighted.

Posted by: Bruce on August 7, 2014 10:04 PM
4. The Legislature forced the unionization of the Foot Ferry system as a condition of approving the formation of the King County Ferry District...with predictable results.


http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/government-takeover-of-west-seattle-ferry-triples-/nDPSK/

Posted by: Smokie on August 8, 2014 07:16 AM
5. People:
I am a professional Maritime Port Engineer, our ferry system is a joke.

I could assemble a group of about 12 of my friends and colleagues in the industry and probably make the system turn a profit within 1-2 years if given carte blanche to cut through the B.S>

Posted by: ANDY CARR on August 8, 2014 04:09 PM
6. People:
I am a professional Maritime Port Engineer, our ferry system is a joke.

I could assemble a group of about 12 of my friends and colleagues in the industry and probably make the system turn a profit within 1-2 years if given carte blanche to cut through the B.S>

Posted by: ANDY CARR on August 8, 2014 04:09 PM
7. People:
I am a professional Maritime Port Engineer, our ferry system is a joke.

I could assemble a group of about 12 of my friends and colleagues in the industry and probably make the system turn a profit within 1-2 years if given carte blanche to cut through the B.S>

Posted by: ANDY CARR on August 8, 2014 04:09 PM
8. .
Nicholas Kerr, you know who else failed to address the question "why the state is even in the business of owning and managing a system of state ferries in the first place?"

That would be you.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Washingtonians have not "put up with a state ferry system", Washington's Puget Sound residents have prospered with it.

I understand you may disagree.

I strongly recommend you use your position here to advocate, ney DEMAND, all of Washington's 2014 Republican legislative candidates swear fealty to the prospect of a vote on Washington State Ferry privatization as their first item of business in the next session.


Posted by: MikeBoyScout on August 8, 2014 05:39 PM
9. Leave it to the BoyScout to ignore the lesson of the King County Ferry District. Three times the cost for the same or poorer service to the public.

Posted by: Smokie on August 9, 2014 06:28 AM
10. I read an article/editorial this morning (Not in my back yard: The power of local activism Patrice Lewis explains impact of a united people battling bureaucrats) that posits the only way we can affect change in this country is LOCALLY. The ferry policies are a perfect example. Until the taxpayers pay attention there is absolutely no reason for the government to change.

Is is that people just don't care or is it as Patrice claims "Something has come to their back yard"?

Posted by: Rags wants the simple-minded followers of dishonest liberalism to have everything they want on August 9, 2014 01:38 PM
11. Smokie@9 invents, "Three times the cost for the same or poorer service to the public."

Three times the cost of what? Poorer than what? Do you have any data or are you just making stuff up?

Your complaint that Mike@8 ignores lessons is ironic, since his comment was the only one in this entire thread that cited any evidence.

Posted by: Bruce on August 9, 2014 02:33 PM
12. Andy@5,6,7: Has your career as an engineer given you a lot of experience in managing quarter-billion-dollar businesses and making them profitable in 1-2 years? Is hiring groups of your friends typically the way you successfully turn such businesses around? What sort of "B.S." would you like carte blanche to "cut through", safety regulations? Labor law? The public interest?

Posted by: Bruce on August 9, 2014 02:40 PM
13. "As the reporters explained, when the state took over the ferries from Captain Alexander Peabody's Black Ball Ferry Line in 1951, it was intended to be a short term measure. The state never planned on running them long term."

Lies of omission. The reason why the state took over the ferries from Peabody is swept under the rug. No mention of his 30% fare hike and halting service in a snit, stranding and thus totally screwing his riders. As for long term planning, you completely fail to mention that the bridges across Puget Sound that might have replace those ferries were never built. You instead infer that a socialist state reneged and wouldn't let go of the ferry system (and return it to the private sector that screwed us royally in the first place).

Not only misleading, but very, very lame. You know what else is lame? Your immigrant-hating right-wing readers sopping up the lies spewn about our state by an immigrant. Where are the cries of, "Show me your papers", "Go back to where you came from" and "Ebola"? There aren't any because you're white, right-wing and your right-wing readers are a small handful of ignorant, hate-filled racists.

"ignore the lesson of the King County Ferry District"

Written by a mindless lemming who could never in a million years get anything out of the lessons learned from our having been screwed by Peabody and his Black Ball Line.

Posted by: Vashon on August 9, 2014 04:48 PM
14. .
It is easy to criticize from the sidelines,
why don't you step it up a notch and throw your hat in the ring to run Washington State Ferries?

http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/employment/jobs/default.htm#

http://karrasconsulting.net/Ferries.pdf#page=1&zoom=auto,-18,792

Let us know how it goes.
Of course, ANDY CARR appears to have the inside track.

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on August 9, 2014 04:56 PM
15.

Bruce,sorry you don't have the ability to follow the link provided and comprehend that costs to operate the King County Foot Ferry is over three times the cost when it was operated by a contractor. Take a quick look at the subsidization of the District when you get a chance. I am sure it will not convince you, but facts are difficult things to reconcile when they are against you.

Posted by: Smokie on August 9, 2014 05:23 PM
16. Not even close on fare recovery. Page 25 and 26.

http://kingcountyferries.org/pdfs/proposed%202014%20budget%20and%20workplan.pdf

Posted by: Smokie on August 9, 2014 05:30 PM
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20. Isn't this your private sector vision for us, Kerr, New Zealand's $150 USD one-way fares for car and driver?

https://bookings.bluebridge.co.nz/res_booking_availability_and_price.aspx?amd=1&SessionGuid=49B49BF2-FA30-44EC-801F-A8CB2A574FE0

And isn't this your other vision, Kerr, shipping our state's remaining shipyard jobs to Singapore?

"In a $52 million job, Singapore's Sembawang Shipyard..."

http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/cook-strait-rail-ferries/twentieth-century

Lizard-Brain writes, "facts are difficult things to reconcile when they are against you"

Odd, as that's the very reason why you ignore history and how Black Ball Lines tried to screw our state by holding citizens and state commerce hostage in a failed attempt to get a 30% fare hike out of us as ransom. There's damned good reason why they're not around anymore. If that's what you want, you and Kerr can simply move to New Zealand.

Posted by: Vashon on August 9, 2014 07:42 PM
21. Hey Vashon, Ivan Wiess, maybe you should move back to the east coast where you came from?

Posted by: Smokie on August 10, 2014 06:19 AM
22. To privatize the ferry system means to turn it into a for-profit company. This means that many sailings would be cancelled and perhaps some routes would be seasonably eliminated. Like it or not, individuals, real estate, businesses, communities and entire regions have been created and sustained because of the current ferry system. Cancel the Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth run after 9pm? There were three medivacs by Medic 1 after 9pm last Friday night on that run. We waited for each one. We became so late we cancelled a run just to get back on schedule. When a ferry carries the Medic 1 unit it is in effect a medical transport in itself. No police, fire or Medic 1 system has ever shown a profit yet each are essential to the community. I guess helicopters could replace the ferries after hours.

Does anyone realize what would happen to the property values (read taxes), schools, police, fire, businesses, etc., etc. if a community on the "wrong" side had their ferry sailings cut or eliminated? And take out the millions in tourist spending. Property is a lot cheaper on Stuart Island than it is on Orcas. Keep in mind that only the San Juan's require a ferry. All other sailings are a mere convenience to avoid a much longer drive.

The West side has been developed and sustained because of the ferry system. That's the profit the ferry system created and the State get's a big return via taxes.

I'll close by saying I used to buy Eligia Graig 12 year old bourbon for $26 total, out the door from a Washing State Liquor store. It's now around $40. If you can find it. Congratulations Costco, for fooling me and so many others into believing that privatization of liquor sales would lead to lower prices and better selection.

Cheers -Scott


Posted by: Born_In_Seattle on August 10, 2014 04:55 PM
23. Actually, the first step should be to eliminate the monopoly position of WSF. In particular, I heard that WSDOT must OK any new ferry routes. Eliminate that restriction and see if private operators can compete with the existing system.

Let Andy Carr take a shot at building his own ferry business. FedEx, UPS and email are competing with the USPS. We didn't start by eliminating the Post Office.

Don't start by privitizing the public system. Make it compete.

Posted by: leon0112 on August 10, 2014 06:12 PM
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Posted by: Roger Rabbit on August 10, 2014 10:21 PM
25. @22 "Congratulations Costco, for fooling me and so many others into believing that privatization of liquor sales would lead to lower prices and better selection."

I wasn't fooled. I voted against Costco's initiative. I can't for the life of me figure out why people thought a private company would spend $20 million on an initiative so they could lower prices. At a minimum, they need to get their $20 million back, and that has to come from customers.

Posted by: Roger Rabbit on August 10, 2014 10:28 PM
26. Leon0112@23, maybe you're right that we should eliminate restrictions on private ferry services, but your analogy to USPS competitors actually makes the opposite point. The law prevents FedEx, etc. from competing with the core service of the USPS, namely first class mail. The reason is that our country (and every other country on earth) considers universal mail service at a fixed price to be a critical part of economic and social infrastructure. Kind of like ferries?

Posted by: Bruce on August 10, 2014 11:03 PM
27. "I wasn't fooled. I voted against Costco's initiative. I can't for the life of me figure out why people thought a private company would spend $20 million on an initiative so they could lower prices. At a minimum, they need to get their $20 million back, and that has to come from customers."

Did the Wholesalers and the State Employees Unions get "Paid Back for the Millions they spent to defeat I-1100 the previous years privatization initiative, which didn't have the extra taxes?

Posted by: Smokie on August 11, 2014 11:16 AM
28. This post dwells on the State Ferry System which is broken, but privatization would make it more expensive and like the liquor industry, the minuses would outweigh the pluses. Subsidization by the Government is basically why this is the case for these.

It would be instructive to look at the big picture and determine which services are better left to the government and which government services would better serve the public if privatized. Conservatives and progressivists might even agree on some of these, but not very many.

Posted by: KDS on August 11, 2014 12:52 PM
29. @27 I doubt very much the state liquor employees or their union had millions to spend. Most of them earned $28,000 to $32,000 a year -- not exactly in a position to be political big spenders. The wholesalers are a different story, but the fact remains, liquor prices jumped after privatization. The private stores are NOT competitive with our late great bolshevik liquor stores. So much for glorious corporate capitalism.

Posted by: Roger Rabbit on August 11, 2014 04:25 PM
30. @2 "Roger Rabbit is just a progressive liberal troll."

So? Of course I am, and I admit it.

@28 The state took over the ferry system and subsidizes it because private ferries couldn't make it. There are some socially useful services that just aren't attractive business opportunities. The traditional American model is to have government do those things the private sector can't or won't do. (Or which inherently involve exercising police powers and other governmental powers for which you want accountability to voters.) This is why the conservative meme of privatizing everything is doomed to fail.

Posted by: Roger Rabbit on August 11, 2014 04:32 PM
31. "(Or which inherently involve exercising police powers and other governmental powers for which you want accountability to voters.) This is why the conservative meme of privatizing everything is doomed to fail."

@30- LIAR. The government subsidizes the ferry system because it has to. Conservatives understand that the government can control some functions better than the private sector - I do not know of anyone who believes that the government should not be in charge of the military - that is only one example.

Health care is better controlled by an entity other than the Government - in spite of the false narratives that Progressive leftists have fed you - the public rejects the ACA more than they did before it was implemented. Progressives can make stuff up not caring whether it is true or not (most do not understand why the truth matters) and believe if they say it often enough, it will succeed in rewriting history. That is why Obama emotionally connected with the ignorant, lazy and stupid voters in the last election - he was slick and shameless in lieing his way into a 2nd term.

His and the progressive meme of attempting to rewrite history will ultimately fail, as will Marxism and totalitarian rule. However, progressives and leftists will not buy into this undeniable truth because it would cause their spiritual world to crumble.

Posted by: KDS on August 11, 2014 05:28 PM
32. "@27 I doubt very much the state liquor employees or their union had millions to spend."
Rabbit, that took about 30 seconds to verify.

From a King5 news story after the Nov. 2010 defeat of I-1100

"The I-1100 campaign battle had mainly been between big box stores like Costco and distributors who don't want to disrupt the current system. It was a big-money fight with lots of out-of-state donations from groups like the Washington, D.C.-based Beer Institute and dozens of state distributor groups giving money to the opposition campaign, which spent $8.8 million. The "yes" campaign spent nearly $6 million, with more than $4.8 million coming from Issaquah-based Costco in money and in-kind contributions"

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37. Bruce admits and laments that it would be more efficient to allow more than just WA businesses to build the ferries. But would he ever be for any politician that would relinquish any Democrat control to achieve even modest improvements on efficiency and reduce costs? Hell no. Power is all that matters to Obamabots, which is why this presidency is a failure despite all the promises and flowery oratory.

Posted by: Mike on August 12, 2014 06:41 AM
38. @31. Exactly. If you really want to f-ck something up badly. You give it to a Progressive/ Obamabot.

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41. Mike@37, sheesh -- I agreed with Nicholas's (and presumably your) position but you cast it as "admits and laments". That's like saying you "admit and lament" that it's good that we caught Osama bin Laden. And then you proceed to lie about my other beliefs. Please stop making stuff up.

Posted by: Bruce on August 12, 2014 01:18 PM
42. KDS, you ask a great question @28, but then @31 you call Roger a liar for referring to actual facts, and proceed to make the simplistic statement that "Health care is better controlled by an entity other than the Government". It is actually controlled by a complex combination of patients, providers, employers, insurance companies, and government. Government's role is primarily what you say @28 "conservatives and progressivists might even agree on" -- Romney, Heritage Foundation, etc. -- but your anti-Obama venom seems uncontrollable.

Posted by: Bruce on August 12, 2014 01:28 PM
43. WA has bigger problems, failing ferries are just one of many:|
Washington's total general obligation debt service requirement is $28,900,000,000, which is larger than the total annual value of agriculture in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada and Utah combined. Lined up, Washington's debt and liabilities in $1 bills would wrap around the earth 112 times

Washingtonians' unfunded liabilities in the PERS 1 Pension Plan are $3,800,000,000. That's 4,188.74 tons, or 8,377,480 pounds in $1 bills, or more than the weight of 15 Boeing 787s.

$1,9000,000,000 is the amount of unfunded liabilities in the TRS 1 Pension Plan in our state. To reach this amount by stacking $1 bills on top of each other, the stack would need to reach the height of 11 Seattle Space Needles stacked on top of each other

Golly, gosh gee whiz! Who spent all that money? ... Dishonest followers of liberalism getting EXACTLY what they want!

Posted by: Rags wants the simple-minded followers of dishonest liberalism to have everything they want on August 12, 2014 03:21 PM
44. "Who spent all that money? ... Dishonest followers of liberalism getting EXACTLY what they want!"

"To fully service Texas' local debt, as of fiscal year 2012, taxpayers will need to cough up an estimated $323 billion"

http://www.texaspolicy.com/center/local-governance/opinions/national-debt-important-local-debt-too

That's billions. With a "B". Damn all those Texas liberals running the show down there.

As usual, you have cut & pasted someone's work without providing attribution. You've been cautioned and advised of the law many times. That makes you a low-life thief, someone would would readily steal from others.

Posted by: Orcas on August 12, 2014 04:06 PM
45. But Orcas@44, Rags helpfully expressed Washington's liberal debt in a scientific unit (Space Needles) so we ignorant liberals could understand just how irresponsible and dishonest our leaders are. We need to do the same with Texas's debt. How about this: $323 billion, in pennies, would weigh as much as 810 million Rush Limbaughs. If every person in Europe were as fat as Rush -- even adding a 10% allowance for hot air -- Texas's debt would still weigh more than all of them. Golly, gosh gee whiz!

Posted by: Bruce on August 12, 2014 04:52 PM
47. KDS, you ask a great question @28, but then @31 you call Roger a liar for referring to actual facts.

His facts were a LIE. If you don't see that after I explained why it was, then that particular conversation is over.

"and proceed to make the simplistic statement that "Health care is better controlled by an entity other than the Government".

Simplistic how ? then you contradict yourself by stating a truth; "It is actually controlled by a complex combination of patients, providers, employers, insurance companies, and government." In my opinion, Government has too large of role in it now. Insurance companies used to have too large of a role before the ACA - but now the Federal Government has usurped the power of insurance companies. Overregulation will doom the ACA. Do Democrats want the employer mandate to be implemented ? By their actions, I think not.

"Government's role is primarily what you say @28 "conservatives and progressivists might even agree on" -- Romney, Heritage Foundation, etc. -- but your anti-Obama venom seems uncontrollable."

I actually wrote; "Conservatives and progressivists might even agree on some of these, but not very many." Their views are diametrically opposed in many ways.

My anti-Obama distaste is due to his hig disregard for the constitution (which he stated publicly before he rain for POTUS), his pompous dishonesty, narcissism - he is incompetent - in that he either does the wrong thing policy (domestic and foreign) policy-wise or he does it too late (ie. most recently - the bombing of ISIS). He and his staff employ Cloward-Piven strategies in perpetrating scandals and opening the borders- specifically geared to f_ck up the system and he ends up bringing down the USA in the process and he actions shows that he does not care about his own bad results. So, yes you could say I loathe the SOB.

Posted by: KDS on August 12, 2014 05:45 PM
51. Re: BHO, POTUS #44 - So, yes you could say I loathe the SOB.

However, I do not want him to be impeached ! (I have my reasons)

Posted by: KDS on August 12, 2014 06:53 PM
52. However, I do not want him to be impeached !

Neither do I. Further, I want him to live and be well in every remaining moment of his presidency. I want every moment marked and recorded by and for history. I want the continued consequences of this incompetent, utter failure played out far, wide, loudly and publicly. I want his words of yesterday played counterpoint to his words and actions of today, everyday. I want the fatigue of his presidency, the weight of his lies and incompetence, the failure and duplicity of his promises to be brought into the bright light of every single new day for the remaining 892 days of this inept community organizer.

Dear Bruce, Rags helpfully expressed Washington's liberal debt in a scientific unit (Space Needles) so we ignorant liberals could understand just how irresponsible and dishonest our leaders are.

Bingo! However, less to make you understand your failure and irresponsiblility and more to put it in "units" you and the low information voters (but I repeat myself) can easily understand.

Perhaps the authors should have used the weight measurement of dope.

Psst .. Dr Demento, who changed his name to come back after DECLARING he was done

73. "I think we can just let it die quietly."

Sigh! I have to agree. Let it die of it's own self-inflicted irrelevancy and with nobody worth their salt giving a shit.

You guys, MBS, Tensor, demo kid, Bruce and a few others, have lifted the discussion here above the trite and mundane, and gave me a lot of insights. I have an awful lot of respect for all of you. I hope we meet up again over at HA now and then.

Until then, best wishes,

Steve
Posted by: Dr. Zatoichi, the Blind Surgeon on July 16, 2014 03:37 PM
... no informational welfare for the lazy: look it up. HINT: Washington Policy Center.

Rags wants the simple-minded followers of dishonest liberalism to have everything they want and enjoying watching them get it!

Posted by: Rags wants the simple-minded followers of dishonest liberalism to have everything they want on August 12, 2014 07:49 PM
53. Dear Bruce, Bravo! I forgot to note you learned well from your false god. When you can't refute the facts, attack the one reporting them and/or the way they were presented, then throw in a red herring in the form of an insult. Does that bit of self-deception actually work for you? Is the Washington debt any lower or less horrendous for your foolishness?

Posted by: Rags wants the simple-minded followers of dishonest liberalism to have everything they want on August 12, 2014 07:58 PM
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64. How about this: $323 billion, in pennies, would weigh as much as 810 million Rush Limbaughs. - Posted by Bruce at August 12, 2014 04:52 PM

Now we know who it was!

Posted by: Rags wants the simple-minded followers of dishonest liberalism to have everything they want on August 13, 2014 11:40 AM
65. "Dear Bruce, Bravo! I forgot to note you learned well from your false god."

Rags is obviously nearer to God than thee, Bruce. Huh? What's this?

"A popular piece of legislation that seeks to honor Pope Francis is stuck in Congress."

Eh, must be those Godless Democrats. Oh, wait...

"Only 19 of the 221 co-sponsors are Republicans. The dearth of GOP members on the measure could be attributable to assertions that the pope is "too liberal," according to a Republican backer of the legislation.

"Some Republicans believe the pope is "sounding like [President] Obama. [The pope] talks about equality -- he actually used the term 'trickle-down economics,' which is politically charged," the GOP official said."

"In March, the pope raised some eyebrows when he indicated an openness to civil unions."

How about that! The problem turned out to be the money-worshipping, equality-hating Republicans who have a problem with the "too liberal" Pope.

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/213588-will-speaker-move-bill-on-the-pope#ixzz3AIbgfSVx

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You loud lefty's are just too funny! I am so enjoying your getting what you want! Keep it up!

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