The 2009 JFP Interview With Marshand Crisler

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2009 JFP City Election Blog/Archive
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After serving as Jackson's Ward 6 Councilman for eight years, Marshand Crisler wants to give the executive branch a try. Crisler, a Provine High School graduate, was a Marine in the first Persian Gulf War until 1992. Later, during his time as a councilman, he served in the more recent war in Iraq as the headquarters detachment commander for the 112th Military Police Battalion of the Army National Guard. He reclaimed a seat as council president upon his return in 2005, after a contentious election standoff between Crisler and outgoing Ward 2 Councilman Leslie McLemore.

Crisler has a criminal justice degree from Hinds Community College, and a bachelor of sciences in criminal justice and corrective services from Jackson State University. He received a Master of public policy and administration from Jackson State University in 2007.

Law enforcement takes up the majority of Crisler's resumé. He joined the Hinds County Sheriff's Department as a narcotics investigator and routinely worked with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, the DEA and the FBI during county law-
enforcement partnerships. He is still with the Hinds County Sheriff's Department, but has taken a leave of absence until after the mayoral election.

In 1999, he served briefly as Utica's first black chief of police.

As a councilman, Crisler proved the city's most vociferous advocate of payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) from the state government. Crisler argues that the city of Jackson houses the vast majority of the state's untaxed property—almost 40 percent—comprised mostly of government buildings, churches and non-profit organizations. The would-be mayor has proposed funding measures to fill the resulting budget hole, including the possibility of a toll road for the city's large commuter lines and PILT, though such projects require legislative approval, and Crisler has become increasingly stunned at what he has referred to as legislators' "willingness to watch their Capital City crumble."

Crisler has taken a slightly quieter tone during his mayoral campaign, but still advocates for the state to step in and accept its responsibility for the capital city's revenue shortfalls.

Why did you wait so long to announce?
We thought the timing was appropriate, actually. We wanted to make sure we had enough input from our supporters and the citizens of Jackson to let us know that they're looking at a different direction for this city and that they would appreciate our commitment to a city that we can all be proud of. I think the timing was absolutely appropriate so that the voters would know that we are absolutely committed to this endeavor.

Why would you want to be mayor?
The reason I'm doing this is the reason I've done everything in my adult life. My adult life has centered on serving people. I've had 21 years in the military, 17 years in law enforcement, eight years in municipal government. I find it very rewarding to serve mankind and my fellow citizens. I think I was built for this. I'm excited about the opportunity, and I appreciate the challenge.

Sounds good n' fluffy. Have you got the nerve to endorse anybody in the Ward 6 race?
Let's just say that, like every other citizen of Ward 6, I'm evaluating every candidate, and I'm not at a point right now that I'm ready to weigh in on that—but I certainly will be ready to on Election Day.

Crime is still very much an issue, and the second face that people attach to crime problems—that is after the police chief—is that of the mayor. What's your plan on dealing with the issue?
I'm going to depend on my experience in law enforcement to help me, and it's important to note that I have served as chief of police (Utica Police Department, 1999), and I know how difficult a task that is. I think what makes the chief and the police department operate smoothly is giving the chief and the department some autonomy. That's never been the case, during my experience, in Jackson. That has to happen. Because I've had the unique experience in law enforcement, I can really appreciate the importance of autonomy. With a good police chief in place, Jackson can turn its issue of crime around.

How did you like serving as Utica's chief of police?
It was very interesting. What made it very difficult was the fact that a lot of politics were involved. At the time I was working for a town with a strong board/weak mayor form of government. I essentially had six bosses, and with six bosses telling you separate things it was kind of difficult to curb crime, but we did it. During my tenure, we had a positive impact on reducing crime in Utica. I think any citizen would say that. But, more importantly, my experience in having to deal with the politics in the police department has committed me to make sure that that kind of problem doesn't happen under my watch as mayor. The chief will be assured the freedom to do his job and I will make sure that I'm doing my job to make sure the resources are available.

What are you going to do with Chief-Sheriff Malcolm McMillin if you're mayor?
The transition should be seamless. I think the fact that we find ourselves in a unique position with our sheriff also serving as our police chief is, right now, beneficial in that the two departments are really working together. The sheriff's department and the police department have never been so close together in the past. They've been able to work in unison to curb crime in this city. That part of the system is working. What's not working is the disconnect between the mayor's office and the police chief. The mayor has to support the chief with the resources he needs to be successful, and I just don't think McMillin has had the benefit of that during his brief tenure.

Obviously, the citizens of Jackson think McMillin is one of the most popular elected officials in this state. He's served five terms as sheriff, and that speaks volumes in voters' confidence in him to curb crime in Jackson.

So would you like to keep him as a full-time police chief?
I would like to give him the opportunity to succeed with the support he needs from the mayor's office.

Do you know if he even wants to stay on as a full-time police chief?
I can't answer that for him. I'd be interested in knowing what McMillin wants to do, but I would certainly be open to offer what's best for the citizens of Jackson. I think we all think, regardless of whether or not this is a full-time or part-time position, that we want crime to go down. We want a safe city that we can all be proud of, and I'm going to work toward that goal, and I'm going to put the person in place who's going to get the job done. McMillin has proven himself and his ability to do a great job in law enforcement.

So you would you consider hiring a white full-time chief if the applicant's resumé demanded it?
I would hire the best person for the job. I know you have to be more open-minded to the process of hiring anybody to lead a department because we want the best qualified person. I don't know if you want to put a color requirement on the job application for curbing crime. You want the best person so people can feel safer about Jackson and this person can work to change the perception that Jackson is the place to commit crime. We want to put the fear of criminals who want to commit crimes in the community.

I feel that way, and you feel that way, but there probably will be some irritation if you bring a (different) white chief into a majority-black city, don't you think?
Race has always been an issue in this country, but I try not to be one of those people who lend so much credence to race. I'm looking for qualified, competent people, whatever color they come in.

Have you considered a plan similar to former Chief Robert Moore's Five-Points plan for the city?
The chief would have to have some input in that. I don't think that at the juncture of this campaign we need to be talking about five-point plans to curb crime. I will say this: The most effective way to curb crime is to have a Crime Prevention Unit. It was a very bad idea (for Mayor Melton) to dissolve the unit, and it's real important that we re-establish the unit, and I intend to do that on day one. My experience in law enforcement allows me to know what works, and I've had a chance to experience all levels of law enforcement, and I do believe that the No. 1 method for curbing crime is crime prevention. We do need a Crime Prevention Unit, and I am committed to bring it back.

How would you train them? Are the people who originally set the unit up even with the city anymore? You'll need people to actually build the unit again, right?
We have some very skilled, capable people in the ranks, and I know, based upon the talent that we have in JPD, that we have somebody with the expertise to help rebuild it from the ground up. We'll find qualified, capable people to fill those slots, but the model needs to be re-established and get people in place to prevent crime so that we don't have to spend all of our time trying to enforce the law.

What about the unit that Melton replaced them with? I remember Melton saying his plan was to fire these employees and replace them with cops already on the force. But are their roles really getting duplicated under Melton's setup, or was that something the mayor said at the time to quiet outcry?
I just think that what you want to do is leave your sworn personnel out there fighting crime, and you have your non-sworn personnel in a position where they can put together strategies and policies that will help prevent crime. That's a better use of everybody's time. Sworn officers need to strictly work on the enforcement end.

But was there a reliable duplication of duties from what you've seen?
A sworn police officer is just that. They go out and make sure they use the techniques and lessons they're taught in the academy to get the bad guys off the street. I think the crime-prevention element is more technical, and it's more policy-oriented. You have to separate the two to have the most effective means of fighting crime in this city.

Sounds like a "no." How much of a difference are a group of people showing you how to install a burglar alarm actually going to make?
It made an incredible difference in the lives of the citizens and the community. I think neighborhood associations all over this city will tell you how important it was to have those representatives from the Crime Prevention Unit come into their homes and their communities, and tell them how they could make their neighborhoods more safe. We're talking about being more proactive than reactive—that's the difference between law enforcement and crime prevention. Crime prevention is proactive, while law enforcement is reactive. We need to be more proactive and allow the citizens more ways to protect themselves.

A lot of property crime happens when the owners are off at work. They can't exactly take off to defend their property, but a burglar targeting their area has all day to sit around and wait for them to leave. Burglar alarms don't seem to do too much when you're not at home.
No, I can't agree with that. Burglar alarms work. If that burglar alarm is tied to the police department, and an alarm goes off, you're going to have somebody dispatched to that location. If you don't have a burglar alarm and somebody breaks into your house, they're probably going to make off with a few valuable items. I support burglar alarm systems. If you don't get anything else out of this cop talking to you, you'll get the support of burglar alarms.

That's another proactive measure that speaks to what crime-prevention officers do. They advocate for citizens to protect themselves because there will never be enough police officers to rid society of criminals. We don't have the resources to put a police officer in every driveway all day, so that's what crime prevention does; it empowers the average resident and citizen.

How many Crime Prevention people do we need?
At least 10. I think 10 will do it. If you break the city down into a ward system, so that we have a crime prevention officer dedicated to each ward, with some overlap and some rotation, we're fine. I would love to have 20 or 30, but I would like to start back at 10, and if we assess our needs and find we need more, then I would be committed to increasing that number, because I want to make this city a place we can all be proud of.

Will you be able to pay those 10 people?
We can pay them because it will be a priority.

Do you agree that recruiting and retaining officers requires more money, or is there another method
you'll use?

I think it boils down to leadership. We need people who are interested in law enforcement. You have to be interested in fighting crime. Once you've got that unique individual in the community who's interested in protecting people and fighting crime, they're going to look to see if that department has strong leadership, and if you have the right leadership in place that'll be the draw.

So you're going to positive-morale them into staying with the city?
Most civilians think that most police officers are in it for the money. That's just not true. Ninety percent of police officers do their job because that's what they're built to do. They want to fight crime; they want to protect people. They bring that to the table, but they also want to be taken care of. You're talking to a 17-year police veteran, and I can tell you what we're made up of. We believe in being appreciated and being taken care of, so I'll definitely be increasing the incentives for police officers to retain them and treat them like they're important. I don't know of an occupation more important in America than that of a police officer. As the saying goes: We should pay them like our lives depend on it, because they do.

Where all have you worked as a police officer?
I've been a deputy sheriff for 17 years, and I've worked from dispatch to investigator and everywhere in between. I've been a guard at the Hinds County Detention Center and a patrolman, and I'm letting you know that the most underappreciated job in the world is that of patrolman.

I've heard about how little Hinds County deputies are paid compared to city police.
Well, that speaks volumes to the importance of morale. You don't hear very many complaints coming from the deputies of the sheriff's department about pay, because we believe in our leader. We believe what he stands for, and we believe that he has a genuine concern for the welfare of every officer in that brown shirt. That substitutes well for the comparative lack of pay. What's needed in my estimation, is that people, in general, have to understand how much they're willing to compensate officers who are protecting their lives. Every chief and mayor wants to increase the salaries of every employee on their watch, but they certainly want to do that for their law officers, knowing how dangerous and stressful that job is. I just think that it's important that we pay our public-safety officials what they're worth.

You sit down with the city budget on your desk every autumn and see what the numbers are telling you. How much does the police department need, and how much could it realistically get?
I have some experience in budgeting, after two terms as budget chair (of the city council), and I can say we have our challenges. I think we slowly need to reassess what we have on hand at this point, see where the gaps are and plug those holes before we talk about any kind of increase. I will tell you this: It is incumbent upon us to convince our legislators and the county board of supervisors and our representatives in Washington how important it is we obtain some assistance from our state leaders and our county and national leaders in trying to get the necessary resources we need to get this city moving, especially in terms of
law enforcement.

The city only has two potential revenue streams: property taxes and sales taxes. But we lose, every year, 40 percent of our property taxes because of non-taxable property. I think that needs to be said every day to every person who has a vested interest in the capital city, from Alcorn County to Amite County, that unless we deal with this issue and get the capital city the resources it needs we'll always have a problem with crime and our infrastructure.

Having said that, we're going to have a leader in Marshand Crisler who will make sure that he does everything in his power to make sure that those gaps and holes are filled and that we have better services in public safety and infrastructure. I have already established a great working relationship with many of our legislative members and our members of the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, and I want to continue to try to tell them how important we need to work together as a partnership to move our capital city forward and make it a place to be proud of.

You say you'd be a good lobbyist, but one of your opponents, Sen. John Horhn, would say he's a good lobbyist, too, because the state Legislature is where he comes from.
I stand firmly on my record as a city councilman, and I encourage anybody else to stand firmly on their record. I don't want to get into a conversation about what the senator can do versus what I can do, but I have to say this: The senator's been there for 16 years. He's been there 16 years. Did I mention that we still haven't gotten any payments in lieu of taxes for untaxed property from the state in all that time?

You had spoken on re-routing money from the budget to priorities such infrastructure and police salaries. Is that still a major part of your plan?
I don't think anybody can make that determination at this juncture. It would be unfair to every employee to make a decision like that on this side, but one of my top priorities will be to evaluate the budget, with my staff, and we will come up with a plan to find out where the holes are.

And, again, the first thing we'll do is plug the holes.

You're head of the Budget Committee. I'm sure you've seen one or two places where the money could be re-routed. Are you ready to point your finger?
(Smiles) No, that would be unfair.

You've spoken on the importance of offering detailed weekly crime reports to residents and neighborhood associations. You've criticized the past administration for failing in that. Would you provide to residents what you've been demanding?
I believe in open government and transparency. This is a public office. Everything should be open to the public, most importantly statistics. Those numbers show us how good we are in fighting crime, and I promise that COMSTAT will indicate that to the citizens of Jackson.

It will also make of you a punching bag when those numbers creep up.
And if we deserve to be punched, I'll take my hit. I promise you that every time I turn a report out, it will be in the interest of making the city better, and I believe in my heart that the numbers will reflect that.

Would the numbers be put out in the form of COMSTAT meetings or through some other venue?
First of all, I don't want to get into telling the chief how to run his department, but I would encourage the chief of police to make sure that we continue COMSTAT meetings, and we make the public comfortable in our efforts to curb crime in this community in this city.

No, you don't want to tell the chief how to run his department, but is it safe to say: "I'll hire you if you respect the idea of a COMSTAT-type meeting." That's your power after all as mayor, right?
Well, I can only say that as mayor I will encourage the idea of COMSTAT meetings because we know that COMSTAT meetings work. It's a great tracking mechanism, and it works as a means of accountability.

If you were chief—
(Laughs) I've already done my time as chief. I'm not doing that one anymore.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but if you had been in a position to improve upon the COMSTAT format?
I would get the neighborhood associations even more involved, and I could if I still had my Crime Prevention Unit. We need them to get that information to the neighborhood associations. That speaks again to the importance of that unit.

Are there any procedural changes that need to happen in the police department concerning how officers deal with domestic disputes? There are a couple of complaints against the city where family members of victims say intervening officers could have done more. Remember Doris Shavers?
I would certainly be open to a re-evaluation of the entire system. If there are some things that need to be corrected, I certainly have confidence in the police chief to get it resolved. One thing a mayor has to do is make sure we're addressing the concerns of the public, and if that's one of the concerns of the general public then we're going to correct it. No doubt about that.

I've heard time and again that cops don't have room to put criminals in jail, like the nuns' ruler getting snatched away. As a mayor with no power in the county or state to improve upon jail-space, what do you plan to help the situation?
I would become an advocate that we get criminals through our justice system a lot faster. We have a backlog in the county system, so I would advocate that we get suspects to trial to make sure that those guilty are convicted quickly and processed to the state. I hear they've got a lot of room at Parchman, and I'll do what I can do to make sure we get them through our local system.

Sounds like you're going to run a string from your office to a bell in (Hinds County District Attorney) Robert Smith's office to pull when you need him?
Well, what I've seen out of the DA's office is a desire to try to get cases through the system in a timely manner. But this is an issue where there are a lot of bumps. I would work with judges, the DA's office and the respective funding institutions in the Hinds County Board of Supervisors to help us all work toward making sure the system flows freely and that those cases get through the system. I think if we can form a real partnership between ourselves we can accommodate the vacancies on the state level.

Do you have any sense that your hands are tied in this?
No, I'm always optimistic about what I can accomplish with the assistance of others. If we can work collectively as a team, we can make a difference, and I want to be a part of that team to make sure we send the bad guys to the right jail, which is on the state level.

Victims of a lot of property theft and damage in the Terry Road and Highway 80 area blame transients for the crime. What is within your power to do about this?
I think we need to re-establish a network in the administration that has been lost under this current administration, and that's in our grants division. There is money out there available to assist us in establishing shelters to house people who are homeless or transient. I think the location in which we put these shelters is important. I don't think we need to put them in areas where a lot of our businesses are or where we would like to further encourage business development.

You've patrolled the Battlefield Park area. Is there a legitimate problem with the state hospital and other organizations simply dropping transients off in that area?
I don't have any evidence of that.

But what are you hearing on the street? What are people shouting at you as you
drive by?

Well, I keep hearing that the shelters are not in the best of locations to meet the needs of the homeless, and are not in the best of places to foster business growth. I think we may need to relocate our shelters, to look at some of the costs to do that, and see if there's a better step toward providing a system of comfort to make sure that the homeless are not a cause of property theft in the local communities and that we're meeting the needs of people who have social issues and find themselves homeless. It's incumbent upon the capital city to make sure that we address all the needs of the community and that we do it in a humane way that meets the needs of everybody.

But that area is zoned to hold homeless shelters, and I'm not sure if (Ward 1) Councilman Jeff Weill is going to open his arms to some shelters in
his ward.

I would like to look at this problem a little more intuitively. I truly believe that one of the things that I have that separates me from any candidate in this race is the unique experience of being a councilman. I would be the first councilman to serve in the Jackson city mayor's office. I understand the unique needs of the city, but I'm moving from a position of influence to a position of authority, and in that new position you can make some strategic decisions that can help with some of the decisions that you're raising here today. I'll be able to better work with the city council, and it's very important for the council and the mayor's office to work together to solve some of these social issues.

What can you do in the meantime for the residents there until more money for homeless shelters and management programs come around?
We have ordinances in the city that prohibit panhandling. We're just going to enforce that ordinance and make sure that people who care for the homeless are getting the resources they need. We're going to make sure that police are patrolling those areas having problems with transients. That's the immediate solution, but the long-term solution has to be a relocation program for the shelters.

You've seen what happens when a city surrenders its grants department. How would you describe it?
Very difficult. Very problematic.

Was it completely shut down (during the Melton Administration)?
It was the opinion of this administration that each department have its own grant management team.

Sounds logical, though.
But, in my experience it didn't work very well. It was handled better when we had people to write them, to track them and to make sure the money was spent in a timely basis. That's not what's happening now. The current system is broken. We need to return to the system that was working, and having a grants division was the working system.

Any idea how much a grants division costs?
I know it more than pays for itself. I can tell you that.

How many grant writers do we need?
I think for a city this size, you'll need at least four or five. We've managed to keep our grants functioning with that type of staff, but that, too, is a system that needs evaluating. The way it is now, we've had to return hundreds of thousands of dollars because of bad grants management, and in my administration, that won't be repeated.

You've voted in favor of the council having its own representing attorney, even when it comes to representing the council against the actions of the executive branch. Would you still support that endeavor if you're mayor?
Yes. Each body is working toward the same goal, and as a formal council member I would allow them that comfort. I think it's very important to offer that. We could lobby the state to change state law, but even before that, I'd certainly allow the council to have their own city-paid attorney. Just assign one to the council. And give them the assurance that the attorney would be able to operate independent from the mayor's office.

The fuel-card problem will haunt the city a while longer. You seemed fairly aggressive in pursuing the issue early on. Are you any less irritated at the way the fuel cards are distributed and managed today than you did then?
What you saw then was my passion for accountability. I think every employee and department head ought to be held accountable for what they do. In order to provide the necessary services for Jackson, we have to make sure that we're doing all we can do. I'm just trying to make sure that we're being frugal with the taxpayers' money.

Do you anticipate any problems with filing public-information requests?
We have to be consistent with what the laws say, and I believe the law says it takes 14 working days, and that's what we have to do. If we can do it sooner, good, but I think that we must have the policies in place. I want to assure those who are interested that our administration will be keeping itself transparent and open to the public.

Will you be letting reporters just sidle up to department heads and ask them questions?
I think they absolutely need to go through the PR department, just to make sure they have accurate information. Sometimes city employees don't always have all the facts.

Are you already considering what department heads you want to install?
I'm not thinking about any particular people, yet. I want people who understand the department they'll be in charge of. Every one of them will have to have a commitment to serve and a commitment to accountability. Everybody serving in a leadership position has to make sure that they're in it for the right reasons. The other thing they have to have is the temperament and strength to hold the employees accountable. They have to make sure the one's doing well get rewarded and the ones not doing so well move on to something better suited to them.

How many years of experience will they need to run each department?
That depends on the department. Experience is very important, but we'll evaluate each applicant separately.

Do you have enough experience to hold this job? You tout your military and law enforcement background, but don't you need to be some kind of policy wonk in order to handle the mechanics of administration?
A policy wonk?

Yeah, somebody who knows the lingo, with a background in city planning or something like that.
I don't think you can have a much better background than eight years in a city legislative branch. That's a policy-making body. Then there's my degree in public policy and administration. So not only do I have a background in public policy, I also have the education background. And then 21 years in the military over million-dollar budgets as a commander and as a law enforcement officer in a city that's represented as crime-ridden, I think that absolutely gives me the experience to deal with the unique issues that we find in our city. More importantly, eight years in municipal government, I think, says I'm ready to lead on day one. I've been there long enough to know city government, and the day I take over as mayor is the day I'll be moving this city forward.

How do we fix this city's roads?
We have a lot of holes in this city, and I don't mean just potholes. As mayor, I'm going to make sure we fill up all those government holes quickly. We're going to make sure there are no holes in this city's infrastructure policy. The second thing we're going to do is look at what we've done in the past. As you know, we've approved a $27 million general obligation fund. I was a leading advocate of that. That's going to help us deal with a lot of our major right-of-ways. I'm excited about that. I've looked at the planning report, and it looks like most, if not all, of our main arteries will be addressed. That leaves us about
$46 million short of our goal, and we're going to use some creative financing to deal with what's left.

How many years is a general obligation bond worth?
I believe it's good for 15 years.

What's the lifespan of your average road? Won't it outlive the usefulness of the repaired road by about five years? Isn't there a better way to pay for roads?
There's always a better way to pay for roads. The best way is to fill in the gaps in our tax revenues, not by increasing taxes on those already paying it but by getting a direct appropriation from the state.

These legislators are not going to help us pay for these roads, and you know it.
Adam, you've got to have the right attitude. That one's not going to get you anywhere.

Previous Comments

ID
143833
Comment

Marshand Crisler has my vote. Great interview, Adam!

Author
Razor
Date
2009-02-22T12:14:33-06:00
ID
143837
Comment

Two questions i would ask all the candidates running for mayor, first will they hold accoutable or fire the people who allowed frank to break the law that works for the city, be it JPD, city legal or department heads. Second question is will they get rid of or keep Sheriif MAC.

Author
NewJackson
Date
2009-02-22T15:47:48-06:00
ID
143870
Comment

Crisler is full of bull!! He's just saying what you want to hear and not the truth. He raise hell about putting a white over the fire dept. and refused to interview a white applicant and he playing he doesn't use race.

Author
Tony Davis
Date
2009-02-23T12:19:24-06:00
ID
143877
Comment

If you read the crticle carefully, Crisler said that the problem with "SHERCHIEF McMillin" is the fact that he does not have a good relationship or to use his word "support" from the office of mayor. He then goes on to talk about the success of the two systems "working in unison" and that this relations with McMillin as Sherchief has "worked to curve crime." This is a lie and Crisler knows it. The problem is, why does he have to lie to the citizens? Haven't we had enough of that???? This is a big problem with Crisler. He is strapped by the fact that McMIllin is his boss and he fears facing the fact that this IN NOT WORKING and it shouldn't. Isn't there at least one officer capable of being the chief? Come on people, we are the Capitol City. I'm tired of people all over the country seeing us as the dummest group in the universe. Crime is as high as it was when Former Mayor Kane Ditto went out of office. Crisler knows that. I will warn the citizens of Jackson again: Watch not only the candidates, but, those folks who have chosen to support them and WHY?

Author
justjess
Date
2009-02-23T13:17:35-06:00
ID
143902
Comment

Well, JustJess, we all know who you are supporting but that is no reason to dis our guy. Whoever is Chief will be better than Chief Anderson was for the City. I would hope that my support, if you were to know who I am, would not be a burden to my candidate, just like your support should not be a burden to your candidate.

Author
Razor
Date
2009-02-23T16:01:16-06:00

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