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New Office Phone Number
With the new Council taking office, telephone numbers for City Councilmembers are being changed to align with the district they represent. Councilmember phone numbers all begin with 206-684-880; the final digit will be for their district. Since I represent District 1, the new number will be 206-684-8801. For the two Citywide Councilmembers, the number will align with the position they represent; Councilmember Mosqueda represents Position 8, and Councilmember González Position 9.
2019 Year in Review
First of all, here’s the Council’s Year End Report.
ACCOUNTABILITY AND FAIR TAXATION
CIVIL RIGHTS, UTILITIES, ECONOMIC DEVELOMENT, ARTS COMMITTEE
HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
ACCOUNTABILITY AND FAIR TAXATION
Capital Project Oversight
Capital projects run over budget; remember the Seawall, the utility billing system, and the potential Center City Streetcar? To address this, I sponsored legislation to require enhanced quarterly reports. The Council voted to establish the 2019 “Watch List” of large, complex capital projects with quarterly monitoring reports on scope, schedule, budget, coordination, community impact, and political risk. One stand out report, Q1 Watch List Center City Streetcar; rated the project “red” for risk factors, unsurprisingly, given cost increases. The most recent estimate is $286 million; funding includes $75 million in uncertain federal funds:
“The City is expecting $75 million in Small Starts Grant funding from the FTA…The $50 million will expire in Sept 2020 if a small starts grant agreement is not yet executed. We do not expect to have an executed small starts grant agreement by Sept 2020 under the revised, draft schedule….”
Without that funding, based on the January estimate, this project may be short $140 million. We can create watchlists to monitor risks, but there are no guarantees that this information will be used to reign in problem projects. In this case, even after the report, the Council voted to approve $9 million to re-design the Center City streetcar; I voted “no.” Council approval is needed for additional spending.
Municipal Income Tax on High Incomes
A State Court of Appeals issued a 2019 ruling regarding the municipal tax on high incomes, challenging a 5-4 decision from the 1930s, that a city income tax is unconstitutional. Two years ago we unanimously passed legislation to tax high incomes. The Court of Appeals found the City had the statutory authority to impose an income tax. The court further ruled that a law prohibiting cities from enacting net income taxes is unconstitutional. Our state Supreme Court is the last hurdle in this race, thereby moving us one step closer towards reversing Washington’s outdated, regressive and unfair tax structure, which is largely recognized as the most regressive tax structure in the nation. The ordinance identified many priorities, including the homelessness crisis, affordable housing, education, transit, mental and public health services, green jobs, and meeting carbon reduction goals. If we win this case, my priority will be to use some of the revenue to address the impact of regressive taxes, including sale and property tax and taxes on small businesses.
Bus Route Additions
As part of King County Metro’s service updates, Bus Routes 120 and 50 received additional service starting March 23rd</a >. In September, additional service was added for several District 1 routes, including the 120 and the C. Funding is provided by the Seattle Transportation Benefit District, approved by Seattle voters; running through the end of 2020. In 2018, the City Council voted to change SDOT funding criteria to lay the groundwork for adding 2019 Route 120 service, one of the 10 busiest routes in the Metro system, and a ramp-up to convert the 120 to the Rapid Ride H Line. King County Metro and SDOT are collaborating on the Delridge Rapid Ride H Line project; SDOT will repave Delridge from SW Orchard Street to the West Seattle Bridge. To lay the groundwork for the Route 50 added trips in 2019, my office analyzed SDOT and City plans and found that the Admiral Urban Village didn’t meet the standards for Urban Villages, and that it was listed as an upgrade priority in the City’s Frequent Transit Network.
Passage of MHA and What’s Next
In March, the Council took its final vote on the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) legislation. The Junction community wants additional zoning capacity to be informed by community planning efforts, with understanding of the likely location of a future light rail station. In 2019, the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) began discussions with the Junction Neighborhood Origination so that the neighborhood plan will reflect the final route and light rail station location. OPCD committed to starting planning in earnest in 2020. MHA production estimates are 6,000 new affordable units. However, we have lost many affordable units to demolition of existing housing. These losses offset the gains of new affordable housing.
From 2016-2018, 2699 units were lost to demolition. One reports is that 1889 of those units were affordable to households with incomes at or below 50% of median area income ($38,750 for a single person). During same period, the city spent $175 million on 2,565 new units, 1434 affordable to those with incomes below 50%t of median. Over this period, demolitions led to a net loss of over 400 units serving renters earning less than 50% of the median income in Seattle. Applications are pending right now for removal of another 910 units. To address this, I have proposed legislation to address the displacement of our most vulnerable communities. I hope to work with the new Council to pass this in 2020.
North Delridge Action Plan Resolution
In 2019, the Council passed a resolution recognizing the North Delridge Action Plan, memorializing years North Delridge community effort, and requesting that the Executive make recommendations regarding the action items in six priority areas. You can review those action items here. The Resolution also requests the Office of Planning and Community Development to recommend these proposed amendments, as identified by the community in the Action Plan, in the next Comprehensive Plan.
East Marginal Way Project Funding Adopted
The Council voted in 2019 for $5 million in grants to the East Marginal Way Corridor Improvement Project, allowing Phase 1 work in 2020, and construction in fall 2020. This is good news for bicycle access from West Seattle. When I met with West Seattle Bike Connections members, this was a high priority. Phase 1 work will include: work between S Atlantic St and S Spokane St with full separation between biking and driving to make biking safer and more predictable; a rebuild of the traffic signal at S Hanford St to protect all bicyclists and motorists; a new traffic signal at S Horton St for a protected diagonal crossing for bicyclists, and an existing signal update at S Atlantic St and S Spokane St.
West Seattle Traffic/Commutes in Seattle Squeeze
The “Seattle Squeeze” began with the Alaskan Way Viaduct closure; West Seattle commuters have been most affected. Because West Seattle bus riders faced long wait times on 1st Avenue in the evening after buses were rerouted from the viaduct on to 1st Avenue, I asked SDOT Director Zimbabwe to examine options to speed up traffic, including rerouting buses onto 4th Avenue. SDOT changed signal times, but problems persisted. SDOT and King County Metro later agreed to reroute buses on to 4th Avenue. Later, when the SR99 tunnel opened, traffic backups increased on SR99, the West Seattle Bridge, and onto arterials in West Seattle. I sent a letter to SDOT Director Zimbabwe linked here. Because the bus lane on SR99 that had earlier been removed and was re-installed needed an adjustment, SDOT sought and received approval from WSDOT to extend the merge 1,000 feet.
Sound Transit Light Rail in West Seattle
2019 was a busy year for Sound Transit’s light rail project to West Seattle. How did I help? After Sound Transit released potential “Level 3” alternatives for the Draft Environmental Statement (EIS), as a member of the Elected Leadership Group (ELG), I requested visualizations of what options would look like, to better understand the impact in West Seattle, by neighborhood. Later, after the public comment period for EIS scoping, I requested that the scoping documents be provided; Sound Transit helpfully did so before we made recommendations in late April. The ELG recommended options requiring additional funding and an option that would not. For the Alaska Junction, the ELG recommended removing the “yellow” line that would have gone through the East Alaska Junction residential neighborhood; I strongly supported removing this option. The ELG recommended a tunnel option needing additional resources and recommended the “representative” alignment at the current budget, with greater impacts on residents and businesses and little support. For Delridge, the ELG recommended the “blue” line, with a lower station and guideway, a more southern station, and significant residential impacts. To minimize impacts, I encouraged study of a revised version of the “purple” option, which would include a tunnel through Delridge. In May, the Sound Transit Board accepted our recommendations, and added study of two additional Delridge options: the modified Pigeon Point Tunnel, and a Yancy Street option to avoid the Youngstown neighborhood. After study, the cost for the Pigeon Point Tunnel went down from $500 million to $200 million. King County Councilmember McDermott moved to add this in the EIS at the Sound Transit Board; it failed in a close vote. Thanks to Councilmember McDermott for bringing this forward. The Yancy Street option, estimated to be within the budget, did move forward in to the Draft EIS. With the Draft EIS scheduled for 2021 completion, I sponsored a motion in the
Council’s budget for a report on the schedule and status of third party funding for the ST3 West Seattle and Ballard Link project
Monitoring Dangerous Vacant Buildings
The Council passed legislation during the 2018 budget for an enhanced vacant building monitoring program which went into effect on June 1, 2019. Despite District 1 having the most vacant building complaint cases of any area in the city, District 1 had the least number of buildings in the old monitoring program, with only two properties being checked on a quarterly basis! The condition of this property degraded after being vacant for only one year.
The new program has monthly inspections for vacant buildings with: (1) three notices of violation, (2) on a lot with a master use permit or building permit application, or (3) on a police or fire department list. Buildings are removed from the Program if repaired and reoccupied, inspected three consecutive times with no violations, or demolished. The Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) anticipates 1,200 new properties in the monitoring program. In order to support the increased monitoring of these properties SDCI hired three new inspectors. In October, we received a report with a total of 857 properties now in the program.
CIVIL RIGHTS, UTILITIES, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, ARTS COMMITTEE
Closed Captioning Everywhere
One issue that the Commission for People with Disabilities has been raising with the Council is increasing access to public meetings, and public accommodations. Under Seattle Municipal Code 3.14.933, the duties of the commission are to recommend policies, “to fairly address the concerns of people with disabilities individually and as a protected class, and as appropriate.” Council access has increased over the years with the installation of “hearing loops” in Council Chambers. The City Clerk and former Councilmember Rasmussen helped make this happen. I then worked with the commission and the Seattle Channel and City Clerk to add captioning to Seattle Channel broadcasts. In 2019, the commission asked that I address the need to require closed captioning on TV receivers in public. Commission vice-chair Eric Scheir presented his experience and what other cities have done in my committee. I consulted the Mayor’s Small Business Advisory Council and the Seattle Restaurant Association. The Council adopted my legislation. Last month, the Tacoma Council passed this bill too.
The First Electric Garbage Truck in the US
In 2019, Recology, a Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU) solid waste collection contractor, received their first 100% electric garbage truck. In 2017, I wrote to SPU asking them to implement an electric fleet pilot program and become an early adopter of electric garbage trucks. The Council took a step closer when we adopted contracts in 2018.
SPU is leading the way in electrifying our waste collection trucks. This truck is the first ever Class 8 rear loader in the United States. Seattle hills and rear load collection make Class 8 truck difficult to fully electrify. Recology can now begin real world testing of this vehicle.
SPU also announced new trucks for the City’s “Green Fleet” of nearly 200 collection trucks powered by renewable natural gas (collected from landfill garbage!) and hydrogenated-derived diesel, from vegetable waste and soybean oil by-products. Both produce lower emissions than typical fossil fuels.
Solid Waste Rates – Good News
As you can see from the chart below, rates were predicted to go up 4% this year, 3% in 2021, and 3.8% in 2022. The good news is that they will only go up 3.2% this year, 2.9% in 2021, and 2.9% in 2022.
The savings are due to:
- Solid Waste Collection Contract savings. SPU negotiated a contract saving ~$5 million yearly.
- Service demand from population growth resulted in $6 million in new revenue over three-years
- Updated financial policies
- SPU projected more single-family participation in the Utility Discount Program, but there will be more multifamily UDP customers, costing $7.8 million less over the three-year period.
The rate proposal stems from the SPU Strategic Business Plan which the Council passed in 2017, as a six-year guiding document that the utility updates every three years to reflect the most accurate information about rates needed to support project costs.
Accountability and Oversight for Ship Canal Water Quality Project
The SCWQP is a joint project with King County to minimize combined sewer overflows (CSOs). 85% of Seattle’s overflow volume is from the five outfalls addressed by this project. SCWQP is part of an effort to reduce contaminated water reaching Puget Sound as required by a Federal and State Consent Decree. The project will cost $570 million and funded with ratepayer funds. During the 2018 budget the Council provisoed project spending to exercise our oversight and accountability. A proviso ensures that spending can’t occur after a certain stage until the Council specifically allows it. For the SCWQP, the Council stopped spending at the 100% design phase of the tunnel portion of the project. If there’s good news after reporting on project status, the Council can vote to release funds to proceed with the project. If the news is bad, the Council can stop spending or change the scope to address problems. The good news is, SPU updated their confidence rating from 65% to 70%, meaning that the project is 70% likely to cost $570 million or less (the City’s share is approximately $393 million). The SCWQP is actually five construction projects. The storage tunnel is the largest project, estimated at $218 million.
The Council lifted the proviso to allow SPU to select a construction contractor; SPU executed a contract in September, officially kicking off the construction phase of the tunnel.
Amazon Switches to Union Security Workers
2019 was the year Amazon announced plans to contract with two unionized companies for security services, rather than Security Industry Specialists (SIS). Four years ago workers started this struggle. Just 15 days after I first took office in 2016, I wrote to Amazon about unfair SIS working conditions. Workers charged SIS with practices from wage theft and discrimination to harassment and denial of legally mandated breaks and benefits. SEIU Local 6 stated that, “labor practices of SIS at Amazon show a pattern of disrespect—for workers, veterans, families, local laws, American labor laws and fundamental human rights.” The Seattle Human Rights Commission also weighed in. With this decision, Amazon is recognizing workers as people, not a metric. I hope that Amazon does the same for their thousands of other contract workers, such as delivery drivers.
Legacy Business Program Update
2019 was also the year that the Office of Economic Development announced that they are taking nominations for Legacy Businesses! In 2016, a District 1 resident proposed a Legacy Business Program, modeled after a San Francisco effort: to “recognize that longstanding, community-serving businesses can be valuable cultural assets.”
The designation of Legacy Businesses honors the resiliency of beloved businesses in the face of displacement risk and contribution to cultural vibrancy, our economy, and our sense of place. After tavern closures in England, they created an “Assets of Community Value” program. When Paris bookstores closed, they developed a Vital Quartier program. To be eligible, a business must be an independently owned, for profit business, in continuous operations for a minimum of 10 years in Seattle, and have fewer than 50 employees, including the owner. You can nominate a business here; businesses can self-nominate too! An FAQ is available here. Here’s background information about my 3 year effort to establish the program. One winner will be selected from each council district by a Selection Committee comprised of representatives from business district organizations in each Council District. Winners receive access to small business services through the Office of Economic Development, including a commercial lease and succession planning toolkit, marketing and legal consultation.
Cultural Space Update
I have promoted the ongoing work of the Office of Arts and Culture (ARTS) to preserve cultural space in Seattle. ARTS released a Structure for Stability update report and provided a presentation in my committee on how to facilitate this work, including the creation of public development to save at risk spaces. The report notes, “cultural spaces have always been at the heart of our most successful neighborhoods.” Those spaces face the same affordability pressures as Seattle residents and businesses. There will be additional updates in 2020 on the Cultural Space PDA. Thanks to ARTS for their work.
AIDS Memorial Pathway (AMP) Project
In 2020, Seattle’s Capitol Hill Light Rail Station plaza next to Cal Anderson Park will become home to the AMP, with dynamic art installations and plaza space enshrining the efforts of advocates and activists fighting to end HIV/AIDS and discrimination. The passionate leadership of volunteers and community leaders has brought the AMP to life. In 2018, the AMP partnered with Arts & Culture to commission Horatio Hung-Yan Law to write a master art plan guided by months of outreach and conversation with communities affected by HIV/AIDS, especially people of color, transgender individuals, and other historically under-represented communities. Former Councilmember Tom Rasmussen is among the community helping to move the project forward. I proposed $100,000 in project funding, which was added to the 2nd quarter supplemental budget.
HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
Parks Opening Access to Showers & Budget Increases for Public Restrooms!
In 2019, I promoted recommendations in a report of the City Auditor that I requested on the Navigation Team’s work to address unauthorized encampments. They recommended opening our shower and bathroom facilities broadly to the public to manage communicable diseases and other public health risks Seattle Parks & Recreation are opening more showers and restrooms to Seattle Public School students and their family who are experiencing homelessness. The newly available showers are at the seven pools, in addition to four community centers that already make them available to anyone in need.
A report by Schoolhouse Washington shows that there were 4,368 Seattle Public School students experiencing homelessness in 2018, 88% of whom are students of color. King County is home to 9,854 such students and 42,599 students experienced homelessness in Washington in 2018.
I am also excited about another effort to increase access to restrooms. Real Change’s “Everybody Poos” campaign urged the City to adopt the Mobile Pit Stop model, used in San Francisco and other cities. The Pit Stops are a place for people to use the bathroom, dispose needles and pet waste, and have staffing to ensure safety and cleanliness that the Auditor estimates is less costly than the self-cleaning bathrooms the City sold years ago, and less than the recently installed Ballard Commons Portland Loo. The Council added nearly $1.3 million to the budget this this fall to provide five mobile pit stops.
More Bond Authority for Affordable Housing
I’ve been advocating use of the City’s bond capacity for affordable housing since taking office in 2015. In 2017, I sponsored legislation that authorized the City to issue $29 million in bonds to build affordable housing—using the City’s line of credit, which gets paid back through tax revenue over time. Because of Seattle’s success using our bonding authority for affordable housing, the State Legislature passed House Bill 1406 to give cities and counties sales tax revenue that is already collected for acquiring, rehabilitating, or building affordable housing. This means that the City of Seattle now has a dedicated revenue source to pay for more use of our bonding capacity to build more affordable housing more quickly. Added bonding capacity will also leverage more state and federal dollars. Our partners who build affordable housing are ready to build more. OH’s 2019 Intent to Apply generated interest for housing providers to develop over 2,300 units across the City projected to cost over $190 million. OH indicated last Spring that the City only had about $50 million to spend.
House Bill 1406 made it possible for the City to announce in December that we’d invest $110 million, the largest investment in our history, to build nearly 2,000 truly affordable housing units.
The McKinsey Report shows homelessness corresponds with rent increases; since 2011, supply of units for households at 80% of the Average Median Income (~$80,000 for a household of 3) had doubled, yet units affordable to households at 50% or less of the AMI (49,800 for a household of 3) had halved.
The McKinsey report projects that King County would need to invest between $360- 410 million annually to adequately fund housing for people with the severest housing need. To do our part in meeting this regional need, last year I proposed that the City—as one King County jurisdiction—double its housing investment in each of the remaining years of the levy. We must continue the effort I started in 2017 to champion the City use of our bond capacity for affordable housing in 2020 and beyond.
Groundbreaking Eviction Reforms in the State Legislature
Last year I commissioned the Losing Home report from the Seattle Women’s Commission which reviewed 1,218 eviction actions in Seattle in 2017, and found:
- Of one-tenant household evictions with $100.00 or less owed, 81% were women.
- Black tenants experience eviction 4.5 times what they should based on demographics.
- People of color were more likely to be evicted for smaller amounts of money.
- Of 1,035 evictions, 86.5% were for rent and 52.3% of those were for a month or less in rent.
- After eviction, only 12.5% of evicted respondents found another rental, 37.5% were completely unsheltered, 25.0% living in shelter or transitional housing, and 25% staying with family/friends.
After hearing the legislation, we developed Resolution 31861 for next steps on eviction reform, which set the stage for passage of important new state eviction reform. After passing in the State Legislature, my Committee passed a bill that City law with new state requirements. Specifically, these changes are:
- Extend the 3-day pay-or-vacate notice for nonpayment of rent to 14 days—so tenants have time to access services, support, or the next paycheck to get caught up and avoid eviction;
- Clarifying that rent be applied before other costs like late payments, damages, legal costs, or other fees to insure that landlords don’t use rent to pay for other costs and trigger basis for an eviction.
- Extend the rent increase notice to 60 days for all rent increases (upon completion of a fixed-term or month-to-month agreement), replacing Seattle’s 60-day notice for increases above10%.
Five More Bills Passed to Strengthen Tenant Protections
In September, the Council passed five bills that I sponsored, two that I authored. They are:
- CB 119658: protecting survivors of domestic violence from being held liable for damages to a rental unit caused by their abuser
- CB 119606: allowing tenants to share the costs of rent and enjoy other benefits of living with roommates and family members by prohibiting landlords from restricting legal occupancy limits established by local, state, or federal law
- CB 119619: requiring information on the rights and resources of tenants to be included on notices to terminate a tenancy, increase rent, or to enter a unit
- CB 119620: to enforce the state law requiring landlords to provide receipts for rent and prohibiting requirement of electronic rent payment
- CB 119621: requiring a landlord to register the rental unit with the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) before filing and issuing a notice to terminate tenancy
The legislation also followed from the Losing Home report from the Seattle Women’s Commission.
The Plan for City’s Investments in Affordable Housing
The Office of Housing’s mission is to fund affordable housing projects for people with the severest housing need. The Council approved the Administrative & Funding Plan for how the Office of Housing (OH) awards and distributes funding for affordable housing in the City. Councilmember Mosqueda led this effort. I sponsored amendments incorporated into the final Plan:
- A “Housing First” definition, so that providers applying for funding understand the City’s expectations of Housing First principles
- Requiring written Mutual Termination Agreement policies to prevent misuse in accordance with recommendations of the Losing Home Report
- Require providers’ policies to align with City law in screening tenant applications
- Requiring Seattle Housing Authority projects receiving $5 million or more in City funding include a goal that 1 out of 5 apprentices hired for the project come from a pre-apprenticeship program
- Increasing the maximum funding available for homeownership projects that are three bedrooms
- Allowing loan funding to build rent restricted detached – and attached accessory dwelling units
I was proud to also partner with Councilmember Mosqueda to include an amendment advancing labor equity outcomes in affordable housing construction projects such as apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship utilization, and hiring workers from targeted zip codes, components that we a require for other public works projects under the City’s Priority Hire program. The City’s role as a funder for affordable housing development can help ensure your housing levy tax dollars are—in addition to building affordable housing—promoting wealth and career pathways for communities historically marginalized or excluded from construction trades, specifically people of color and women.
In 2018 the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously upheld the City’s “First-in-Time” ordinance. The First-in-Time (“FIT”) Rule simply requires a landlord to:
- Notify prospective tenants of the landlord’s screening criteria and
- Offer tenancy to the first applicant meeting the criteria
The Rule does not dictate the criteria, require quantifiable or objective criteria, or prevent a landlord from conducting an interview to satisfy a criterion, preclude negotiations over lease terms, or otherwise limit how a landlord may communicate with prospective tenants. The FIT rule was included in a 2016 law I sponsored that also a. banned source of income discrimination, b. obligated landlords to accept financial assistance in the form of vouchers to stop an eviction, and c. banned landlords from providing preferential treatment to tenants working for certain employers. The purpose of the first-in-time screening rule is to prevent housing providers from not fairly considering applicants who are qualified under the landlord’s screening requirements. The Rental Housing Association and the Washington Multifamily Housing Association call First-in-Time screening a best practice because it protects landlords from a discrimination complaint by establishing an objective process for landlords to use when reviewing rental applications they are less likely to use explicit and implicit (unintentional) bias against applicants who are members of a protected class. Some people have expressed concern that this law might harm renters applying for housing who can’t respond quickly to a rental opportunity or that this law might stop preferential treatment a landlord might otherwise show a renter who is vulnerable. The FAQ here answers these questions and others.
In November the Council adopted the 2020 City Budget. The City’s total budget is $6.47 billion; $2.75 billion can only be allocated to City Light and Seattle Public Utilities because that revenue comes entirely from ratepayers. The City’s General Fund totals $1.48 billion with 51%, or about $755 million, dedicated to Seattle Police Department, Fire Department, Municipal Court, the City Attorney, the Office of Emergency Management, the Office of Police Accountability, and the Office of the Inspector General.
District 1 Specific Proposals:
Public Safety and Public Health
Homelessness and Housing
Transportation and Utilities
Economic Development and Arts/Culture
I also sponsored a request for a report on timeline and funding to collect high-earners city income tax. A press release by 2019 Budget Committee Chair Bagshaw is linked here.
There are three locations that I rotate between to help make it easier for constituents to meet with me in their neighborhood. Meeting topics ranged from homelessness to transportation to zoning to public safety issues. Multiple groups utilized this time to connect with me about specific issues their organization or neighborhoods were facing. In addition to my in-district office hours I regularly meet with constituents at my office in City Hall. In-District Office hours will continue again in 2020; please keep an eye out for my emails and on the blog to know when I will be in your neighborhood. In addition to my office hours, we receive thousands of emails from residents all over the city. As with my previous monthly reports the unshaded categories and numbers are problem-solving emails answered, what I refer to as “case management services,” and the shaded categories and numbers are emails answered related to policy or legislation that the Council was considering. This number does not reflect the follow up emails which are often required to gather more information or ensure a response from a department should that be necessary. Here’s the breakout: