The Land of Milk and Honey

Last night, and tonight, Howard County Council is debating CB-9, a bill to prohibit discrimination based on citizenship status in County affairs. Here’s my testimony: Good evening, Chairman Weinstein and members of the Council. Thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight. I am Dr. James Howard and have spent most of the last five years as a consultant in law enforcement at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. There, my work focused on southern border security, counternarcotics, and countertrafficking. I have also been a consultant to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, working in fraud detection. I am here tonight to

The Severity of Severe Events is Increasing

On Thursday night, Mary Catherine Cochran, executive director of the Patapsco Heritage Greenway, asked some very insightful questions about my analysis of flooding in Ellicott City: These questions are worth going into some detail, so let me now discuss what it means that the data is changing. Data is considered to be stationary if it is random and if the characteristics from randomness, such as mean and variance, do not change over time. You can kind of think of this like a bus schedule. Sometimes the bus comes on time. Sometimes it is late. Sometimes, it is even early. However,

What is a 100-year flood?

Last night, Mary Catherine Cochran, executive director of the Patapsco Heritage Greenway, asked some very insightful questions about my analysis of flooding in Ellicott City: These questions are worth going into some detail, so let me begin by discussing first, how I account for changing statistics. The answer is, I don’t, but that doesn’t matter. The how is interesting, but the why is critical to understanding both severe storms and rare events. There’s a common misconception that the “100-year flood” is what happens whenever any flood event happens. You often hear any flood described as a 100-year flood, but that’s

Statistical Likelihood of Extreme Events and the Ellicott City Floods

This time, the flood hit close to home, literally. Over the last week, Ellicott City has responded after a very bad storm dropped nearly six inches of rain in only two hours. The recovery effort will be long and difficult, but the Ellicott City Partnership has done a remarkable job coordinating resources for both immediate and long term needs. The storm and its effects were severe and Ellicott City will require strong leadership, going forward. However, there’s been some accusations and finger pointing, about who may be responsible for inflicting what damage. The evidence given is usually the gross severity

Tax-Incremental Financing and Downtown Columbia

The Howard County government has recently proposed a tax-incremental financing (TIF) plan that would pay for certain amenities in downtown Columbia, including a parking garage. As usual, there are a great deal of discussion about this and whether or not a TIF is appropriate. Part of this focuses on how TIFs are used to improve blighted areas and no reasonable person could call downtown Columbia blighted. And downtown Columbia is not blighted. But just because TIFs have historically been misused for economic development (also, so have port authorities), does not mean it is not the right answer, here. TIFs are