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

Again, I am Going to Mars…

Society’s 2016 Convention. Following up on the principles I outlined in my talk from last year on governing future Martian colonies, this year I will be outlining the complexity of funding public works projects on Mars. Here’s my abstract, for the technically inclined: A mission to Mars, manned or unmanned, requires substantial infrastructure in place to accomplish. This infrastructure is composed of communications, flight, and other components necessary to support a mission. A permanent outpost on Mars, or the Moon, also requires infrastructure for communications, water, power, and other things we consider public utilities on Earth. Financing such infrastructure is

Expanding the Market Through Fear

There’s a good article in Vanity Fair about the scandal at Valeant, the pharmaceuticals maker. NPR has also covered this for those not interested in reading. The part that has everyone up in arms has to do with their pricing strategy. The examples given are Syprine and Cuprimine, for treating Wilson’s disease: [F]or years, Merck, the big pharmaceutical giant, owned these drugs and sold them for a dollar a pill. And then Merck sold these two drugs to another firm, who then in turn sold them to Valeant, and Valeant began to hike the price of the drugs. Today

The Howard County Schools Are Very Sick

In a statement of blistering stupidity, Leslie Stellman claims the proposed school budget review committee violates state law. From the article, Stellman reportedly told the Board of Education, The county’s fiscal authority through an agency such as this creation would erode your immunity as a state agency. This is obviously incorrect, since the the County Council is responsible for approving the budget of the school system, per Maryland Education Article § 5-102. The Board of Education has no immunity as a state agency to begin with, as sole fiscal responsibility for the school system lies with the Howard County Council.