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News

An Optimization Model for School Redistricting

Rick Kohn

The process that was recently used to develop school districts in Howard County is inherently inequitable and unfair. Those who have the resources, time, and connections to organize a response to those plans are able to ensure that their neighborhoods are not adversely affected while those without resources cannot do the same. 

In contrast, using quantitative statistical measures would enable development of optimal plans for the county in general. The discussion herein demonstrates that it is possible to simultaneously balance for capacity utilization, income, and distance, through computer optimization.

This plan implemented the mathematical modeling methodology described in the scientific literature previously prepared for Howard County Schools (AI Magazine, 2007, Volume 28)

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The Kangaroo Court of Howard County

Hiruy Hadgu

The Howard County Planning Board held hearings on the Settlement at Savage over five different days and a total of 16 hours.

In the end, it took the Board the most of 40 minutes of work-session to decide a case that took 16 hours and five days to present. It spent 2.5 minutes for every hour of case testimony. Thousands of pages of evidence was presented and none of these pages were considered during the work-session.

None of it mattered.

In the end, the vote was 4-0 for the developer.

It turns out that the community had NO chance because it was a predetermined outcome. It left me speechless as the Board voted. None of the issues raised during the trial proceedings were raised. At all. The Board took less time to decide the case than it would to make a selection from a dinner menu.

It was all a show.

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Areas to Address in a Potential Redistricting Reform

Rick Kohn

 If any redistricting reform is proposed here are some areas for improvement:

  • First, the data that were provided for development and evaluation of plans were flawed. 
  • Second, the process was flawed. The Attendance Area Committee (AAC) did not have diverse membership and could not reflect on issues of importance to the entire community.
  • Third, the process to obtain input from members of the community was flawed and caused the input to be substantially biased.
  • Fourth, the initial plan outlined in the Feasibility Study increased segregation by income and race, in some cases, and underestimated the degree of segregation that was being proposed through the use of biased FARM data. 
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My Typical Week as a Candidate for County Council

Hiruy Hadgu

It has been four months since I launched my campaign. It would be an understatement to say that this has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life. It has also been one of the most fulfilling. While I love data and dealing with policy, some of the issues can be arcane and require consultation of various resources. The most importation resources have been the numerous community leaders and activists I have spoken with.

Over the last four months, my campaign has focused on the issues. My discussion with several community leaders brought to my attention the issue of adequate public facilities and its impact on quality of life. Building on the hard work of many activists, we talked about the issues of segregation in the county. Specifically, the impact that zoning laws have on creating and maintaining segregated neighborhoods.

I have taken a hard stance against special interest. I am more than willing to compromise and collaborate to solve problems, but it will be with those who have good intentions for the county and consider themselves stakeholders. We need to restore trust in government.

I think a true progressive movement will not conflate the need for access to quality education, affordable housing, and welcoming community with the sort of out-of-control development taking place. When things get tough and financial hardships ensue, the people who get hurt are those we purport to help.

My campaign is evolving as I learn more about county issues. Over the next few months, I will share with you what I call "The Preferred Future". In short, it is a government that has an integrated approach to growth planning,  makes data based decisions, with compassion and empathy.

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Why The Downtown Columbia Plan Needs a Massive Audit

Hiruy Hadgu

We need to audit this massive deal, including the process, deliberations and other aspects. The TIF is just a fraction of the whole project. There were major changes to the county's zoning laws specifically to favor one developer.

Not only will the county pay for the financing and the servicing of the TIF, the developer gets to build a projection of profitability with free money. On top of that we pay the developer a fee for taking the TIF as well.

The county passed the TIF under the guise of building parking garages. Now the county is bending over backwards by making facilities that we deemed unqualified to be qualified in order to keep the TIF. This is daylight robbery of taxpayer money and some on the county council as well as the administration are aiding this theft.

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Howard County, Economic Opportunity and Prosperity Task Force, County Council Hearing

Hiruy Hadgu

On Monday, September 18th, 2017, I testified in front of the County Council to support the creation of the Economic Prosperity and Opportunity Task force.

I pointed to two major threats that local economies, including Howard County face - massive job losses due to automation and major infrastructure destruction due to climate change disasters.

I suggested that the task force look into using debt-free college programs as an incentive to steer the future workforce into clean and green technology related jobs.

I also stated that the increase of the minimum wage is long overdue. The increase of the minimum wage could be tied to programs that steer the future workforce into jobs that are value-add, automation proof, and offshore proof.

The county can leverage its great schools, its highly educated residents, and public and private organizations to help solve these challenges.

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Howard County, Columbia Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Repeal, County Council Hearing

Hiruy Hadgu

On Monday, September 18th, 2017, I testified in front of the County Council to support the repeal of the Columbia tax increment financing (TIF - definition).

The TIF authorized the county to issue a $90 million tax increment financing for the construction of a public parking garage, roads, and intersection improvements in Downtown Columbia.

Here is substance of my testimony as well as the video of the testimony.

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School Redistricting has Increased Segregation in Howard County schools

Rick Kohn

Continuing with this campaign's goal of advocating for equity in county policies, here, we focus on high school district segregation by race and income.

Certain school districts have much higher concentrations of low-income students than neighboring school districts. Given the strong correlation between race and income, those districts are also segregated by race and ethnicity.

The resulting distribution of students on Free and Reduced Meals (FARM) for five different redistricting plans are compared.

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Two Howard Counties - How Rapid Growth Can Increase Inequality

Rick Kohn

We need to ensure stronger adequate public facilities ordinance standards (APFO) are adopted and better moderate and low income housing policies are implemented such that the county begins rolling back what the current standards have begun to create - two Howard Counties. One where lower income families live and another where high income families live.

We need to consider the impacts of housing projects on potential economic integration before we approve these projects, and we cannot allow our school districts to be divided by income.

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Comparison of Three Sources of HCPSS FARM Data

Rick Kohn

FARM profiles among the data-set provided by MPIA 2018-004, the AAC Draft report released Aug. 8, 2017, and the FARM number from the HCPSS School System Profile are compared.  The results summarized from the provided MPIA dataset were nearly 5 percentage points lower than those for the 2017 system-wide profile.  Furthermore, the percentage FARM students across the district summarized as a weighted mean from the AAC Draft FARM Report (23.6%) was even higher than the school-system profile.  

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BIG ENDORSEMENT: Run for Something

Hiruy Hadgu

I am happy to share that I have received my first big endorsement from an organization that has been working tirelessly to support progressive candidates across the country.

Run for Something "recruit[s] and support[s] talented, passionate young people who will advocate for progressive values now and for the next 30 years, with the ultimate goal of building a progressive bench."

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Impact of Proposed School Redistricting on Economic Integration

Rick Kohn

The Howard County Public School System Board of Education has proposed school attendance area adjustments (redistricting) to take effect in the 2018-2019 school year.

The school attendance area standards are set by Board Policy 6010. Section IV.3 of the standards addresses the preservation of diversity by different measures of the sending and receiving schools.

One measure is "The socioeconomic composition of the school population as measured by participation in the federal [free and reduced meals] FARMS program."

While the proposed redistricting plan does not increase or decrease the standard deviation in percentage FARM across schools, and only affects a few schools. A granular look suggests that the proposed redistricting will not achieve the stated goal of improving economic integration.

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Low School Impact Fees are a Market Distortion that Line Developer Pockets

Hiruy Hadgu

Over the last few days, I heard the plea of parents' for help in comparing school impact fees across Maryland counties and how Howard County's schools stack up by state standards. My analysis concludes in clear and certain terms that tax payers in Howard County are subsidizing the profits of developers.

Impact fees should be tied to the size of the land available for development, the cost of developing public facilities, and demand. Currently, there is a market distortion that is created because of the low impact fees. This does not necessarily mean that higher impact fees mean higher home prices. The low impact fees are just creating opportunities for the developer to pocket more of the profits that it would have paid to mitigate overcrowding.

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The Laurel Park Station Project Is A Tax Giveaway

Hiruy Hadgu

The stake holders are not being forthcoming and are hoping to evasively get this project approved. The process is not transparent. They want county money to subsidize their development and it is not obvious if all the Council Members realize this. The TIF bill will be in front of the next council. If elected, I will not vote for it under any circumstances. There is a train stop is 2,500 ft away and there is absolutely no need for another one.

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