Both Baltimores Are Slipping

January 13, 1991

Census figures broken down to the city, county, congressional district and legislative district levels are expected soon. Much attention has been directed to the harmful effect an expected under count in Baltimore City will have on the city. Less attention has been directed to the fact that even with a perfect count in the city, Baltimore is going to suffer when the 1990 Census becomes official. And so will Baltimore County.

Last August, a preliminary count showed the city's population down 8.5 percent from 1980, to 720,100. The state's population rose in the decade 12.2 percent to 4,732,934, according to the August estimate. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said then he believed the city's population was really more like 745,000. In December, the Census figures for Maryland showed the state count at 4,798,622. That extra 66,000 could mean the city's uncounted were picked up in the re-count period last fall. We won't know that till we see county-by-county breakdown figures later this month.

But even if that were the case, even if the city had 745,000 people in it officially, the General Assembly elected next time will still have fewer city delegates and senators. Baltimore County grew at a 4.9 percent rate. That is substantially below the growth rate of 18 of the state's 23 counties. So the county may also have a smaller delegation in Annapolis after 1994. At the least, it will have no larger a delegation, while some other counties' delegations will be increased. Relatively speaking, Baltimore County will be worse off.

Montgomery County's delegation will be larger than the city's and all other counties'. Prince George's County may be the second largest delegaion. It and the city were very close (Baltimore was only 288 ahead) according to the preliminary count. The Baltimore region will still be more populous than the region composed of Washington suburbs and exurbs. But some of this edge comes from the fast-growing counties of Anne Arundel and Howard. Some legislators there look to neither region as natural allies.

Baltimore City and Baltimore County have a greater need than before to work together in Annapolis. And in Washington. The city and county now dominate three congressional districts. All three are too small to remain as they are. City - county influence in at least one of them could be reduced dramatically. Without cooperation, that could mean reductions in some general and specific federal assistance to the region.

Of course, in Annapolis and in Washington, the main challenge to Baltimore region lawmakers is to demonstrate the importance to the whole state of a healthy Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

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