Saying quiet diplomacy has gotten the city nowhere, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke announced yesterday that Baltimore will join 15 other cities in a lawsuit that seeks to force the Census Bureau to adjust the 1990 census to reflect 5.3 million uncounted Americans.
"I think they have just decided the cities will have to force them, that they will not make the adjustment voluntarily," Mr. Schmoke said.
Until recently, he had tried to persuade federal officials to adjust the count and had rejected suggestions that Baltimore join the suit.
Mr. Schmoke said he changed his mind after U.S. Commerce Secretary Robert A. Mosbacher Sr. announced last month that he would not adjust the census even though Census Bureau officials have said the 248.7 million count missed about 5.3 million Americans.
Mr. Schmoke said he believed the decision was politically motivated because it would reduce the power of Baltimore and other cities, which typically are controlled by Democrats.
Had Mr. Mosbacher ordered the adjustment, Baltimore's official population would have increased to 772,000 from 736,014.
"I thought it was political," Mr. Schmoke said. "I don't think they will do a lot to help us."
The suit, filed in 1988 in federal District Court in Brooklyn, New York, asks federal Circuit Judge Joseph McLaughlin to order the Census Bureau to use the bureau's estimate as the official count.
The suit followed a 1987 U.S. Commerce Department decision to reject a Census Bureau proposal designed to rectify the historic under-count of minorities and city residents by estimating their numbers.
Since then, several city and state governments have joined the original plaintiffs, which were New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Dade County, Fla.
Over the next decade, the undercount could cost Baltimore millions of dollars and political influence because federal and state aid and representation in Congress and in the Maryland General Assembly are based on population.
The adjustment plan rejected by Mr. Mosbacher was based on the results of a post-census survey of 165,000 households conducted by the Census Bureau. According to the survey, the census missed about 4.7 percent of Baltimore's population and about 2 percent of the U.S. population.