Maryland’s Black population increased slightly to 29.4 percent, while Blacks seemingly migrated to southern counties, according to new Census data released Feb. 9.
Counties such as Anne Arundel, Howard and Charles – whose White population dipped from 67 to 48 percent over the last decade – experienced the largest growth spurts of Black residents.
U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., said areas such as Charles County, which was once rural and undeveloped, are becoming more developed as the result of urban sprawl from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
She says the new racial composition may benefit minorities during legislative redistricting. “ actually bodes well depending on where these Census blocks are in the population and where the population is,” Edwards said. “We get to see what this might mean, in terms of the prospects for additional members of the state senate, who might be African American and be competitive in some districts where there hasn’t been competition before.”
Baltimore City was the only jurisdiction in the state to lose residents; in fact, as a whole, Maryland grew by 9 percent or 480,000 residents.
Over the last decade, Baltimore City’s population decreased by about 1 percent with about roughly 30,000 fewer Black residents living in the area than Whites. The city now has 620,961 residents, a 4.6 percent loss and at least 10,000 fewer than city officials had anticipated.
Still, city leaders downplayed the population loss, citing a steady decline – at higher rates – for generations. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called the 2010 figures the smallest population decline since the 1950s. But in a statement, she added, “We must continue to make progress on the core issues that matter most to Baltimore’s families: better schools, safer streets, and stronger neighborhoods.”
Prince George’s County’s population grew 7.7 percent from 801,515 to 863,420. Despite the fallout from the foreclosure crisis, which left the county’s economy in shambles, officials say they’re not surprised at the numbers.
“I’ve actually long suspected that we were going to have population growth in Prince George’s County,” Congresswoman Edwards said. “Just from traveling around to neighborhoods both in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, where we’ve seen growth in the state, you can say we may have even seen more growth had it not been for the current economic crisis.”
The growth in Prince George’s County might not necessarily be a good thing either. In a county with a weakened infrastructure, an increase in population could further strain resources. The county is trying to save money wherever it can, including possibly eliminating over 1,000 jobs in the school system.
One way to combat a further strain is to make sure there is smarter growth in Prince George’s. “Over the next decade, it is my goal to not just continue the growth of the population, but to prioritize ‘smart-growth’ of Prince George’s County in terms of economic development, jobs, better schools, more effective and efficient government and imploring better and more sustainable methods of living and growing,” County Executive Rushern Baker said in a statement.
Last December, Census officials announced Maryland would keep its eight congressional seats, but it remains unclear if Baltimore City will retain three of those seats.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, whose district incorporates many of Baltimore City’s Black voters, said he is confident the city won’t lose congressional representation. “I think that our Congress people will remain,” he said, adding that it will only be a matter of redistribution of the population.
“The population loss has not been as great as in the past, but any loss is traumatic. We need all we can get,” he noted.
While John T. Willis, former Maryland secretary of state and a redistricting expert, agreed it is unlikely the city will lose the two congressional districts with the largest numbers of African-American residents, he anticipates Baltimore will lose one of its six senate seats and have one to three fewer delegates in the House depending on state line configurations.
According to political talk show host and former state senator, Larry Young, Gov. Martin O’Malley, who will draw new boundaries during the first day of the 2013 General Assembly, should map a shared district between the city and Baltimore County. The move would be justified, as Cummings gave up a portion of his district 10 years ago so the nearby county could have a congressman, Young said. “So this time, we need to go back and say ‘Hey, we helped you get a United States congressman, ya’ll help us keep our legislative districts,’” he said.
The state still must adjust census data to reflect prisoner populations as mandated by a new state law requiring inmates be counted based on their last known address. Young estimates at least half of the state’s prisoners are from Baltimore City, which would greatly increase the city’s figures. Census officials are expected to release prisoner tallies by spring.