By STEVE KILAR
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (February 10, 2011) Over the last decade people flocked to every corner of Maryland—except one.
Baltimore City lost nearly 5 percent of its population—about 30,000 people—between 2000 and 2010, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The city now has about 621,000 residents.
The new data is bittersweet because although Baltimore continued to lose residents, the rate of loss seems to be leveling off, said Thomas J. Stosur, the city's planning director.
"We were not expecting to match the 2000 numbers," Stosur said. "But it is the lowest percent change—when you go decade by decade—since at least 1970. It speaks to stabilization."
The 2010 decennial census data released Wednesday is the backbone of the legislative redistricting process. But before that process begins, Maryland's data needs to be adjusted for a new legal requirement that determines the last-known residences of the state's prisoners. That adjustment is expected to be completed this spring.
Although the Maryland General Assembly does not intend to begin redrawing legislative districts until this summer—in anticipation of the 2012 elections—Baltimore City plans to use the data sooner to redraw City Council districts, said Cathy McCully, chief of the Census Bureau's redistricting data office.
Baltimore's primary is scheduled for Sept. 13, 2011.
In Maryland's other big cities, the number of residents exploded during the century's first decade.
The population of Frederick—the state's second-biggest city—increased by nearly 25 percent to more than 65,000 people.
Rockville fended off Bowie and Gaithersburg to become the state's third-largest city. The Washington suburb grew by almost 30 percent to just over 61,000 residents.
Among the state's 20 biggest cities, Easton grew the most. The Eastern Shore town swelled by more than 36 percent and now has almost 16,000 residents.
Most of Easton's growth—evidenced by a glut of building permit requests—took place in the middle of the decade and dropped off over the last three years, said Tom Hamilton, the town's planner.
Easton's Town Council was alarmed by the jurisdiction's fast expansion mid-decade and took planning steps to slow growth, Hamilton said.
"Frankly, for the last three years we haven't had any growth," Hamilton said.
The town frequently updates its population estimates, Hamilton said. He does not expect the census data to influence the town's development plan.
Easton does not expect to annex more land, so any growth in the next five years will have to be contained in current boundaries, he said.
"We have a pretty good handle on it," Hamilton said.
A large chunk of Easton's growth—and Maryland's growth, generally—came from a burgeoning Hispanic population. People who identify as Hispanic or Latino now account for nearly 10 percent of Easton's population, up from just over 3 percent at the start of the last decade.
Maryland gained about 243,000 Hispanic residents since 2000, an increase of more than 100 percent. The Maryland data mirrors an increase in Hispanic residents across the country.
"I would like to say that there's something special about Maryland," said Kim Propeack, director of CASA in Action, a Maryland immigrant-oriented political action group. "But growth around the country has been like that."
Nearly 300,000 Hispanics now live in Montgomery and Prince George's counties—more than 60 percent of the state's total Hispanic population.
The census data suggests that Hispanics' representation in Maryland government is inadequate, Propeack said.
"In Prince George's County, Latinos are dramatically underrepresented," she said. "In Montgomery, the phenomenon is even more extreme."