Census: Residents fleeing Baltimore in record numbers
Since 2015, Baltimore has experienced a record loss of population, according to the US Census Bureau. The reasons are plain enough, according to Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun:
An insane rate of shootings and homicides; the continued movement of families to the suburbs, something reflected in declining school enrollment; the persistent image of lawlessness since the April 2015 unrest; the shortage of police officers, low morale among cops who remain on the job, the turnover among commissioners; weak or uneven political leadership, and, as always, a property tax rate double the rate in the counties.
How bad is the exodus?
New annual estimates from the US Census Bureau show that Baltimore is continuing to shed inhabitants, bringing the overall population of Maryland’s biggest city down to what it was over 100 years ago.
The latest Census data shows that Baltimore lost more than 7,300 citizens during the 12 months that ended July 1. That’s a loss of 1.2% of the city’s population. It’s the fourth straight year of population decline for Baltimore while rival counties are attracting newcomers.
Baltimore has been hemorrhaging residents for a long time. In 1950, it was America’s sixth most populous city, a manufacturing dynamo with nearly a million residents, many employed by Bethlehem Steel. Over decades, with factories closed and “white flight” in the 1960s and ’70s followed by waves of “black flight,” it’s since shrunk to the country’s 30th largest.
Census data released Thursday suggests the city’s population is now just over 600,000 people. The population of the metropolis nicknamed “Charm City” stood at roughly 730,000 in 1920.
Of course, Baltimore isn't alone as far as US cities losing population. But it is unique in that city leaders appear to be trying their utmost to hasten its decline. Raising taxes instead of cutting them, hamstringing the police instead of allowing them to stem the violence, corrupt political leadership - it's a recipe for disaster.
So how to fix it? Rodricks wants the city to go all Angela Merkel:
Recruiting and welcoming immigrants was the best idea former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had. So let’s go. Let’s renew that effort, with gusto. Why not create a city-supported group to interview migrant families at the border and suggest they settle here? There are several Maryland-based, immigrant-support organizations that could help with that effort. The state’s congressional delegation could say to the Trump administration: OK, we’ll take some of the migrant families held at the border, but we need federal subsidies for transportation, housing, job placement, public education for children and language classes for adults.
Why not set aside some city-owned, abandoned rowhouses and sell them to immigrant families that, like local families already in the program, establish stable incomes and agree to work with Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake to renovate and inhabit them? Follow Baltimore’s previous dollar-house model: Require families who get this benefit to live in the home for at least five years and, further, to enroll their kids in city schools.
Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel tried the exact same thing and not only lost her job, but changed the character of Germany forever. But specifically, who does Rodricks think is knocking on the door at the border to get in? College educated, middle class refugees? Or poor, uneducated migrants with few job skills?
I have no doubt many of those migrants are eager to work. They walked all the way here, most of them, and studies show that given the opportunity, they'd be taxpaying contributors to society.
But they would still be a drain on local and federal resources. For how long is hard to say. Some would certainly need public assistance for the rest of their lives. This has been the experience of European countries that welcomed millions of migrants. At the very least, it's something that should be seriously considered before Baltimore takes Trump up on his offer for migrants to settle there.