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Published: Thursday, 3/10/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Population of Toledo falls to 287,208

Suburban areas post mix of growth and decline

BY TOM TROY AND NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Toledo's population continued its 40-year downward march in the newest U.S. Census, falling by 8.4 percent to 287,208 residents, according to census data released Wednesday.

The new data adds detail to the state's population figure released in December which showed Ohio lagged behind other states in population growth. As a result, the state will lose political muscle — two of its current 18 congressional seats — when the state is redistricted based on the new Census figures.

DATABASE: Click here to search data on Ohio counties, cities, villages, and townships.

Toledo's loss was the gain of some of its suburban neighbors. Monclova Township saw the most growth in Lucas County, a near-doubling to 12,400 people, while Perrysburg in adjacent Wood County saw its population rise by 21.7 percent, to 20,623.

However, suburban growth was not universal. The municipalities of Maumee, Northwood, Rossford, and Ottawa Hills also lost population, as did the Toledo-area townships of Jerusalem, Perrysburg, Washington, Providence, and Swanton.

The Census Bureau is releasing detailed state population numbers a few states a week, and has not yet released detailed Michigan figures.

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell saw a silver lining in the new numbers.

"I don't think it's unanticipated given what we've gone through in the last 10 years," Mr. Bell said. "Actually I'm glad we didn't lose more people. And compared to all the Ohio cities I've seen listed in the top 20, we didn't do that bad, from the standpoint of being metropolitan city."

He said the numbers reinforce the need to reinvent the Toledo area and the state, saying that was a theme of Gov. John Kasich's state of the state address on Tuesday, and in his own 2009 campaign for mayor.

"People are leaving Ohio and what we're trying to do, as I stated during my campaign, is we have to patch the ship up so we can slow the rate of people departing here and start to turn it back around in a proper direction," Mr. Bell said.

He said he has no reason to challenge the numbers produced by the Census Bureau, as his predecessor, former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, did.

"I'm going to assume the professionalism of the census is in play here," the mayor said.

In fact, Ohio's population grew slightly from 2000 to 2010, from 11,353,140 to 11,536,504, but slower than the pace set by states throughout the South and West. Because the number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives is fixed at 435, states with large population increases will pick up congressional districts while states that lost population, or saw only modest gains, including states in the Midwest, will lose seats in the House.

Statewide population in Michigan's declined 0.6 percent in 2010, from 9,938,444 to 9,883,640.

Toledo's population fell from 313,619 in 2000, continuing a trend for the city, which saw its population peak at 383,105 in 1970, up from 318,003 in 1960. The last time the city's population was below 300,000 was in 1940.

Mr. Finkbeiner said Wednesday night that, "Census numbers are absolutely as misguided as any numbers that America uses." He noted that he successfully appealed an estimate that the city's population had fallen below 300,000.

"Three years ago, after we hired a firm to help the city of Toledo count its residents, we were boosted to 317,000 people from roughly 293,000," Mr. Finkbeiner said. He said he wonders how the city's population could suddenly plummet from 317,000 residents to less than 288,000.

"That shows you how flawed the United States Census's efforts to count the American people is. It is hugely flawed," Mr. Finkbeiner said.

He said that if he was Mayor Bell, he'd get the people who helped the city several years together and challenge the number.

Barbara Lang, a Monclova Township trustee, said she was expecting the census to show growth in the township.

She said she believes people have moved to Monclova Township for its good government, low taxes, a sense of security, and "neighbors that are just like them."

"That rural feeling is important, as well," Ms. Lang said, referring to the farms and woods. "I think they moved here for low taxes. It is something that people tell me, that they moved here for low taxes."

The area population losses didn't surprise Lucas County Commissioner Peter Gerken, who actually anticipated a steeper decline and called the losses part of the story of the last 10 years in America. While counties such as Franklin and Delaware had government and university jobs to help fuel their rapid growths, the Toledo area went through the decline of the automobile industry. Then, the recession hit.

He said county leaders saw the drops coming, and have been working to stem the tide.

"We knew that kids were leaving because there weren't jobs," Gerken said, "so we are starting to turn that around."

Mr. Gerken says he sees bright spots in the economy, pointing to efforts to make Toledo a manufacturing hub for renewable energy. He said the economic hardship the region has been through has forced communities and governments to market the area, and he says that will be the way to reverse the trend.

"Out of every tragedy comes an opportunity," he said.

The new census numbers will be used for two sets of reapportionment — congressional districts and state legislative districts. The General Assembly determines new congressional district lines, and a five-member apportionment board will determine new statehouse district lines. The apportionment board includes the governor, the secretary of state, the auditor, and two members of the General Assembly, one from each major party. Because of the Republican victories in the 2010 elections, Republicans will occupy four of the five seats on the apportionment board.

State Rep. Matt Szollosi (D., Oregon), the assistant minority leader in the state House, said it will be summer before maps for new statehouse and congressional districts take shape.

He said there's a lot of conjecture whether both of the seats to be lost will be among those five currently held by Democrats, or whether there will be one Republican and one Democratic seat drawn out of existence.

"I've heard no indication either way of the majority's intent on that. Obviously, first and foremost, I want the process to be fair. I think there should be significant public input, as well as input from the lawmakers whose district's will be impacted," Mr. Szollosi said.

He said it's unlikely that northwest Ohio would lose a seat to another part of the state.

"It's possible, but it would be difficult for them to create a district that contained the Toledo metropolitan area that will be favorable for a Republican," Mr. Szollosi said.

Steve Fought, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), said speculation has focused on her congressional district, the 9th, either expanding eastward further into Lorain County or westward into Fulton County, possibly all the way to the Indiana line. Currently the 9th includes most of Lucas County, all of Ottawa and Erie counties, and part of Lorain County.

The average congressional district will have about 721,031 people, up from the 630,700 per district set in 2000.

He said an ideal district would include the Toledo metropolitan area, meaning Lucas, Erie, Fulton, Wood, and Ottawa counties, which together had 728,528 people in 2010.

"I would submit to you, that is the best thing that could happen to our region," Mr. Fought said. "The Republicans in Columbus have the opportunity to do the right thing, or they can do the political thing and try to redraw the district to their political advantage."

Lucas County Republican Chairman Jon Stainbrook said he would look to the Ohio legislature, not a Democratic spokesman, to decide how to best carve up the state for congressional representation.

"With all due respect to Mr. Fought, he should take a civics refresher course because the Ohio General Assembly is the one that redistricts congressional districts. The ideas are not driven by local congressional officeholders or their staffs," Mr. Stainbrook said. "The people that are on this thing were all voted in. They were elected by the voters of the state and I trust them to do their job justly and fairly."

Contract Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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