The U.S. Conference of Mayors is urging the Clinton Administration not to appeal a recent court decision that favored a group of cities in their lawsuit against the federal government over the way the 1990 census was conducted.

On Aug. 10, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the federal government did not properly justify its decision against adjusting the census count to reflect an undercount of 5 million people.

Changing the census count would affect the apportionment of seats in Congress and the amount of money that cities and states receive under various federal programs. In addition, census figures are used to determine how much bond authority is allocated under the private-activity volume cap.

"The Court of Appeals has provided an opportunity to right a wrong. The nation's mayors look to you for leadership on this issue," said the council's president, Victor Ashe, in a letter earlier this month to President Clinton.

"I call on you to announce that your administration will not appeal this historic decision to the Supreme Court, and to announce your commitment to support the decision before the Supreme Court if it is appealed by other parties," said Ashe, who is the mayor of Knoxville, Tenn.

The controversy over the 1990 census count began in 1991 when census officials admitted that about 5 million U.S. residents were not counted. Several states and cities demanded an upward adjustment in the official census figures. The Busts Administration refused to make that adjustment, and the cities sued, losing in a federal court in New York City last year.

The appeals court ordered a new trial in the lower court, in which the federal government will have to abide by a stricter standard in proving that its decision is correct. If the Clinton Administration does not appeal, some other states that would lose in the voting apportionment process under an adjusted census count stand ready to take the case to a higher court.

--Joan Pryde, Washington

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