If you'll forgive my DC/urban-centric snobbery, I have to wonder how great a place really is if two of its major attractions are shopping malls. Make no mistake, however. Northern Virginia, the set of counties and cities west and south of Washington D.C., is a powerhouse region, the wealthiest in the nation with six of the twenty highest-income counties in the nation, including the two highest as of 2007.
There's a downside, however, for those who live in Northern Virginia. The area, which makes up about seven percent of Virginia's land area and about a third of its population, sends almost half of its income-tax revenues to the capital in Richmond, some 70 miles to the south. But by some estimates, the region gets back only 25 cents on the dollar.
With that disparity, some Northern Virginians have wondered, Why not secede and become the 51st state? The issue is not a new one, but no one has written about it as eloquently as Drew Lindsay. In an outstanding article in the current (November) issue of Washingtonian magazine (So Long, Virginia), the author lays out the case. Lindsay covers the history of the turmoil, the cultural differences ("Northern Virginia is arguably part of the state in name only"), and the difference in the demographics (More than 20% of Northern Virginians were born outside the U.S., while 3% for the rest of the state).
He also writes about why the breakaway probably won't happen. In addition to the political realities, there are business factors. Forbes has named Virginia the Best State for Business three years in a row. Lindsay notes, "Businesses that locate in Northern Virginia often praise the low tax rate as well as the state's laissez-faire regulatory style - both a function of Virginia's conservative government."
The author seems to conclude that the two sides will probably get along better in the future. And who knows? Maybe the two sides will even get together and fund a badly needed widening of Interstate 95 between Richmond and Northern Virginia. Talk about traffic woes...
Note: I wasn't able to find a link to the article at the Washingtonian website.