Back in the 1970s, when Martha Pennino was on the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, she and the other supervisors were dealing with some familiar problems: The county was strapped for transportation funding because too much tax money was being sent south.
So, during a board meeting, Pennino made a suggestion.
"I said, 'Madame chairman I'd like to suggest we [Fairfax County] secede from the union and become the 51st state.' I thought it would be pretty nifty," Pennino said.
Her comment, though somewhat tongue-in-cheek, made headlines in several newspapers and was the subject of a short piece on the BBC. And even now she still gets two or three calls a year from reporters or graduate students with questions about secession.
"When the Pentagon was built, people from all over the United States moved to be near there," Pennino said. "The growth from Arlington drifted into Fairfax. And the growth was not made up of people who have been here for many years, like in the rest of the state. We had a different mindset."
And, she said, Northern Virginians still operate under a different mindset than does the rest of the state.
“We are willing to tax ourselves for education and other parts of the state aren't," Pennino said. "They say they are poor jurisdictions, and they can't raise taxes. But those are artificial tax rates, for the benefit of the owners of large tracts of land. If they are so poor, why do some of those jurisdictions have the largest per capita purchases of lottery tickets?"
Pennino said that, although the rest of the state lags behind Northern Virginia in quality of education, Northern Virginia lags behind the rest of the state in quality of roads. She recently took a trip to Northern Neck where at one point she was driving along a four-lane road and only passed around three cars per hour.
"I asked the person who was driving the car, 'Who down here has so much clout in Virginia that you're able to get these roads?' I don't want to deprive people of good roads, but let's be fair. We are the one's who paid for all these improvements."
<1b>— David Mongillo