New State's Diplomatic Challenge

New State's Diplomatic Challenge

At the very first blush, the concept of a separate state -- or commonwealth -- of Upper Virginia met with a cool reception in Lower Virginia, the part that would be left over after Fairfax, Arlington, Prince William, Loudoun, and Fauquier Counties secede.

Upper Virginia would take with it a tax base flush with high tech money. It would include Fairfax County, where household income averages over $90,000.

“I can imagine some humorous sentiment and the south side of the state, saying ‘they never were a part of Virginia, anyway,” said A. E. Dick Howard, a constitutional law expert at the University of Virginia School of Law. “Until they stopped to think about the revenue implications.”

Upper Virginia would include the high-tech industrial presence of the Route 28 corridor, including America Online and the odd-shaped Center for Innovative Technology, and Dulles International Airport.

“You’d probably tax us if we went to Dulles,” said Mike Marshall, director of academic communications at the University of Virginia.

A native of Northern Virginia, Marshall emigrated to what would be Lower Virginia, after the secession.

Lower Virginia would depend on airports at Norfolk and Roanoke, with connecting flights available from Charlottesville.

INEVITABLY, LOWER VIRGINIA residents would adapt and make their own way.

“It’s fine with us if you do [secede],” Marshall said. “That’s what the Civil War was about. You can cut it off at Bull Run or the Rappahanock.”

“The first thing we’d do is dig a ditch around you to make it easier to patrol the border,” Marshall said. “I guess you’ll get your own baseball team. What would you call it? The Splinters?”

But told that George Mason University, rather than the University of Virginia, would be considered “The” University, Marshall blanched.

“Did you know we started them?” he asked. “[GMU] was created as a satellite branch of the University,” he said.

Asked how long the University of Virginia has been known as “The University,” Marshall said “Ever since we could foist it off on you. It goes back to the '50s.”

MARSHALL SPECULATED that roads and transportation in Upper Virginia would remain problematic after the split. On a personal level, he said, the Springfield Interchange means little to him.

But Upper Virginia without the expertise of the Virginia Department of Transportation, whose engineers have created and maintain the existing network of roads that are so vital to the commuters, the new state’s roadbuilding projects might falter, Marshall said.

He speculated it would be difficult for the Upper Virginia legislature to appropriate moneys and determine road-building priorities.

“You need to lock up the Republicans and Democrats with one bathroom,” he said. “They can come out when they get a road made.”

ULTIMATELY, MARSHALL SUGGESTED, it would be the southern half of the state that would hold the northern half together.

“It’s the southern people who will keep you glued to us,” Marshall said.

“A common failing of constitutions is that once you join, you can’t quit,” he said. “The constitution [of the United States] says you can join. It doesn’t say anything about leaving,” he said.