Appalachia – More than a State of Mind
If your county could join a new state that greater reflects who we are, would you support it?
The phrase “Golden Crescent” is being used more and more recently in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This “Golden Crescent” extends from enclaves in Northern Virginia down a corridor of I-95 to Richmond. From there it begins a 90 degree turn to the east and ends in the Hampton Roads area.
Poor Representation of Rural Areas
This area of coastal elites are who control Virginia. They have increasingly made equal representation of the western half of the state harder to obtain. They do not look upon us as their equals. This is who represent all of Virginia, politically speaking. But you and I know that this is not the case. By establishing a new state government – Appalachia – the western half of the Commonwealth would have true representation in Washington. We would be able to elect our own two US Senators and members of Congress. We would be able to elect a Governor, State Senate, and State Legislature based on Article IV, Section 4 of the United States Constitution.
Tax revenue will not go to outdated road projects in the “Golden Crescent” but will be reinvested into Appalachia. It would improve the lives of our citizens, who are never at the front of the minds of those in Richmond, save for the few representatives we are allowed. For too long the people of Appalachia have struggled to be heard by Richmond and Washington D.C.
An independent Appalachia would be able to develop our natural resources as we know best. With our timber, water, agricultural, mining, hunting and fishing industries, Appalachia would become a net energy exporter. Coupled with the growing alcohol distillation, brewing, and wine making industries; the scenic beauty of the region, and the ever expanding tourism industry, Appalachia would become a magnet for industry.
Disproportionate Access to Opportunity
If you look at the past decades, you will see a pattern of modern tech industries moving into the Commonwealth. We have become one of the best states for job creation. These industries have not only helped to modernize the economy of Virginia, but have helped ensure that we can adapt to an ever changing world. Further investigation, however, will show you that these companies are settling in the “Golden Crescent”.
While the government has been trying to draw these industries in, they do not want them in the western half of the state where the three enclaves of the coastal elites would not directly benefit from them. If a large tech firm moved to Appalachia, not only would they bring much needed modern high-tech jobs, they could spark a new surge in our region’s economy.
Jobs related to building the new industry would arise along with home construction to house the employee families. Ancillary businesses that support these new communities would also see a boom in creation. New tax revenue would be generated that would allow us to invest in infrastructure and much needed healthcare programs that would draw in other investors and corporations to our benefit.
As the times change, so does the demand for energy. While Appalachia has a billion dollar a year bituminous coal industry, many power generation plants are transitioning away from clean burning coal and into natural gas. While these resources are not infinite, we could begin a massive green energy initiative. Green energy would allow us to not only meet but even exceed Appalachia’s energy needs. Excess energy on the grid could be sold to surrounding states. Our coal and natural gas can be exported to foreign markets whose economies are heavily reliant on these resources.
This new green energy initiative would also bring high tech jobs to the region and training for these jobs could be offered to Appalachians who are increasingly struggling to find or maintain work during Richmond’s war on coal.
Were you aware that Virginia has an untapped uranium source that if sold today (November 10, 2019) it would generate $2.93 Billion dollars, create a total of 1,375 jobs over the 35 year lifetime of the mine, generate $135 million dollars per year net economic benefits and $3.1 million dollars per year in state and local taxes? You may yourself “Why haven’t I heard of this?”
In 1982, Richmond placed a moratorium on uranium mining and in 2008 they rejected a proposed study that could have revised it. In June of 2019, the US Supreme Court upheld the ban, preventing the largest known US uranium deposit from being extracted.
The biggest concern is contamination of drinking water. While this is always something to think about, it does not take into effect modern remediation practices and technologies soon to be developed that could render contamination a thing of the past in Virginia.
This is just another example of Richmond and the “Golden Crescent” not allowing the people of Appalachia to prosper. Were Appalachia self-governed, we’d be able to open our state to much needed industry. Industry that would not only provide jobs, but would provide economic stability to a region that for too long has only been looked at as a tax cow. When they think of us in Richmond, often the terms uneducated and hillbilly are used in the same sentence.
If that is the case, then why did Region VII schools outperform the more affluent parts of the state? Despite a higher percentage of disabled and economically disadvantaged students, 82.8% of Region VII students passed their math SOL (Standards of Learning) compared to 77% for the state, and 81.2% passed their reading SOL’s compared to 77.2% for the state. Statewide pass rates declined in 2019, however they increased slightly in southwest Virginia.
By putting teachers in the proverbial driver’s seat, allowing local school districts to pool resources, and setting high standards, the students have improved. By focusing on the core skills students need to pass the SOL’s (which are similar to those needed to function in modern society), the unnecessary projects that don’t prepare students for the real world are stripped away.
In Appalachia today, school districts are poorly funded which creates a disadvantage for higher performing students. There are limited opportunities for advanced classes due to lack of funding for programs such as robotics and coding. The goal currently is to give all students an equal core of fundamental skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. As a new state, tax dollars can be used to provide these students the classes they need not only to function outside of school but to excel.
Hillbillies we may be, but you would be remiss for thinking that we are uneducated.
A Heritage Warrants a Future
The folks of Appalachia have a rich cultural heritage of good music, great food, and even better beverages. Not afraid to live by the sweat of our brow, we have never taken the easy road. How could we when we struggle to even be heard in Richmond? We have always stuck together because we know that only we can take care of each other. It doesn’t matter if you grew up in northwestern New Jersey or southwest Virginia. Appalachians will always have more in common with one another than with the coastal elites of the “Golden Crescent”.
Appalachia has always been a state of mind. Isn’t it time that we became a state in reality?