The slogan “One Prince William” gets thrown around quite a bit. It really isn’t true. There are two Prince Williams.
The magisterial districts in eastern Prince William County – Neabsco, Occoquan, Potomac and Woodbridge – are all represented by Democrats on the Board of County Supervisors, along with the chair at-large. They naturally reflect a liberal, urban philosophy.
The three magisterial districts in western Prince William – Brentsville, Gainesville and Coles – are represented by Republicans. They ran in 2019 on platforms protecting the area known as the “Rural Crescent” and won.
One might think that the opinion of the popularly elected supervisors from three contiguous districts in the west would be respected by those supervisors from the east. This is clearly not the case.
Eastern and western Prince William represent very different demographic, cultural and land-use environments. Approval of the Preserve at Long Branch in the Coles District, discussion of targeting hundreds of acres in the Rural Area for data centers, and the development of Small Area Plans in the Rural Area are examples of the east imposing its will on the west.
All three western supervisors ran on traditional Republican fiscal conservative platforms. They are against the recently proposed higher tax bills. They were once again out-voted. Taxation without meaningful representation comes to mind.
It is interesting to note that the population of each of the three western districts is larger than that of 70 other counties in Virginia. Combined, they would compete for a spot on the top 10 most populous counties in the state.
In 2016, I wrote a think piece titled, “Should the county be split in two?” As I said then, Prince William’s borders have been changing for almost 300 years. Wikipedia states that the county was created by an act of the General Assembly of the colony of Virginia in 1731, largely from the western section of Stafford County as well as a section of King George County.
The area encompassed by the act creating Prince William originally included all of what later became Arlington County, the city of Alexandria, Fairfax County, the city of Fairfax, the city of Falls Church, Fauquier County, Loudoun County, the city of Manassas and the city of Manassas Park (and the various incorporated towns therein).
Perhaps it’s not finished evolving. Perhaps the county has grown too large for its population and conflicting cultures to be effective. According to Article 1 of the Virginia Constitution, Bill of Rights, Section 3: “That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration; and, whenever any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.”
The only thing constant is change. Perhaps it’s time for a change to occur. Maybe it is time to split Prince William in two. Bull Run County strikes me as a really great name. Considering the desires of the majority of the residents in western Prince William when planning for the future of their community is also an alternative.
As the famous American musician Neal Sedaka wrote and sang, “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.” It may be hard, but it is not impossible. Perhaps it’s time.
Al Alborn is a political and social activist in Prince William County. His column appears every other week. You can learn more about Al at www.alborn.net.