Democrat Andy Julow works, volunteers and raises his family in the same community he himself grew up in. A graduate of South Hero’s Fulsom Elementary School, decades later, he has now been chair of many of the islands’ school boards.
Julow is running to represent West Milton and the Champlain Islands in the Vermont House of Representatives because he wants to address Vermont’s demographic imbalance.
“I remember the time when the schools were full, when the little leagues were full and now and I’m seeing that we've kind of lost a generation,” he said. “We still have people from the previous generation who are getting older and are being asked to contribute more to state services because there isn't that generation that's in the prime of their working years.”
In order to make Vermont attractive to young professionals and families, Julow said the state’s colleges must become more affordable.
“It's just a shame that when kids go to pick colleges, oftentimes, when they consider the financial aid packages being offered, it's cheaper for them to leave than to stay,” he said.
Being good stewards of our natural environment and resources will also help sustain Vermont as the recreational destination it already is. Julow wants to work to ensure the health of Lake Champlain and to bolster the state’s public lands.
“One thing that is unique about this younger generation right now is their love of nature,” he said. “Young professionals are looking for recreational trails and natural areas. A lot of them can work anywhere they want, and so they're going to choose to be where those recreational opportunities are. And so I think as Vermonters we would be wise to realize we have a beautiful space.”
Last week, Julow spoke with the Independent over the phone. His responses have been edited for length. See italicized Editor’s Notes for more context and links for fact-checks.
The legislature this session took some steps to address concerns about use of excessive force by police and the inequities in how often people of color are subjected to motor vehicle stops and criminal charges. Do you think those actions were sufficient or is there more to be done?
In general, there's far more work to do there. What we've asked our law enforcement to do — and I think we should include educators in there as well — is we’ve asked them to do things they were never trained to do.
They've been asked to work more as social workers than as the job they were originally trained to do. They are frontline on the opioid epidemic. We really just need to, top to bottom, look at that situation and figure out how we get the right people to the front line to be dealing with social issues, rather than sending policemen, teachers or firefighters who have to try to improvise that situation on the fly.
What should legislators do to address the impact of COVID-19 on low-income Vermonters?
Primarily, we need to be looking at our unemployment benefits. Those need to be kept consistent and robust. We need to start to address the industries that have been hit hard by COVID like restaurants and tourism.
We're also obviously going to need to do something with healthcare. We've seen double digit increases in health care for decades now — year in, year out. I think this crisis has really underscored the folly of depending on jobs for our health care. Many are out of work and losing their jobs and then losing their health care with it.
The federal government has really failed to deal with health care aggressively for the last couple of decades, so Vermont should start to reach out and build a coalition with other states to see what we can build.
Economists are expecting Vermont to face shortfalls when it is time to prepare the fiscal year 2022 budget, especially the Education Fund. How should the state address that loss?
When I was growing up here, we had far more kids in the school system. We had a far more robust group of people in their 20s and 30s raising kids here in the prime of their earning years, and since then, we’ve really lost a generation of Vermonters.
We have to attract and sustain our younger population so they're spending their working years in the state of Vermont. Then we can reap those income and sales taxes from them being here, and we can get that extra revenue for the education fund and reduce the reliance on property taxes.
Scientists largely agree action is needed to delay the worst impacts of climate change. What actions, if any, do you feel the legislature should be taking to reduce Vermont’s share of carbon emissions and ready the state for the effects of a changing climate?
I think first and foremost, it's important to remember that clean energy is an opportunity to generate something in the state of Vermont that we are currently importing. I know an operation just down the road here that's been specializing in clean energy for a long time and they are growing. They are creating good paying jobs in the state of Vermont and the more and more clean energy we generate here through wind or solar or whatever we come up with is just greater supply, which lowers energy prices overall.
We have a real opportunity here to replace fossil fuels that we are getting from outside of the state, even outside of the country, with energy that we're producing here in Vermont, with Vermont companies and Vermont employees.
The legislature should incentivize people to continue to use things like electrical vehicles, to put solar panels on their roof and to consider wind turbine operations. The legislature needs to be on top of removing and clearing the obstacles to make sure there's a path for clean energy in Vermont.