Portrait of Andy Woloszyn

Andy Woloszyn

Mayoral Candidate for the city of Huntsville


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About


Andy Woloszyn has over a decade of experience in activism that includes anti-racist, environmental justice, and workers’ rights advocacy.

He began in Murfreesboro, TN, where he helped defend the local Muslim community trying to construct a new mosque against a far-right-wing coalition who attempted to stop them. He has worked in Appalachia to protest mountaintop removal, prevented unlawful deportation of migrant workers, and walked in solidarity with picket lines and campaigns against Right-to-Work legislation.

Andy has deep roots in Huntsville. He was born in Huntsville Hospital on January 10th, 1988. His father was a TVA nuclear engineer and his mother was the owner of a consignment shop. After moving away when he was young, his family returned to North Alabama when Andy was 13. He completed high school at Bob Jones High School and attended the University of Alabama in Huntsville for his first year of college. Andy later studied English and Sociology at Middle Tennessee State University. He worked and lived in Tennessee for several years before returning home in 2016 to help take care of his mother.

As a Huntsville native, Andy wants to champion the progressive policies that are taking root (and working!) in other parts of the country — and the world — here in Alabama. He believes we must face the flaws revealed in our economic and healthcare system to provide for the needs of the many over the needs of the few.

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Platform


Huntsville is growing rapidly in population and booming in housing and business construction. But the poverty rate is well above the national average, and many people in our community are not seeing the benefits of Huntsville’s growth.

What good does it do to build a top-of-the-line, contemporary city to attract new residents if we fail to care for those who already live here?

People I’ve talked to are excited, energized and ready to work together to make our city kinder and fairer to all. Huntsville is ready for a campaign of substance, a platform of progress and a government that serves the needs of its citizens.


How Will Andy Pay for His Plans?


Police Reform

  • We have proposed several changes: police demilitarization, budget reallocation, and simplifying the body camera footage release process

  • These changes free up money in the city’s budget for other changes: allocating mental health and other work away from police, strengthening the advisory council, Provide mental health care for officers

  • Reducing over-policing is a huge money saver — overtime hours for two protests in early June totaled nearly $100,000.

  • Based on FBI data about police forces in various cities, Huntsville has about 80 more police and 80 more civilian personnel than is necessary for a city its size. Reducing the size of the police force and reexamining how we deploy our officers can save $7 million to $10 million annually.

  • Demilitarization, including getting rid of items such as tear gas, will cut costs as well.


Education

  • School Resource Officers, or SROs, cost city and district money.

  • SROs commonly over-police Black and Brown students, involving the law in situations where school detention would have been more than enough punishment.

  • Removing SROs from Huntsville schools saves Huntsville City Schools and the city money, which can then be applied towards paying our teachers a fair wage.

  • We can leverage numerous federal grants to provide free breakfasts and lunches to our students.

  • This is a worthwhile investment in our children’s growth and future.It’s vital that we use all the resources we can, at the state, federal and municipal level, to ensure that our children are well fed and well educated.


Single-Payer Healthcare

  • Enacting a single-payer healthcare system will actually save us money inthe long run. Under our current system, Americans pay an average of $10,000 per person per year for healthcare costs. Multiply that by the nearly 200,000 residents of Huntsville, and our current total healthcare expenditures are somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 billion.

  • We can reduce that number significantly (in many cases costs are reduced by half or more) by enacting a single-payer healthcare system — no premiums, no deductibles, just quality, affordable healthcare.

  • Funding for single-payer healthcare would likely have to come from many different sources. Without the outrageous costs of premiums, copays and deductibles, a small (single digital percentage) tax on one’s income is manageable and will save our citizens money.

  • Without having to pay huge premiums, employers can easily afford a similar small healthcare tax.

  • Since our program would work in tandem with Huntsville Hospital, we can cut down on the paperwork and the back-and-forth that is so common with traditional insurance, saving tons in administrative costs.

  • The bargaining power Huntsville would have as an entire city under one healthcare plan would allow us to negotiate better prices for drugs and medical services, saving even more compared to the current system.


Municipal Broadband

  • Municipal broadband is surprisingly easy to implement and pay for — there are federal grants from the FCC and other organizations that will assist with the costs of establishing the infrastructure.

  • The microwave broadband transmitters that we support are relatively inexpensive and low maintenance, making repair and upkeep relatively inexpensive.


Environment

  • Environmental policy is a long game that will ultimately benefit Huntsville.

  • Building energy-efficient buildings in Huntsville, as well as helping citizens make their homes greener, is a large upfront cost that will likely require a tax or a change in budgeting to pay for. The same is true for other green policies like improving/increasing recycling infrastructure.

  • However, the payoff is huge over the years. Installing solar panels on city buildings dramatically reduces electrical costs. Installing energy-efficient windows in a home can cut heating costs in half in some cases.

  • Huntsville will be able to generate its own power and not rely on outside sources to keep the city running.


A Working Family-Friendly City


Raise Wages for Workers

The minimum wage in Huntsville is $7.25, which is the Federal minimum wage. It hasn’t been raised since 2009. In addition, Alabama is one of only five states in the U.S. that has not adopted a minimum wage law.

We will raise the minimum wage for city government employees and all contractors working city government contracts to $15 an hour. This will ensure economic security for thousands of hardworking people in Huntsville. At the same time, this change will make the case to Alabama's lawmakers that a $15 minimum wage must be adopted at the state level.

Key Policies:

  • Raise wages for city workers to $15/hr

  • Choose companies for city contracts that pay their workers at least $15/hr

  • Put pressure on Alabama lawmakers to adopt a $15/hr minimum wage at the state level


Expand Public Transit

Public transit is essential for many members of our community to get to work, access food, and seek medical care. Huntsville should continue its plan to increase the span and efficiency of public transit routes.

The city has done a commendable job understanding the necessity of public transit, but to improve we must ask the communities most in need how accessible the system is for them.

We must start an investigative committee made up of members of our community to see where our public transportation is currently lacking and learn how we can improve to meet our community’s needs. Then, we must expand Huntsville’s transit system to actively meet those needs.

Key Policies:

  • Identify community leaders and transit experts to become members of an investigative transit committee

  • Determine areas that transit should be expanded to first

  • Determine which types of transit should be prioritized for those areas, including foot, bike, and bus transit

  • Expand transit infrastructure and access based on the findings of the committee so that Huntsville’s workers can access the rest of the city


Criminal Justice and Policing


Reform the Rocket City

Criminal justice reform is essential to combating institutional racism and building a community where everyone feels they belong. A disproportionate number of arrests and convictions fall upon the minority populations in Huntsville.

We need police demilitarization, the establishment of an independent civilian oversight committee, transparent release of body camera footage, and the reallocation of resources and tasks away from officers and towards the appropriate response professionals (social workers, mental health workers, etc).

This helps cut down on unnecessary arrests and convictions, while at the same time easing the burden on police officers — they no longer have to act as social workers, mental health workers, and more, and can just focus on keeping the peace.

Key Policies:

  • Prohibit the use of chemical weapons such as tear gas as well as emphasizing and providing training for de-escalation

  • Assign mental health and homelessness interventions, etc., to professionals, shifting funding and resources to the appropriate institutions

  • Strengthen the existing citizen advisory council, creating an impartial citizen law enforcement committee to oversee and regulate how HPD operates

  • Allocate funding for mental health resources and mental health advocacy for officers

  • Look to police departments nationally and globally for inspiration on how to change policies and procedures to promote lower use of force and increase crime prevention

  • Establish easy, transparent process for release of police officer body camera footage and crime statistics


Protect Our Neighbors

When dealing with municipalities and local police forces, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) makes “detainer requests” for local PDs to hold individuals until they can be deported. The police forces of Huntsville and Madison County cooperate with more ICE detainer requests than almost every other county in Alabama. It is completely voluntary to cooperate or not to cooperate with these requests.

We must work with the Chief of Police to make it clear to HPD officers that they are no longer to cooperate in any way with ICE’s detainer requests.

Key Policies:

  • Work with the Chief of Police to ensure that no officer acts as, or with, federal agents when interacting with people they believe might be undocumented

  • Ensure that officers do not ask about immigration status, citizenship status, or in any other way seek to determine someone’s immigration or citizenship status


Education


Ensure Quality Public Education

High-quality public education is our bedrock. We must prioritize it from early childhood on up. This means reversing the privatization and standardization agendas, as well as increasing transparency. It means providing educators with the pay, resources, and support they deserve. It means working with Huntsville schools and school boards to craft curricula that prepare students for the future, as well as providing training to teachers to help them teach students with different learning or behavior styles.

We must also remove School Resource Officers from all of Huntsville’s public schools. Research shows that having officers in schools does not stop or deter crime, and can often lead to the arrest or unjust expulsion of students of color or those who have experienced trauma.

Key Policies:

  • Work with HCS to ensure that all HCS teachers are paid a fair wage

  • Work with the HCS superintendent, as well as local teachers’ groups and children’s experts, to institute strong curriculum that includes comprehensive sex ed, strong fundamentals in science/math/english, and inclusive history

  • Work with teachers and HCS to provide training on how to teach children with trauma, LGBTQ children, and other marginalized groups

  • Remove School Resource Officers from all Huntsville public schools and direct that money towards the training mentioned above to help students succeed


PROVIDE FREE BREAKFAST AND LUNCH FOR ALL PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS

No child should have to worry about where their next lunch will come from. Our incredible city can, and should, ensure that no child who attends a public school will go hungry.

Free or reduced-cost meal programs do already exist, but they are subject to means testing, application processes, and red tape. The only way to ensure no child slips through the cracks is to make these policies universal.

Ensuring our children are fed is a moral imperative. In addition, data show that hungry children do not learn as well as those who are well fed. A free meal program is a step on the path to a well-educated city.

Key Policies:

  • Provide all students with breakfasts and lunches at no charge to them or their families

  • Work with experts to provide options for children with food allergies and intolerances

  • Seek federal funding for these meals through the USDA’s Community Eligibility Program


Y’all Means All


Guarantee Health Insurance for All Residents

In the shadow of COVID-19, it should be evident that taking care of ourselves as a community means ensuring that individuals are healthy. The issue is not one of quality but of accessibility and affordability. The path to a stronger Huntsville demands we guarantee healthcare to each of our residents.

Huntsville Hospital is very closely tied with the City of Huntsville. It is, and always has been, community based - its board of directors are even selected by our city council.

Since the city and the hospital are so closely related, we can work with the hospital to provide healthcare to all of Huntsville’s citizens. This will not only ensure that our residents are healthy and cared for, but will make the case to the state of Alabama that programs like Medicare and Medicaid must be expanded so that those who need healthcare can access it.

Key Policies:

  • Fund and create a city-run insurance system that handles all healthcare costs for Huntsville residents who have lived in the city for at least 30 days

  • Negotiate care costs with Huntsville Hospital

  • Work with Huntsville Hospital to create a network of specialists outside of the HH system, ensuring that all healthcare needs for Huntsville residents can be covered

  • Ensure that LGBTQ healthcare needs are covered in accordance with our LGBT policy

  • Ensure that preventative care such as physical therapy is covered


Establish Municipal Broadband to Ensure Internet Access city-Wide

In this day and age, access to the internet is a necessity — even more so with the spread of COVID-19. Work, school, and socializing are now taking place over the internet. Because of this, it is crucial that every citizen of Huntsville has access to quality internet.

Through the efforts of the city, internet providers and local activists, Huntsville has established municipal fiber internet connections up to the “last mile,” usually the closest network box to an individual’s home or business. That “last mile” is completed by businesses such as Google and AT&T, which unfortunately leaves some residents without good internet access.

We must establish a municipal broadband service for this “last mile” to help fill in the gaps that private internet providers are unable to.

Key Policies:

  • Establish municipal broadband service for the last mile where needed using microwave broadband transmitters, which allow for wider coverage at lower cost than other options

  • Expand coverage to K-12 students first

  • Expand coverage to working families and those seeking jobs next


REPRESENT AND CELEBRATE A Fair and DIVERSE HUNTSVILLE


Ensure Diversity of Experience and Perspective

We should ensure that the people appointed and hired to positions of trust in our city are as diverse as Huntsville itself. Our boards, commissions, and municipal workforce should reflect the gender, racial, and cultural diversity of the broader community. Diversity of experiences and perspectives makes us stronger and helps bring more ideas to the table.

We must work with HR professionals and experts on workplace diversity to ensure that our city government is as diverse as our city.

Key Policies:

  • Consult with experts and examine industry standards to determine how to hire, retain, and encourage a diverse city government

  • Transparently publish the city government’s workplace diversity statistics every quarter


Support and Protect our LGBTQ Community

It is not an overstatement to say that Huntsville has failed its LGBTQ residents. We can do so much more to protect and support our LGBTQ neighbors.

Enacting healthcare policies that support the LGBTQ community, protecting them in our workplace and housing discrimination legislation, and requiring gender-neutral bathrooms in all new buildings are just a few of the steps that must be taken to support Huntsville’s LGBTQ citizens.

Key Policies:

  • Explicitly include LGBTQ residents in workplace and housing discrimination protection legislation at the city level

  • Work with Huntsville Public Schools and other educational institutions to develop and expand protections for LGBTQ students

  • Remove gender information from government documents and forms where possible, add a third gender category (X) where de-gendering is not possible, and put pressure on the state to make name/gender changes easier

  • Require all new construction to include gender-neutral bathrooms

  • Enact LGBTQ-inclusive healthcare policies: work with Huntsville Hospital to ensure that same-sex couples recieve equal visitation rights, explicitly state that LGBTQ medical needs such as gender affirmation surgery are covered by our healthcare system, and extend access to HIV prevention and treatment resources such as PrEP


Environmental Action and Leadership


Address the Global Climate Crisis

We are facing a climate crisis — but there is still time to make a difference for ourselves and for future generations.

Huntsville has historically been an innovative leader in technology and science. We now have an opportunity to lead the region, and even the nation, to dramatically reduce emissions and promote renewable energy.

We can kickstart this movement by joining the United States Climate Alliance. While the United States withdrew from the Paris Accord in 2017 under the direction of President Trump, our city can take decisive action to stop the climate crisis by joining the United States Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of cities and states committed to upholding the objectives of the agreement.

Among the changes we can make are encouraging working from home, encouraging businesses to build green, and expanding our recycling and green transit infrastructure.

Key Policies:

  • Join the United States Climate Alliance

  • Enact green policies similar to those enacted by other member states and cities

  • Encourage working from home where available, provide city resources accordingly

  • Encourage/incentivize local businesses to build green buildings and run them efficiently

  • Expand recycling programs

  • Prioritize green options when expanding transit


Drug Policy Reform


Decriminalize Marijuana by Shifting Policing Priorities

People who have committed low-level, nonviolent drug offenses are often victims of addiction or poverty. We should not be focusing our efforts on throwing these people’s lives away by locking them in prison. Instead, we can focus our policing efforts on crimes that actually pose a danger to our community, and reinvest in reentry and rehabilitative resources that give low-level offenders a second chance.

We will direct Huntsville city attorneys to de-prioritize enforcement of cannabis possession in favor of greater emphasis on fighting crimes that have victims. The city should cease all arrests and drop all charges related to simple possession of cannabis and paraphernalia.

We should also work with Madison County law enforcement to encourage a reciprocal policy from the county, where they will similarly de-prioritize enforcing possession of cannabis within city limits.

Key Policies:

  • Halt current enforcement of most cannabis crimes and drop any charges that are currently in the system

  • Work with Madison County law enforcement to make sure they de-prioritize enforcing cannabis charges in HSV as well

  • Shift those policing resources to combatting more serious crimes


Prevent and Treat Substance Abuse With Compassion

Substance abuse prevention and treatment are two sides of the same coin. Both aim to save lives, and neither is complete without the other. Drug education, as well as efforts to reduce the amount of drugs in the community, work to prevent people from ever abusing substances in the first place. For those who suffer from addiction or any substance abuse issues, comprehensive healthcare that includes quality addiction and psychiatric treatment can go a long way in aiding their recovery.

Key Policies:

  • Work with pharmacies/other providers, as well as local organizations, to reduce the number of opioids prescribed in an effort to fight the opioid epidemic

  • Work with HCS to develop comprehensive drug education policies for the school curriculum — teach safety rather than relying on ineffective abstinence-only programs such as D.A.R.E.

  • Include comprehensive, secular addiction treatment in our healthcare system — too much addiction treatment draws on the abstinence-based 12-step program popularized by AA, which can fall short for many

  • Include psychiatric treatment with addiction treatment — many people who struggle with addiction are self-medicating for other issues

  • Work with local clinics/providers to destigmatize all forms of addiction treatment and rehab to ensure that people suffering from addiction feel safe when they seek help


Encourage Harm Reduction and Save Lives

Harm reduction is the term for drug policy designed to, as the name suggests, reduce harm. Harm reduction is critical when combined with comprehensive addiction prevention and treatment policy. Policy that protects those who are currently using/abusing drugs and alcohol can save lives, especially when combined with prevention and treatment resources.

A perfect example, especially during the time of COVID-19, is civilian access to distribute naloxone (Narcan) - a drug that saves lives from overdoses. Allowing community members (not just paramedics) to distribute naloxone increases the likelihood that community members will have it for themselves and others in case of an overdose, reducing the amount of COVID exposure for them and for our first responders.

Key Policies:

  • Increase citizens’ access to naloxone (Narcan) and allow naloxone to be distributed and administered by citizens - studies show that access to naloxone not only saves lives, but increases the chances that a person will seek and complete treatment

  • Work with clinics and other providers to improve and destigmatize testing for blood-borne illnesses (HIV, Hepatitis, etc.)

  • Increase access to clean, safe syringes and other supplies in order to combat the spread of blood-borne illnesses

  • Work with waste management and public works to increase the availability of biohazardous waste disposal disposal sites, as sanitation workers are most likely to come in contact with biohazards such as used needles

  • De-prioritize policing of, and increase access to, drug testing/safety items — for example, fentanyl test strips are considered drug paraphernalia, even though they help save lives from fentanyl overdoses

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Endorsements


Andy has already been endorsed by a number of progressive groups:

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