Written by Julianne Foster
The candidates for San Diego City Council District 5, Republican Joe Leventhal and Democrat Marni von Wilpert, are butting heads over issues related to the pandemic and the reopening of schools. While von Wilpert supports a narrow-minded lockdown approach that ignores all consequences of shutting down schools and businesses, Leventhal has shown that he’s willing to put in the work to listen to health experts and the community to safely reopen.
The outcome of this candidacy is important because the elected candidate will determine whether Democrats increase their majority on the nine-member council, or allow Republicans to step up and help fix the communities driven into the ground by Democrats.
Leventhal’s plans to reopen, described by von Wilpert as “reckless,” include his push for the city to provide additional federal money to fund necessary changes for classrooms to be reopened safely. That money would fund the inclusion of plexiglass shields around desks, hand sanitizer stations, and performing daily deep cleans. Von Wilpert has tried to paint Leventhal as someone demanding school reopenings regardless of what health experts ,say but Leventhal denies the accusation.
“She’s totally trying to lump me in, and she’s wrong,” Leventhal said. “We are both trying to say schools should open only when they are safe, but I’m the only one with a plan to make that happen.”
Von Wilpert’s ideal of reopening only when the virus is eradicated is unrealistic and unserious. The virus will not magically disappear, which is why with the support of uncorrupted health experts, people should be given their freedom to leave their homes with the risk of contracting COVID-19 as their responsibility. With plummeting cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, it’s time to give students those options to return to school with necessary precautions.
Leventhal has risen above von Wilpert’s petty partisanship and is already proving that he is better qualified for the position since he listens to health experts and community input. Surveys have shown that parents support the return to in-person classes, which Leventhal understands and has carefully developed strategies to make it happen safely.
“With three months of local COVID-19 history behind us, we know it’s possible to create safe, indoor environments,” he explained. “But it certainly comes at a price tag. And for a number of reasons, our local schools currently do not have the funds to adequately protect our children on campuses unless there are deep cuts to other aspects of the education system.”
Leventhal isn’t trying to rush schools into reopening. His goals are to provide schools with the necessary funding to install equipment and prepare staff so that in the event that health experts say schools can reopen, they are prepared and can do so quickly.