With the announcement of Dr. Isaiah Crevier’s candidacy for city council, it is worth revisiting his comments at the rancorous Sept. 2 city council meeting, in which a mask mandate was first proposed, and a large group in red came to oppose restrictions. Dr. Crevier, in red, went further than simply opposing regulation. He said, “I may lose business because of this, but I think freedom is more important than money, and freedom is more important than business, and my family and I will not be participating with the current agenda if it is passed tonight. We will not be wearing a mask.” This was non-negotiable for him.
In contrast, Dr. Rebecca Vandekop spoke a few minutes later, asking everyone to take action to prevent deaths in their community. She memorably shared how emotionally exhausting it has been to work in the respiratory clinic. She said she keeps on because “I love and care for my community, which is also why I choose to wear a mask when I’m out and about. Because I love and care for my community. To me, that is an act of kindness and of caring for my fellow man. It doesn’t hurt me to wear a piece of fabric on my face. It doesn’t cause me any harm, but it can potentially protect someone from an illness that I might have.” This was a wonderful summary of why many wore a mask and took other precautions this year; we were motivated to work together to protect each other’s health. We have been looking out for our community this year.
After Dr. Vandekop’s comments, Dr. Crevier returned to the podium to make a “correction,” declaring, “These people are not here because they want to kill people. Period.” He was greeted with loud applause by the crowd and then reiterated that he was unwilling to take actions to protect his neighbors beyond washing his hands.
I am uncomfortable with elevating someone to leadership who is so vocally disdainful of taking small actions to protect his neighbor and who takes these suggestions as a personal attack on his “freedom.”
I believe Dr. Vandekop’s comments were the ones we should follow. I am proud of how Brookings has come together to watch out for each other during the pandemic. It is likely not a coincidence that, of the 10 most populous counties in South Dakota, the one that took the most action (Brookings) is the one with the lowest death rate. Our current leadership, including incumbents Patty Bacon and Nick Wendell, deserve credit for listening to the experts, taking reasonable steps for public health, and trying to set a good example of looking out for our neighbors. There are many reasons to recommend the incumbent candidates (such as progress made on affordable housing issues), but their visible empathy, calm and leadership during this crisis are a large part of why I am supporting Nick Wendell and Patty Bacon for city council.