ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - It's no secret that crime and public safety are always big issues in Albuquerque politics. It's also no secret that Mayor Richard J. Berry has been having a very public feud with the police and firefighter unions.
So what happened when those unions asked the mayor to take part in a candidate debate on their turf? In short, Mayor Berry will be sitting this one out. His campaign telling us it's because the groups hosting this forum are against him.
“This is probably the most important topic in this election and for him to ignore it as he's ignored our issues for the four years is telling,” Diego Arencon, president of Albuquerque Area Fire Fighters said.
That topic is public safety, and specifically, the Albuquerque Police Department and Albuquerque Fire Department.
The person Arencon says has been ignoring the two departments is Mayor R.J. Berry.
And now, more fuel for the fire.
“The fact that the mayor isn't showing up is disappointing,” Arencon said.
He's not showing up to a forum being put on by the city's police and fire unions this Thursday to discuss the state of the departments and the federal investigation into APD.
Pete Dinelli and Paul Heh, Berry's opponents in the mayor's race, have said yes.
“This is the man that is asking them to put their lives on the line, whether it be as a firefighter or a police officer, and yet he does not have enough courage to stand in front of the rank and file to answer their questions,” Democratic candidate Pete Dinelli said.
So is Berry sitting this one out?
His campaign released the following statement today, “Mayor Berry will be participating in half a dozen debates, including three televised debates, but will not be attending this sham event organized by the same political operatives currently airing negative attack ads against the mayor.”
They point to an ad paid for by Public Safety First. It bashes Berry, saying he failed to keep the city safe. The firefighters union contributed money to Public Safety First.
Republican candidate Paul Heh says despite the feud, the mayor should have to stand his ground.
“The mayor hides and I guess that’s what politics are all about,” Heh said.
“If you don't have a platform, if you don't have anything to defend and you don't want to answer the hard questions you don't show up.”
The unions say they worked hard to provide a fair platform for all candidates. The forum won't be open to the public.
The police and fire unions have gone back and forth with Mayor Berry over the past four years over everything from pay and equipment to staffing and morale issues.
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