Fall River mayoral candidate Paul Coogan should debate his challenger, Cathy Ann Viveiros. Period. To continue to refuse to debate her is to deny voters a fair opportunity to make an informed decision about their future.

Folks in Fall River have been to hell and back in recent years with two recall elections, federal corruption indictments, and a short stint with a guy who didn't even seem to want to be there. It's time for some stability. Voters need to demand accountability, and accountability means accessibility. There is no reason for Coogan to avoid a debate.

Not only has Coogan refused to debate his opponent, but he has ignored requests for media interviews to discuss his positions on issues important to the citizens of Fall River. Mr. Coogan is either fearful of a debate or he is attempting to coast into a coronation. Either way, the voters are being denied the chance to compare and contrast the two individuals who hope to guide the city away from crisis and towards a brighter future.

Cathy Ann Viveiros is an extremely qualified candidate for mayor and her candidacy should be given the respect it deserves. Mr. Coogan has an impressive background in education. Both bring much to the table. The Fall River media should be insisting that the candidates go before the voters as often as possible but it hasn't. Coogan has been encouraged to avoid a joint appearance and Viveiros criticized for seeking an opportunity to present her case.

Shame on Paul Coogan for resting on his laurels and for refusing to debate Cathy Ann Viveiros. And shame on the media for not calling him out for it.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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