NEW BEDFORD - Candidates running for City Councilor At-Large, School Committee, and Mayor were participated in a public forum at the Whaling Museum on Thursday. Hosted by the Mayor's Youth Council, the candidates were asked to provide their views on key issues in the city that pertain to the position they're campaigning for.

Mayoral candidate Charlie Perry and incumbent Mayor Jon Mitchell made up the smallest forum of the night. The two deliberated on topics ranging from the school system, the crime rate, and economic development.

The crime rate was a popular topic as expected, following New Bedford's seventh and eighth homicides in 2017 earlier this week. Charlie Perry, who is also a 30-year veteran of the New Bedford Police Department, says that the city is being unfairly labeled in the media as a 'the most violent city in Massachusetts'. He says that people make misconceptions about New Bedford based on statistics they read that break down reported crime in the city.

"What happens in this city is that citizens report a lot,” Perry said. “In some other cities and in some other communities they may not be willing to call the police about anything. It could be a fight outside and they're not going to call. That's a stat, so if they don't call we don't produce that stat,” he explained.

Perry credits New Bedford residents for reporting illegal activity so law enforcement can act on that. He says that residents of other cities who witness crimes and not report them as rapidly as those in New Bedford.

Mayor Jon Mitchell says that he plans to continue his work with Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro to combat violent crime in the city, if re-elected. The mayor praised Cordeiro and says that appointing him as Police Chief is "the single most important thing that I can do for public safety in our city.” He also called Cordeiro a “top-notch police officer who's got a full skillset in terms of his ability to understand data, to motivate police officers, to interact with the community, and to partner with outside organizations.”

When asked about how to improve and attract more business to the downtown and waterfront areas of the city, Charlie Perry stated that he knows of numerous establishments that are considering leaving New Bedford because they can no-longer afford taxes imposed on them by City Hall.

“There's a lot of vacancies down there. People are not coming here and the reason why is because they need a tax break," Perry explained. ”We do have businesses in the city that are ready to leave. We have nine-or-so businesses and 26 vessels in this area that want to leave. They want to leave because they're not getting cooperation from City Hall.”

Mayor Mitchell fired back at Perry, citing a story that claimed New Bedford's drop in unemployment rate last year was second-to-none throughout the country.

“As the mayor you have to deal with facts, so here's a fact as reported by every major newspaper in the country,” fired back Mayor Mitchell. “'At the close of 2016 New Bedford, Massachusetts, out of almost 400 American cities, had the sharpest yearly drop in unemployment rate'.

The Mayor's Youth Council has been hosting the candidates' forum in 2007, making Thursday's the seventh one hosted by the group. The Youth Council says it hosts the forums in an effort to get as many citizens as possible to participate in the elections, and to educate voters on their options for public office.

The final election is scheduled for November 7th.


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