Fresno Mayoral Dispute Pulls in Autry

October 10, 2008 12:45:03 AM PDT
Fresno's Mayor says he's being dragged into the race to replace him. Alan Autry on Thursday defended candidate Ashley Swearengin against an attack by candidate Henry T. Perea.Earlier in the day Perea was joined by the head of the Fresno Police Officers Association in questioning, Swearengins support for law enforcement. At a news conference for Perea, FPOA President Jackie Parks said:"Law enforcement fears there won't be more protection for Fresno residents if Ashley Swearengin and the politics of the Regional Jobs Initiative make it to City Hall."

Swearengin heads the Regional Jobs Initiative, or RJI, an organization created to bring jobs to the area. In a report written four years ago, the RJI suggested that in order to find enough money for job creation projects the city might consider putting a cap on the amount of money from the city's general fund spent for law enforcement, if the money could be replaced with a public safety tax.

Perea says putting a "cap" on spending for public safety would endanger the citizens of Fresno.

Following a forum with Perea at Fresno State, Swearengin said Perea was misinterpreting the document. She said:"I think the simple term is my opponent is my opponent is simply not telling the truth. He's asked me several times about that and I've refuted that every time. I do not support putting a cap on public safety spending. As Mayor of Fresno my priorities will be public safety and economic development."

At his news conference Perea suggested Mayor Alan Autry would oppose the idea as well.

He said: "The City of Fresno, the City Council or the Autry administration would never endorse capping public safety spending. We would never do that. I think you would have to ask Mayor Autry."

We asked Mayor Autry, and he said Perea's interpretation of the document was "bizarre, and incorrect, and inaccurate."

He added: "Because when you say that line in the RJI compromises public safety, you're saying that I compromise public safety because I was co-chair of the Regional Jobs Initiative. I would never let anything be in a document that I signed off on that would weaken safety."

Mayor Autry says if Perea's false accusations continue, it should make it easy to decide who to vote for in this race. He would not however say if he was now endorsing Ashley Swearengin. Autry said:"I don't know if I'm going to endorse but I might tell you who I'm going to vote for."

Autry said he was not going to get involved in the Mayor's race unless one of the candidates threatened to "take the city backwards." But he said Perea, and Parks were "dragging him into it."

During their forum in front of students at Fresno State, neither candidate brought up the issue of public safety spending. Both candidates are graduates of the University and both pledged to work to improve traffic and pedestrian safety around the campus, and support improvements in the city's public transportation system, to benefit students and the community.

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