Chester Heathington Jr., a candidate for Chattanooga mayor in the upcoming municipal election, held a press conference Tuesday to challenge one of his fellow candidates to address crime in East Chattanooga.
Heathington, a perennial candidate in city races, called on Andy Berke to focus on criminal activity around Woodlawn Apartments, located off of Dodson Avenue.
Heathington said that co-ownership of the property by Berke's father, Marvin Berke, along with his uncle, obligated the candidate to do more for residents who had been exposed to crime.
Heathington cited a Chattanooga Times Free Press report from 2007, which quoted Marvin Berke after he and others decided to double the security budget for the complex after a rise in criminal activity.
"Berke talks about uniting the community and having a safe environment," Heathington said. "He hasn't been forthcoming about the safety of the citizens of this city. I guess they just see some people as collateral damage."
Berke's campaign dismissed Heathington's statements before the press conference took place, saying Berke had "no personal connection" to the property.
"As one can see from examining property records, Andy Berke has no ownership in the Woodlawn Apartment Complex, either through a partnership or personally," Stacy Richardson, a campaign staffer for Berke, said. "He has no decision-making or management authority and has no personal connection to the property."
Heathington admitted he knew Berke did not have a direct connection with the property, but instead insisted that his association with his family's law firm made his points valid.
"I had to get my facts together," Heathington said. "You can't do things haphazardly in this day and time."
Heathington has pledged that, if elected, he will reduce city crime by 50 percent during his first 100 days in office.
Richardson said that Berke would be "dedicated to making Chattanooga's streets safer" if he is elected mayor.
Early voting ends Feb. 28.
Election day is March 5.