(Editor’s Note: These letters are in response to a letter to the editor from Belen resident Maggy Fitzgerald published the Jan. 13 edition of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.)
Investment in Belen
When I was voted the Best Artist in (Valencia County) three consecutive years, I was very touched and thought it meant that my community appreciated the efforts my husband, Donald Woodman, and I have made to improve the town during the 25 years we have lived here.
When Ronnie Torres was mayor (and contributed years of volunteer work for the same purpose) he told us about his vision, which involved turning Becker Avenue into an arts district that would attract visitors and private investment as a way of turning around the downward slope of Belen.
We have had people visit us from all over the world and some of their reactions to where we live is that it is basically a “ghost town.”
In addition to me, the people Maggy Fitzgerald chose to attack in her … letter to the editor — Ronnie Torres, Danny Bernal Jr., Jerah Cordova and Megan Malcom-Morgan — have all worked really hard to change that dismal situation and to try and realize Ronnie’s dream because we want Belen to be a thriving community.
The many people who have come to the Through the Flower Art Space have spent money at the various businesses on the street. Moreover, there have even been some people who have moved to Becker Avenue to be part of what we are all trying to build.
Moreover — and this is the salient point — we have all invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into buying and improving our properties, which is more than one can say about all the empty buildings, ramshackle houses and run-down properties around town.
I expect a public apology from Maggy Fitzgerald because her letter … really hurt me.
Fact: Activities that have been organized by Judy Chicago, Donald Woodman and the Though the Flower Art Space have brought in outside money to businesses not only on Becker Avenue but to other businesses throughout our town. This challenges Maggy Fitgerald’s erroneous statement about revenues which never materialized. We have also funded most of these programs (“festivals and celebrations”) with our own money.
Fact: It was not the city but the Belen MainStreet Partnership, which supports … businesses in (the MainStreet district), that was the driving force for the thousands of dollars of street work done on Becker Avenue, which was spearheaded by Jay Peters.
Fact: The Belen MainStreet Partnership … already exists and has for many years as a committee of businesses and individuals to support and plan for … businesses throughout the (Mainstreet District). A new committee does not need to be formed, so take your grievances to them.
Fact: Judy Chicago and Donald Woodman personally donated private funds to help families in Belen who were affected by last year’s flooding.
I hope that the newly-elected officials continue to recognize the benefits to the city provide by the hard work done by both private individuals and former elected officials for one purpose; to help stimulate economic growth in our community which is desperately needed.
Editor was wrong
The … attack against private citizens, nonprofits and small businesses published in the pages of this newspaper by you — Clara Garcia, editor of this newspaper — was baseless, conspiracy-laden and downright beneath the level of journalistic integrity expected of editors like you.
Let it be stated that you — Clara Garcia — are fully responsible for further reducing the credibility of your newspaper to its lowest point and furthering the decline of trust in our media.
Committed to Belen
In response to the letter to the editor written by Maggy Fitzgerald and printed by the Valencia County News-Bulletin (on Jan. 13):
Not many 17 year olds choose to stay in their hometown to help it grow and move forward. Not many 19 year olds decide to run for office and after they lose, run again. Not many 23 year olds, having been elected at 21-years-old, can say they have put their heart and soul into their entire community. I can.
For going on six years, I have volunteered and taken little pay for my service to my hometown. My record as a city councilor, boasts Belen’s greatest economy. When I took office and the pandemic hit, I led our local businesses to strive by creating the Facebook group, Believe in Belen, which also fed hundreds of Belenites. From businesses below the west mesa, north of the Main Street overpass, east of the river, and in our neglected southern district, any business in town, no matter its location, was eligible for a BNB event.
My voting and presentation record is unmatched. Within the first two months of me being an elected official, our council passed ordinances that I helped write (it takes a team). Addressing and tackling our vacant buildings, business restraints, weak code enforcement, and stray animal issues.
Later, we approved or completed road projects that I made a priority. Roads that had been neglected for decades. And when an ordinance presented to the council banned front-yard fences, I spoke out and said it wasn’t for Belen. A misconception caused by our local newspaper suggested otherwise.
Now, our local newspaper has allowed a … letter to the editor to be published … that should have never been printed. Our newspaper editor thought it was a good idea to publish this letter, with full knowledge, having attended many council meetings and knowing the truth.
I’m the one to speak out against possible corruption and fraud within our city. I call it out and condemn it every time, even when it means political disaster for me. A misconception is that Belen won’t grow because of old and powerful families. That’s not true anymore.
Look more closely at who attends what, who gets the awards, who gets the money, who gets the stories, and how your city council votes. Then, look at who’s at the center of it all. This situation reminds me of why I chose to stay. I want to rid this city of cronyism and favoritism and move us forward.
Danny Bernal Jr.
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