Detroit Councilman Scott Benson: A vote for redemption

BensonCertain dates have certain reasons for resonating in the minds of some people for a long time. For Detroit City Councilman Scott Benson of District 3, Sunday, June 29, 2014 is a date that will be etched in his mind for a while.

The date represents a low point in his life, when on a hot summer evening, Southfield Police responded to a call and found the councilman asleep at the wheel of his stopped, but still idling city issued vehicle. The car was at a traffic light on a busy Southfield street. It was determined by police that the councilman was super intoxicated. He was arrested, but posted a bond for release. Several months later Benson pleaded guilty to a reduced DUI charge.

Earlier this year, Benson was ordered to serve a seven-day sentence, but was released early. Probation and the continuation of substance abuse counseling were also attached.

Yet, despite the journey from an inauspicious place in his life, Benson has gained a new lease on life, thanks to what he said were, lots of prayers, an in- depth look at himself, the courage to seek help, support from family and colleagues, and a vote of redemption from many constituents in District 3.

“My life is one of sobriety now,” said Benson, who spoke about the help and counseling that he underwent and continues to receive. “It was humbling in many ways, but I lived and learned and feel so much stronger now. However, I am a recovering alcoholic and I will always be that. Yet, some people are hindered by their mishaps, but I chose to get up, dust myself off, and move forward to help others.”

Today, Scott continues his commitment to empower the people of District 3, something that he vowed to do since taking office 21 months ago.   He remains a strong advocate of economic development and is committed to implementing initiatives that assist small businesses in the district to flourish. Since taking the oath of office, Benson has hosted job fairs and economic empowerment events, such as the D3 Business Connect that brainstorms ways to spark economic and job growth in District 3.

Benson is excited about his role in the current economic project with Crown Development, a company that is constructing a half-million square foot logistic center in the Harper and Van Dyke area of District 3. Once operationally this fall, the facility, according to Benson, will convert big boxes into smaller boxes for shipping. Benson said the venture will create approximately 150 jobs.

Later this year, Benson, who chairs Council’s Green Task Force, will lead a continent of about 20 local green and environmental practitioners and stakeholders to San Francisco, where they will monitor SF Environment, a department of the city and county of San Francisco. The goal of the trip, which will be paid for by three Michigan foundations based on grants written by Benson, is to learn why, thanks to SF Environment, the city of San Francisco was named this year as the “Greenest City in North America.” Additionally, the United Nations honored San Francisco for having the “best green building policies” of any city in the world.

“San Francisco is on the cutting edge as it relates to green and environmental initiatives and the creation of green jobs,” said Benson. “We want to see what they are doing in San Francisco and see how we can do the same here in Detroit.”

Benson also renders leadership to Detroit City Council’s Senior Task Force that looks for viable solutions to aid the local senior population in every aspect of living. Additionally, he has worked diligently to find ways to reopen Lipke Park Recreation Center, once a play haven for youth in the Van Dyke/ E. 7 Mile Rd. area. Lipke is now slated to undergo a $10 million renovation, as part of a venture that involves city leaders, Detroit Lions’ quarterback Matt Stafford and local newspaper columnist Mitch Albom.

Benson also continues to fight blight in his district. “When I first took office, there were no Hardest Hit Funds available in District 3,” said Benson, a Los Angeles native, who holds a bachelor’s degree in urban planning from Wayne State University. “I was able to work with the mayor’s office to bring in the Hardest Hit Funds. Now, District 3 has led all districts in terms of tear-downs.  I’m pretty sure that we now have over 800 structures that have been torn down in the district.”

“Overall, Councilman Benson has done an outstanding job,” said District 3 resident Joey Williams. “He made a mistake, but I believe he learned and will continue to work hard for the betterment of the district.”

Benson said he wants to continue to be a difference maker in District 3. However, he knows that his new life of sobriety must never slip. “I’m not happy about what happened to me a year ago, but I had a problem, dealt with it and will continue to deal with it,” Benson said. “But I am extremely happy that I have a high level of support among my constituents who still believe in me and my abilities to deliver measurable results. I’m happy that I’ve been given a second chance to serve.”

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