District 4 voters have new choices for City Council next term. Councilman Jack Benson, aka “Back Jack,” has ruled District 4 for 16 years.
During the early years, many thought that Benson was fair-minded and an independent thinker. During his last two terms, however, he has detached himself from the interests of “residents” and has developed tunnel vision concentrated on the best interests of his campaign donors and Mayor Littlefield.
Unfortunately, Littlefield was not a good role model and his campaign donors have selfish agendas that have nothing to do with the best interests of the residents of District 4.
Benson led the fight to keep the dreaded IHOP Pancake House off Gunbarrel Road. The proposed site was directly across the street from a shopping center housing Benson’s own business and Panera Bread. One would have expected the City Council person to be pro-economic growth, but Benson fought the growth “tooth and nail.” According to the newspaper article he wrote slamming the rezone, Benson said having an IHOP there would violate residential protections afforded by the city’s “land use plan.” In reality, residential property owners (including a friend of mine), who directly adjoined the site, supported the IHOP rezoning. Coincidentally, CBL (owners of Hamilton Place and the special interest group who significantly contributes to Benson’s campaigns) ended up being the winners, effectively blocking another competing business from coming to the area.
Why Benson felt compelled to orchestrate such a nasty war against the property owner of the IHOP is hard to fathom. According to documents filed with the court, Benson employed various tactics and violated the state’s Sunshine Law to stop the rezoning. The owner of the property who sought to rezone felt so abused by the process that he filed suit against the city, City Council and Benson personally. The taxpayer consequences have been costly. We who pay taxes are now paying attorneys to defend what was done by Benson and the City Council who followed his lead. Benson has been on City Council too long.
Any elected official that becomes convinced they can do no wrong needs to go. Littlefield and Benson can ride out together.