Jack Benson: A Perceived Conflict Of Interest? - And Response (2)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - by Larry Grohn

Recent financial disclosures by Mr. Benson indicates he has received $25,349 in campaign contributions for the 2013 campaign. I want to be perfectly clear that anyone has the right to donate to whomever they would like to support for public office. However, the onus then falls upon this elected official to recuse himself if there is even a hint of impropriety or a perceived conflict of interest.

That being said, to date Mr. Benson has received $9,000 (35.5 percent of his contributions) from CBL & Associates and DeFoor Brothers Development. Yet, Mr. Benson has supported and voted for zoning requests by these two developers to make changes to the Hamilton Place Community Growth Plan (HPCGP). A plan he himself has stated was "in concrete" and "not flexible."

Could it be that the plan is flexible and only a suggestion when it comes to his biggest supporters?

Larry Grohn, Candidate for City Council District 4 

* * *  

I don't know Mr. Grohn, but I do know Jack Benson. 

When I arrived in Chattanooga in 1966 working for the planning commission, I was immediately impressed with Mr. Benson who was a school principal and member of the planning commission body. He later was the leader of Big Brothers-Big Sisters, saving hundreds of disadvantaged children from neglect and violence. 

When Jack was on the planning commission, he was a stalwart for long range planning. He fought against strip and spot zoning while the county chased taxes without infrastructure. He supported neighborhood planning before there was such a thing. As a city councilman, he continued his commitment to following the plans and policies that had emerged over the decades. In fact, he burned my fanny at CHA more than once in the process. I respect him for his commitment while sitting softly. 

It really bothers me that this has turned into a partisan election. That is not how our city is supposed to work. And, two thirds of the Chattanoogan readers apparently agree. Twenty years ago my wife ran for City Council, and my good friend, mentor and golfing buddy Gene Roberts endorsed the other candidate. I was in his office when I saw the headline, and he apologized for not letting us know beforehand. Several months later, he confessed that he was forced by the Republican hierarchy to do it and later said it was the worst political decision he had ever made. 

Now, they are at it again, so their IHOPS, etc. can have free reign. Maybe the East Brainerd folks should think about it as they maneuver the sprawl that Jack has tried to control. 

I am in another district, but if I were in yours, I would surely vote for Jack Benson. 

Mark Rudisill    

* * * 

Unfortunately, when some candidates for public office don’t possess the credentials or experience to debate the real issues, they turn to negative campaigning.  This often results in the distortion of facts concerning their opponent.   

Mr. Grohn, who is seeking to unseat Jack Benson for the City Council, is a good case in point. He has stated that Councilman Benson should recuse himself from representing the citizens he serves when zoning cases come before the City Council from individuals who have been supportive of Mr. Benson’s re-election. Using this logic, one must assume that Mr. Grohn thinks Councilman Benson should have stepped aside instead of aggressively opposing one of his contributor’s attempts to create an access point into a residential area from a major commercial development. Or maybe Mr. Grohn thinks Councilman Benson should have stepped aside when he helped impose numerous restrictions on the other referenced individual’s major development project next to a residential area off Gunbarrel Road.  

As a resident of District 4, I’m keenly aware of Jack Benson’s track record of working hard to protect our neighborhoods regardless of who the developer may be. I would encourage Mr. Grohn to attempt to debate some real issues. Negative campaigns with distorted facts are a big reason that citizens become disillusioned with our political process.   I urge all of District 4 voters to re-elect Jack Benson to the city council.  He has earned our trust. 

Todd Patterson  

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