From The Council Table, To A Jail Cell

Detroit City Council Member Scott Benson discusses overcoming personal obstacles in the public sphere.

Scott Benson is the Detroit City Councilman for the Third District, on the city’s East side. He’s an urban planner with extensive experience in real estate and development across for-profit and non-profit sectors. However, on June 29, 2014, Southfield police found Benson passed out, drunk, at the wheel of his city-owned vehicle. It wasn’t his first offense, and by January 22 of this year, Benson was standing in a Southfield courtroom, being sentenced to seven days in the county jail.

Stephen speaks with Scott Benson about what he learned, and the difference between forgiveness for one’s mistakes and the redemption that comes only from making good in some other way. 

Benson reflects back on that June day, and remembers asking himself, “How did I get here?” Yet, that day in 2014 wasn’t Benson’s first run-in with authorities. In 2000, Benson was arrested and charged with a DWI, but says at the time, he didn’t view the incident as a low point. Fourteen years later though, Benson says he came to terms with his alcohol abuse, and realized he had -and still has- a lot more to lose.

Benson tells Stephen that his path toward a different life has been going great. “It’s a different lifestyle…your evenings aren’t spent at a bar somewhere,” says Benson. Instead, he says he is spending more time around the house, with friends and family and has more energy in the mornings. As far as his relationship with constituents, Benson says many residents in the Third District have been supportive and forgiving. “I think that residents appreciate that we haven’t run from this,” he says, adding that the experience has motivated him to increase awareness and access to resources for those struggling with substance abuse in the city of Detroit.   

Benson says right now, his focus is on doing his job and serving the residents of Detroit’s Third District.  The area’s diverse population, and its small business and manufacturing sectors make it a unique community in Detroit, despite the economic challenges it faces. Benson also notes the importance of his close relationship with District 3 Manager Gary Bullock and Assistant Manager Ray Soloman.  “In the end, people are less concerned about your past as long as you continue to move in the right direction.”