Benson ready to let council seat go, wont seek reelection

The two-term 11th Ward council member says he’s accomplished most of his goals and feels it’s time to move on.

When Scott Benson first hit the campaign trail in 2000 for a seat on the City Council, he ran on a trio of main issues.

One, he wanted to deal with airport noise. Two, he wanted to reform the Minneapolis Community Development Agency. And three, he wanted more discipline in the city’s budgeting process.

“We’ve gotten a long way on many of those issues,” Benson said.

Long enough that the two-time 11th Ward council member is ready to let his seat go. Earlier this week, he sent a notice to constituents announcing he will not be seeking reelection next year.

His decision was largely based on having completed an attitude change at City Hall. Before he and five other newcomers were elected to the council, he said, there was a culture of cliques that often saw six council members sparring against seven others. The two councils he’s served with have never been that way, he said.

“People are always working together,” Benson said. “Even though we have differences of opinions, everyone really has the best interest of the city in mind. It’s really refreshing to work with such a great group of people.”

That he’s been able to chip away at the other goals has helped. In 2002, the city streamlined development functions. Three years later, it sued the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which led to a settlement that will provide about $127 million worth of insulation products to Minneapolis, Eagan and Richfield homeowners.

Even though he has qualms with the recently passed 2009 budget, the process that led to it was more disciplined than it might have been in earlier decades.

“Listening to the stories of folks who were here before,” Benson said, “I absolutely think it’s changed. Basically, they would come around with a list of things and say you can have three things if you vote for the budget. So, yeah, I think the philosophy has completely changed.”

When he leaves the council, he said he plans on returning to the law firm he worked for before his election, Briol and Associates. That doesn’t mean an expulsion of all things political: He said one of his favorite things is working on campaigns, something he’s done since he was 7.

“It’s far more fun working on someone else’s campaign than your own,” Benson said.

He also plans on staying involved with environmental efforts. Currently the chairman of the Health, Energy and Environment Committee — which he helped create — Benson pointed to the many nonprofits in town as a place for him to find his footing. He’s also testing to become an accredited professional in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) before year’s end.

Of course, there’s also still a 2009 on the council for Benson to look forward to, a year during which he’s not planning on being complacent. He’s already set a Jan. 7 meeting to try to tackle the issue of construction-related noise from late-night work on Interstate 35W.

“I grew up on a farm and came to Minneapolis in the late ‘80s, so I’ve been really privileged to be able to represent [the ward],” Benson said. “But I think it’s time for me to move on and let someone else take a crack at it.”

2009 municipal election: Which council members will be seeking new terms?

ROBERT LILLIGREN, 6TH WARD

Despite already having spent two terms on the City Council, Lilligren is gearing up for his very first reelection campaign. (Before, redistricting led him from representing the 8th Ward to running for the 6th Ward.)

Currently the council vice president, he said his No. 1 priority remains the reopening of Nicollet Avenue at Lake Street, a project he said he would like to see through before leaving office.

LISA GOODMAN, 7TH WARD

Goodman, who currently is serving her third term, said she has yet to decide whether to seek a fourth. She said she’s in the process of meeting with constituents to learn what issues concern them for the next four years.

She expects to make her decision by the middle of January.

ELIZABETH GLIDDEN, 8TH WARD

Glidden said it was early in her term — her first — that there were many projects she was a part of that would take longer than four years to see through. Hoping to stay with them, she will be seeking reelection.

She said she’s expecting to make a formal announcement later this month, with a campaign kick-off in January.

RALPH REMINGTON, 10TH WARD

Remington said he will be running for a second term — barring a decision by Mayor R.T. Rybak to not seek reelection. He told the Southwest Journal last month that he likes the idea of leading Minneapolis in a Barack Obama-led United States but that because he agrees with Rybak more than 90 percent of the time, it wouldn’t make sense to challenge the mayor.

“We can accomplish twice as much working together,” Remington said.

BETSY HODGES, 13TH WARD

Hodges, first elected to the council in 2005, will run for a second term. She planned on making her candidacy official at a Dec. 13 event.

The chairwoman of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee, Hodges also serves on the elections, rules, taxes, ways and means, and transportation committees.

— Cristof Traudes