In May, Benton Harbor City Commissioner Trenton Bowens announced that he would be stepping down from his position.
Bowens cited his health and the current “toxic” environment at city hall were factors in his decision to resign.
On Tuesday, Bowens released a letter to the residents of his district.
When I decided to run for Benton Harbor City Commission, I had every hope of bringing a new voice for a new beginning. I wanted to help bring results; to help build a 21st Century community. I envisioned quality affordable housing. I envisioned active community members. I envisioned inspiring the young people of Benton Harbor to take a more active role in shaping the future of this city. I envisioned being at the forefront of effective job creation. I talked about it. I hoped for it. The reality is that it is difficult to accomplish such citizen-based goals under the rule of an Transition Advisory Board and working with a severely broken city government. When a few of members on the City Commission are not focused on working together to promote real change, it becomes almost impossible to make that change.
We have all heard the talk about the massive projects proposed for Benton Harbor. We’ve watched for the improvements. Instead of a uniform rebuilding of Benton Harbor as a whole city, we are witnessing the emergence of a completely separate entity. It seems as if there are now two Benton Harbors – the old, run-down part of the city where all the residents live that resembles a war zone and a new, vibrant downtown area that is beginning to resemble Martha’s Vineyard. While the residential areas have seen whole blocks demolished under the wrecking ball, the only structural improvements are being made in the downtown area. Water bills are getting increasingly less affordable for residents and minor pot hole repairs are being made instead of the major infrastructure investments that are needed. This is not the Benton Harbor we have envisioned. This is not the Benton Harbor that we planned on raising children and future generations in.
As revenue continues to decline and businesses continue leaving Benton Harbor, we must be bolder in our approach and we must consider new options and ideas for developing a renewed revenue stream. There have been on-going discussions about implementing a city-wide income tax. The initial benefit of this would be the revenue that it would bring to the city. In order to survive and thrive, cities must have revenue. This would be an investment in the future of Benton Harbor. Another idea that we need to consider is to remove tax breaks for large businesses. Also we should explore the possibility of bringing a casino into the area to increase tourism. The city should consider hiring a marketing specialist to assist in promoting Benton Harbor as the place to grow and invest in. We must continue to keep an open mind in exploring ways to make Benton Harbor a better place to live and work. We must learn to work with and support all of our available resources in order to provide a unified front. Simply stated – we need to learn to work together. We must learn to approach new concepts and ideas with open minds and incorporate the diversity that is Benton Harbor into our plans and goals for the future.
Having served on the City Commission during these trying times has led me to make a very difficult decision. It is apparent that I cannot continue to work toward making the changes that Benton Harbor needs while sitting on the ineffective and broken City Commission. It is with a heavy heart that I am officially announcing my resignation from the City Commission, to be effective September 1st, 2014. I will continue the fight for Benton Harbor via other avenues.. I would like to end with a quote from Muhammed Ali: “I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.”
2nd Ward City Commissioner
His resignation will be effective Aug. 31.