Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Developers whine, so Council has Kolin dump Goldberg

At age 60, most senior City officials are looking forward to their final years of professional service. But not Wayne Goldberg, head of Santa Rosa's Department of Community Development for the last 22 years. All he has to look forward to is either spending the remainder of his career under City Manager Jeff Kolin's thumb, or taking early retirement.

Kolin just demoted Goldberg to a new staff job in the City Manager's Office, and made his deputy Chuck Regalia acting director. The City will continue to pay him the $133,740 director's salary, but Goldberg goes from head of the $6.4 million DCD with 65 employees, to "Director of Advance Planning and Public Policy" in Kolin's Office, supervising just two planners.

This may be the most egregiously political action the Council and Kolin have taken in public. Powerful local developers and businessmen reportedly lobbied the six Councilmembers who share their views and get their contributions, and the Council told Kolin to get rid of Goldberg.

The Press Democrat reported Mayor Jane Bender said, "council members continued to be inundated with complaints from business owners, home builders and the wider community as well. ... she said council members shared the complaints about the planning department's bureaucracy, along with their own concerns, with the city manager."

City Hall reporter Mike McCoy wrote, "Goldberg has been at the center of criticism the past few years by the 1,000-member Home Builders Association of Northern California and the 1,100-member Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce. Leaders of the two organizations contend the planning department imposes too many regulations on development and its slow processing of plans and permits is costing home builders money and stifling business and job creation."

The Council probably responded to complaints from leaders of the Sonoma County Alliance and its PAC--the countywide developer/business lobby to which the Homebuilders, the Chamber, and most of the Council belong. SCAPAC campaigned for Mayor Bender and Councilmembers Mike Martini, Lee Pierce, and John Sawyer last November.

Martini, Pierce, Vice Mayor Bob Blanchard, and Janet Condron are current SCA members. Former Mayor Sharon Wright was the Alliance's paid Executive Director when she was first elected, and during most of her tenure on the Council. The Alliance hired Martini to run it when he was Mayor, and he worked there for two years.

I've been watching the Council, appointed officials, City Manager and staff make and break the rules for special interests since the late 1980s. The developers, business, and the Council have tried for years to change the rules to speed development.

When Goldberg couldn't or wouldn't change the system to please them, they punished his department, then decided to replace him: "Charlie Carson, executive director of the home builders's group, and chamber president Mike Hauser said their members don't believe there has been much improvement.

'We have been complaining for years that the system needed to be fixed. It still seems to take an inordinate amount of time,' Carson said. While Carson said his association's goal in past years had 'not been to change personnel but to change the system,' members shifted their position when improvements weren't forthcoming. (3/24/05, "Under fire, SR planning agency chief reassigned/Goldberg gets new job after complaints from developers, council on slow permit process")

Kolin was uncommonly smarmy about reporting Goldberg's demotion to flunkydom: "As most of you have probably heard, I have asked Wayne Goldberg to head up a new department for Advance Planning and Public Policy. One of the things that we have been hearing in the community is that we need more focus on advanced planning and looking at the long term policy issues related to development.

Over the years, Wayne has shown me that this is really his strength. He is more of a visionary and has an understanding of the community that makes him ideal for the new position. ... I asked Wayne to work directly in my office so that the public understands the importance that we are placing on this new position."

Goldberg ran DCD for 22 years, but after less than five years as City Manager, Kolin claimed to have determined Goldberg's forte was planning, not administration. It's notable that moving advanced planning into the City Manager's Office also puts Kolin directly in charge of the City's General Plan process.

It's also curious that the developers and businessmen apparently don't object to Goldberg's deputy Chuck Regalia, who has been far more directly involved in processing development applications. Kolin made Regalia acting director, and hinted he might promote him to director:

"Chuck Regalia will be taking over the duties of Director of Community Development beginning April 4 while I recruit for a new director. I am sure that Chuck will be applying for the position as well."

I've talked to people who complained that Goldberg himself was too subject to pressure; and even that he was too friendly with the developers, and DCD was already biased in their favor. But in my experience, Goldberg has been an honest, highly professional City executive.

He's done an amazing job under severe political pressure. He doesn't deserve to be dumped on and dumped at the climax of his professional career.


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