Howdy to Irwin Kaplan!

September 25, 2008

At the September 9th COWncil meeting, Susan George reported that past Town consultant Irwin Kaplan had returned to fill in as interim Planning Director in the wake of Hope Sullivan’s abrupt resignation. Here’s what she had to say:

Another addition during August came about with the return of Irwin Kaplan to the staff. Irwin agreed to come and serve as Interim Planning Director while the Town recruits for a new Director. Irwin started on August 4th. He is working Mondays through Wednesdays. He has met with each Councilmember since he started and has begun the process of meeting with Planning Commissioners, as well. Irwin brings a breadth of experience and capability to the role of Interim Director. He has already become a valued member of my senior staff and has developed a good working relationship with his staff. You will be seeing him at Town Council meetings and Planning Commission meetings starting this month.

We like Irwin, who has previously worked for the Town in the capacity of a COWnsultant to the Planning, Building, and Engineering Departments back in 2001. He has a wealth of experience and education, having gone to Columbia University in New York and as this article shows, plenty of experience in planning departments in Orinda, Saratoga, Manteca, Pasadena, Beverly Hills, and at the state level in Connecticut. Retired “in theory” according to the Saratoga News article, he keeps plugging away at his chosen profession.

Irwin will be with us for some months – the Town Manager’s report on the topic of the search for our Town’s new permanent Planning Director states:

This effort is well underway. Advertisements have now appeared in all major journals and professional magazines. The executive search firm handling this for the Town has set the end of September as the deadline for resumes, although they will continue to accept applications from qualified candidates as long as possible. The firm will screen all applications and narrow the field for interviews. No dates have yet been set, but it is likely that we will have a short list of candidates by mid-to-late October.

More details on the search firm available here.

One of the reasons we’re so glad to see Irwin back, besides his general professionalism (a sorely needed trait around these parts!), is because of what he did during his last HITCH with the Town. He wrote a report outlining many of the major problems plaguing the Planning and Building Departments at that time (report available here), and offering targeted solutions to them. The Town fell all over itself praising the report, with then-Mayor Carol Ann Hodges proclaiming “This is a wonderful report. I think you’ve proven you were worth our investment.” In subsequent years, the Town claimed to have implemented many of these reforms.

And yet… as we reported here, a few years later, most of the reforms and good intentions had fallen by the wayside, and the Town spent thousands of more dollars to pay Management Partners to tell them essentially the same things Irwin Kaplan had told them years before… and then proceeded to ignore Management Partners as well! It’s to the point again that COWncilman Peter Mason asked at the September 9th COWncil meeting if we could get an outside COWnsultant to take charge of overhauling the permitting requirements in Town, saying that it seems like the same issue has been on the COWncil’s agenda for years! Well, it certainly has!

We hope Mr. Kaplan, in between taking care of his other duties, finds some time to find out just what happened to those reCOWmendations he came up with all those years ago!

Ms. George announced another organizational change at the September 9th meeting:

An organizational change has been implemented at Town Hall during August, at least for the interim period. The Deputy Building Official and Building Inspector have been reassigned and now report to Town Engineer Paul Nagengast. Paul has overseen Building Departments in past positions, including Half Moon Bay. This move balances the responsibility for development services between the Planning Director and the Town Engineer. The Interim Director and the Town Engineer have instituted joint weekly staff meetings with their key staff members to ensure open communication and problem-solving. They are working on developing dependable turnaround times for review of submittals and on modifying how resubmittals are reviewed as they enter the process. The permanent nature of this move will be considered after a short list of Planning Director candidates is available.

We think it is probably big improvement to balance the work load between two competent and professional staffers, rather than concentrating such responsibilities in the hands of one member of the Town staff who was unable to do the job properly and fairly. Hopefully, Irwin Kaplan’s return and the splitting of the workload and responsibilities heralds a change in the inefficient and inequitable Planning and Building Departments at the Town. We hope so.

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