Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Longtime PC chair passes the torch


March 14, 2019

Earlier this year, Rob Goldberg stepped down as longtime chair of Haines Borough Planning Commission to allow for new leadership in 2019.

Past and present commissioners define Goldberg’s legacy as even keeled, non-partisan and open minded.

“I think most people in Haines like Rob Goldberg,” former chair Jim Stanford said this week. “He has this phenomenal curiosity to study issues and he fights like crazy to make issues non-political, to just look at the facts.”

When Goldberg first joined the planning commission after borough consolidation in 2002, he said he looked to Ray Menaker for advice. Menaker was a teacher, the founder of the Chilkat Valley News and an assembly member in Haines.

“I asked him, ‘Ray, how do you do this? How do you be a good commissioner?’ and he said, ‘It’s very important to listen to everyone, know the code, do your homework and ultimately make up your own mind with all of the information that you’ve been given,’” Goldberg said.

The planning commission is the sole planning body of the borough, consisting of seven members appointed by the Mayor, with assembly approval, to three-year staggered terms.

The function of the chair on the planning commission is to run meetings, and the vice chair to fill in for absences or conflicts of interest.

Commissioner Sylvia Heinz said that she gained trust in the planning commission before being appointed by watching Goldberg chair the meetings. “Rob (was) always willing to take the time to hear more (during public comments) and always seemed to have the attitude that there might be more we can learn from the audience,” Heinz said.

While public comment in assembly meetings is limited to three minutes, Goldberg said he often let people speak beyond the limit to better perform his duty as commissioner. “I think that a commissioner’s job is to be fair and listen to everyone,” Goldberg said. “I never take notes at a meeting instead, I actively listen. People want to be heard.”

Goldberg was widely respected and defied fitting into any one stereotype, fellow commissioners said.

“He managed to pull off being the Mud Bay hippie but also he’s not the Mud Bay hippie they want to label him as,” former chair and longtime commissioner Lee Heinmiller said.

Goldberg said he always aimed to make decisions based on facts rather than emotions, which sometimes upset his neighbors and friends.

“(Our) most important function is to mediate land-use issues in the borough,” Goldberg said. In order to do so, commissioners are guided by a comprehensive plan that includes recommendations for zoning districts based on existing land uses and information gathered in public hearings.

“One of the incredible things about Rob is that he lets the code guide him,” commissioner Diana Lapham said. “I respect him so much for that because it is tough.”

The comprehensive plan is updated every six years per Haines Borough code and is intended to serve the community for 15 years, borough planner Holly Smith said.

Currently, the commissioners are in the beginning stages of discussing how they want to tackle the revision process for the 2025 comprehensive plan, last updated in 2012.

“(The plan) is our best way of pointing the borough in a direction for the future, to say this is what we would like to happen,” Goldberg said.

“I really appreciated Rob’s dedication to the planning community and to the code,” assembly member Brenda Josephson said. “I’m grateful that he has remained on and I understand his desire to let someone else take on the heavy lifting for a while.”

The planning commission unanimously agreed with Goldberg’s recommendation last month to appoint commissioner Don Turner III as chair, and commissioner Sylvia Heinz as vice chair.


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