Ending speculation

Memorable meeting ends with big admission from Mary Goloff

Mary Goloff says she’s never felt more prepared to serve as a council member.

Mary Goloff says she’s never felt more prepared to serve as a council member.


Those who stayed until the bitter end of the Chico City Council’s very long regular meeting Tuesday evening (April 15) watched Councilwoman Mary Goloff give a heartfelt but scripted explanation for her many recent absences.

Goloff told the small audience that remained in the council chambers four hours into the meeting that she’d sought treatment for prescription-drug dependency following major hip surgery last fall.

“Unfortunately, addiction is not a disease that discriminates. Quite the opposite, actually,” said Goloff, who checked herself into a treatment facility on Feb. 27. “It touches all kinds of people—even those elected to serve their community with open hearts.”

She went on to say her decision to seek help came out of a desire to find the best possible treatment and support. “I’ve never felt better and I’ve never felt stronger and I’ve never felt more prepared to serve my community,” she said.

Goloff’s announcement ended months of speculation about her health and whether she’d be able to complete her term. She had not been at a City Council meeting since Feb. 18. Her recent absences constitute the third time she’s taken an extended medical leave, but in no case, under the city charter, was she required to give up her post.

Last summer, Goloff resigned as mayor of Chico, citing medical reasons. Her current council term ends in December and she has stated publicly multiple times that she has no intentions of running for a third term.

Tuesday’s agenda included a number of controversial items, including a request from City Manager Brian Nakamura to issue a notice of intent that would allow the city to entertain the option of contracting out for firefighting services. As Nakamura and new City Attorney Vincent Ewing explained, a provision in the local International Association of Fire Fighters memorandum of understanding precludes the city from doing so without three years’ notice.

Councilman Sean Morgan was apprehensive. “Is this suggesting we’re going to consider contracting out three years from now?” he asked. Morgan went on to point out that the city had just come to a contract agreement with the IAFF. He asked if such a move was unfair in light of that.

Ewing, speaking during his first meeting as the city’s new legal counsel, likened the letter of intent to pushing “a button” that would allow the city to consider contracting out for firefighter services. “If you don’t push the button, you can’t consider it,” he said.

A majority of the members of the public who spoke about the item favored issuing the notice. One of them, Michael Jones, said the provision in the IAFF’s contract essentially allowed the Chico Fire Department to operate as a monopoly. The exceptions were two firefighters, John Kelso, IAFF’s president, and Capt. Dave Main, who told the panel that the provision in the union’s contract was placed there back in 1999 to protect the community.

Vice Mayor Mark Sorensen said it would have been difficult for the city to remove the provision from the union’s contract during the recent negotiations process and that the city was now simply exercising its right to put the bargaining unit on notice. At the end of discussion on the item, the panel voted unanimously (with Councilwoman Ann Schwab absent) to allow Nakamura to issue the notice of intent.

Also on Tuesday, the panel voted unanimously to direct staff to craft a resolution that would, over three years, phase in adjustments—mostly increases—in the user fees associated with building, engineering and planning. As explained by Community Development Director Mark Wolfe, the current fees are more than $1 million short of recovering the city’s costs. The shortage places a burden primarily on the general fund, according to a staff report.

The increases were based on a study conducted by Chad Wohlford of Wohlford Consulting. As was pointed out during the meeting, such fees had not been adjusted in over a decade. Wolfe said the phase-in plan would allow the public time to adjust their projects. He said the updated fees are accurate and that the plan is to keep them that way.

“We want to stay current on this and make sure we’re accurate on the fees,” he said.