Jarvis on the mend

Councilmember recuperating after surgery to remove brain tumor

LONGTIME LEADER <br>Coleen Jarvis is a tireless and aggressive councilmember and not one to shy away from a controversy.

Coleen Jarvis is a tireless and aggressive councilmember and not one to shy away from a controversy.

Photo by Tom Angel

Friend to the down and out: Jarvis is an advocate for the homeless and strong supporter of the homeless shelter, which is expected to be completed sometime this winter after years of public debate.

For the last month or so, Chico City Councilmember Coleen Jarvis hadn’t felt quite right. She said she’d suffered from dizziness, lack of equilibrium, headaches and nausea. Then, about two weeks ago, she fainted. On July 22 she underwent an MRI scan, and doctors discovered a tumor lodged at the base of her skull.

Three days later she had surgery to remove the tumor. About 95 percent of the tumor was successfully eliminated. The remainder will be treated with radiation. A press release reported that the doctor who did the surgery termed it “as successful as he could have possibly hoped.”

Jarvis, 42, is expected to be in recovery for at least the next six to eight weeks.

The most outspoken and progressive member of a politically split council, Jarvis was first elected in 1996 and then re-elected four years later by a significant and loyal bloc of supporters.

Never one to hold back on her beliefs and opinions—she was snubbed for endorsement by the Chico Chamber of Commerce in 2000 for supposedly not being civil enough—Jarvis often verbally clashes with the conservative members of the council, including Rick Keene.

“I was very saddened to hear about this,” said Keene, who learned of Jarvis’ condition at a meeting July 24. “She pulled us all aside and told us.”

Keene noted that she is the third councilmember in six years to have been diagnosed with cancer.

“We’re praying for her and hoping her recovery goes well,” he added.

Jarvis’ long career of public service began in the early 1980s, when, as a recreation-therapy major at Chico State University, she did an internship at Do-It Leisure, a program for people with disabilities. She eventually became the organization’s program manager.

In 1984, she moved over to the Rape Crisis Intervention Program, which she headed for five years. She also began volunteering on political campaigns, working to pass Chico Area Recreation District bond measures and elect school board and City Council candidates she supported.

Jarvis became coordinator in 1989 of what was then called the Peace Center. At the time she was a single mom with two kids living on welfare, food stamps and part-time wages. Amazingly, around the same time she enrolled in classes at Cal Northern School of Law. She continued her volunteer work on various campaigns and organizations including Legal Services of Northern California, where she served on the board of directors for a year and as a paralegal. When a full-time attorney’s position opened there just after she passed the State Bar exam in 1994, she took it.

Last year she left Legal Services when she was hired by the county as a juvenile dependency attorney, under the loud protests of a number of her political enemies. In fact, she finally signed a contract with the county on July 29.

Jarvis’ absence on the council for at least the next month may well signal the end of the Sterling student apartments on Nord Avenue. Earlier this year, Jarvis provided the necessary fourth vote for a motion of intent to amend the city’s General Plan to rezone the property where the 176-unit apartments are to be built.

Jarvis angered some of the neighbors with her politically risky vote, joining with three pro-growth conservative councilmembers to approve the motion of intent. But without her vote the final adoption of that amendment, slated to come before the council in August, is in jeopardy. Jarvis vows she will attend the Aug. 20 meeting to vote on the project. Sterling spokesman Craig Dickerson says his company is running out of time to purchase the property from its Chico owners and may pull out of the deal.