Taming the holiday
Mayor Mary Goloff hopes to seize an opportunity following no-booze vote
Now that the Glenn County Board of Supervisors has moved to help deflate the annual alcohol-fueled Labor Day flotilla down the Sacramento River, Chico Mayor Mary Goloff is urging Chico State President Paul Zingg to take action as well.
In a letter to Zingg written in advance of the Glenn board’s recent vote in favor of banning alcohol on the river, Goloff writes: “[O]ur community must act swiftly to re-frame students’ expectations for that weekend. We have an ideal opportunity to send a clear message to students by making Labor Day a Clean and Sober weekend in the Chico community.”
She goes on to say: “Launching this campaign in the context of a Clean and Sober Weekend would send a powerful message to students about their responsibility as citizens on the campus and in the Chico community.”
Goloff said the Campus Alcohol and Drug Education Center (CADEC) at Chico State is working to use that weekend to memorialize students who have died in past years due to alcohol or substance abuse. The center may also host a concert or organize a community service project similar to one held on César Chávez Day.
In the meantime, the new law has Goloff, Zingg and Glenn County Sheriff Larry Jones in a cautious state of optimism.
“We’ll consider it a success if it has a positive impact on the crowds, horrific alcohol abuse, underage drinking, fights and assaults,” Jones said by phone.
Zingg concurred, writing in an email, “I think the ban is a positive response. It provides another tool for dealing with the problems on the river on this weekend.”
Goloff said an added plus will be a savings of money by local governments.
“We spend lots of public-safety money every Labor Day weekend that could be more effectively spent,” she said.
On April 16, the Glenn County supervisors passed a ban on drinking and possession of open containers of alcohol on the Glenn County side of the popular portion of river. The ban applies from the Gianella Bridge near Hamilton City to the mouth of Big Chico Creek. Drinking alcohol within 50 feet of the river’s shore is also an infraction.
The Butte County Board of Supervisors approved a ban two years ago on the east side of the river, which means alcohol is now prohibited on the entire length of the annual float’s traditional route.
Goloff said she strongly supports the one-time, experimental ban, which takes effect Saturday, Aug. 30, and runs through Monday, Sept. 2.
“Last Labor Day weekend was a big wakeup call,” said Goloff, referring to the alcohol-related drowning of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo student Brett Olson. “This is a wonderful and appropriate opportunity to make a positive impact.”
John Scott, owner of Scotty’s Landing restaurant and bar, which overlooks the river, is skeptical of the alcohol restrictions. Though he thinks the ban will not affect his business, he fears students will choose to tube en masse on the weekend before or after Labor Day.
Scott, who has witnessed the Labor Day festivities for decades, said he is also concerned that the ban may divert tubers to other areas, like Butte Creek or places on the Feather River along Highway 70, “where they’ll probably cause more traffic problems and accidents.”
He pointed out that the ban will drive away hundreds of people who are not among the tubers. Labor Day is the last holiday weekend of the year with good weather, he said, so many people come to hunt doves, fish or camp with their families. Many like to enjoy a few beers while doing so.
“Not all of them drink, but I’ve heard lots of them say, ‘If we can’t drink, we won’t go,’” Scott said.
Chico State student Taylor Herren is in favor of the ban.
Herren is the vice president of Chico State’s SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere), which tackles the problems of alcohol, drugs and violence. She said SAVE is taking a large part in planning alternative events for the Labor Day weekend as part of the Campus Commitment to Action initiative to combat abusive tendencies.
The student group is developing an idea to have an end-of-the-school-year sober activity at City Plaza.
“We as a community need to re-evaluate what kind of weekend we want Labor Day to be,” she said. “I think that by taking alcohol off the river we can help our students be safer.”