John Necker column photo

John Necker

For the last several years, John Necker has attended Sebastopol City Council meetings and written up his impressions in Necker’s Notes, a satirical take on the city council in action. He has kindly allowed us to reprint an expurgated version of his column. For the full (and uncut) version, see

Roll call: All present — Mayor Patrick Slayter, Vice Mayor Una Glass, Councilmember Michael Carnacchi, Councilmember Sarah Glade Gurney, Councilmember Neysa Hinton.


• The council presented certificates of appreciation to outgoing Planning Commissioners Colin Doyle and Gerald Glaser. Glaser served as an alternate from 2017 to 2020. Doyle started by serving on the Design Review Board in 2001 before making the leap the Planning Commission where he endured from July 2008 to January 2020.

Public Comment (aka Open Mike):

• A speaker announced that the Emergency and Disaster Preparedness and Recovery meeting on Feb. 23, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:40 p.m., will be at the Community Center, 390 Morris Street.

• Analy EcoAction Club announced that they are hosting a screening of the film “Hike the Divide, a Conversation about Climate Action on the Continental Divide Trail” by local filmmaker Connor Devane on Feb. 12.

Consent Calendar: (Approved 5:0)

• Minutes for the Jan. 15 and the Jan. 21 meetings were approved.

• The budget subcommittee meeting schedule was set. In February they will be considering funding requests from community service agencies. So start begging now.

• Wood, an environment and infrastructure solutions company, was awarded a $71,000 contract to develop a local hazard mitigation plan. (Imagine my relief when discovering that this has nothing to do with a drone and The Federal Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 requires this plan if we decide to beg for any federal grant funds. $30,000 of the budget came from the building department and $50,000 came from that $1.5 million we received thanks to Assembly Member Marc Levine. The study will focus mostly on “climate change, drought, earthquakes, flooding, landslides and wildfire. Additional natural and human-caused hazards may include extreme weather and public safety power outages.”

• Due to the retirement of our building inspector, the city will hire Phillips Seabrook Associates as a pay-as-you-go, on-call flood plain administration consulting service. The hourly rate, which can vary from $110 to $235, will probably be offset by the salary that is no longer being paid.

Informational Items/ Presentation:

• There was a presentation by Supervisors Linda Hopkins and David Rabbitt and Dan George, the retired Fire Chief from Gold Ridge FPD, pitching Measure G, a 0.5% sales tax to address some of the problems we experienced with the recent fires. Sebastopol would three firefighters on duty 24/7/365 — and $959,000 for salary and other fire mitigation programs. Volunteers are, and still would be, welcome and needed. Mayor Slayter’s math showed that it would only increase the cost of a $30,000 car by $150. (OK, he ain’t thinkin’ Lambroghini.) It seems to be for the best for the county as a whole but they used the P word — as in “perpetuity,” which is what made the Palm Drive debacle so painful.

• Vice Mayor Glass asked the Health Action Committee for a presentation on vaping. This went on way too long considering they were preaching to the choir. There was once someone in Sebastopol who didn’t think that vaping was a danger to youth. That person is no longer with us, in many ways (and many parts too) thanks to a committee of concerned citizens. So, Vice Mayor Glass will host a completely different type of committee that will include all stakeholders (tobacco vendors as well). They will retire to a non-smoke filled room to hammer out a tax on tobacco and vaping products that may discourage its use by the young. Or we can just try shaming the kids that vape. Having to wear polyester bell bottom pants in public for a week might work.

Regular Agenda Items: (Passed 5:0)

• The 2019-20 FY mid-year budget adjustments were discussed. The big hit here came from the Redwood Empire Municipal Insurance Fund (our city’s insurer), which discovered that the city’s liability and workers’ comp portfolios were underfunded. Our costs went up 40.4% ($290,000). This should be a one-time-only cost. It was covered by our reserve fund that still remains strong.

• Directions to the mayor on how to vote regarding various Sonoma County committees were agreed to.

City Council Reports:

• Council Member Carnacchi reported he was at Monday’s Palm Drive Health Care District meeting when it voted to vote sometime in the near future to dissolve itself. He mentioned that the county might name our city as the district's successor agency, making Sebastopol responsible for collecting the parcel tax and paying off the health district’s debt. The good news is this task could be farmed out to the county, with all costs taken off the top of the collected taxes. No one at the big table in front seemed to have any interest in that entanglement.

A Parting Shot:

• Palm Drive Health Care District was forced to dissolve by a small but committed group of clear-eyed realists. What started out as a wonderful local hospital, through questionable management and motives, White House-like transparency and an inability or unwillingness to contend with the facts, slowly contorted into a zombie-like existence, a hospital in name only, engrossed in the pursuit of feeding not off our brains but rather off our bank accounts. The District sold the “hospital” for $2 million (the price of a couple of fancy Sebastopol houses) and left us paying off a $25,000,000 debt and a possible multi-million dollar lawsuit by Anthem Blue Cross. Shrewd.

Elapsed Time: 4 hours (6  to 10 p.m.)

Next city council meeting is Feb. 18, at 6 p.m. at the Teen Center, 425 Morris Street.

You can view the unexpurgated version of this column, complete with links to the relevant documents, at


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