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 

Sebastopol City Council Meeting June 16, 2020 – Synopsis and Commentary

Roll Call: Councilmembers Patrick Slayter (mayor), Una Glass, Sarah Gurney, Neysa Hinton and Michael Carnacchi were all virtually present.

Proclamations/Presentations have been suspended until further notice.

Public Comment (aka Open Mike):

  • The main focus here was on the funding of the police department. More about that follows below.

Consent Calendar: (Passed eventually 5:0)

  • The minutes for the June 2, 2020 meeting were approved and will appear here shortly. Scroll down to Past Council Meetings.
  • Every two years the state of California requires cities to review their conflict of interest codes to make sure no one is profiting from their city position. Unlike Bell, California, there’s nothing to see here folks — move along.
  • A resolution was adopted calling for a general election on the second Tuesday of November. If you have the hide of a rhino (or even better, its disposition), the ability to let criticism roll like the gentle rain off your back as it does off the back of a duck, a bladder that enables you to sit stoically for long periods of time while others yammer on, buns of steel that will not go dead on you while enduring that yammering so that, during the break, you can stand and scurry for the “John,” which was all you could think about for the preceding 30 minutes, then this could be your calling. You may start that process here.  
  • An interim 2020-21 budget that begins on July 1, was ratified by the council. The budget sub-committee will review it in August and an anticipated amended budget will come before the council in September. By that time the city will have a much better idea of just how much this pandemic has cost Sebastopol in dollars. Even after it was explained to Councilmember Carnacchi that the $100,000 in federal funds given to the city could only be used for police salary, he pulled it for discussion anyway. At the later discussion he was told the same thing but apparently it got in there that time.
  • Current pay rates and ranges for classified city positions were approved. You may find those rates here.
  • The council approved the solicitation of bids to remodel the kitchen at the Sebastopol Community Center. The estimated cost is $136,620. For many months the city has been working with FEMA, Cal OES and the City’s insurance agents to restore the center “in kind” because many of the funds available are restricted to just that. The details of how this project is finally getting off the ground can be read here.

Regular Agenda Items:  

  • The mayor and vice mayor introduced the agenda item “to commence a community-wide conversation to ensure the Sebastopol Police Department is a reflection of our values.” After agreeing with the mayor to call a special meeting next Tuesday to start a discussion on this issue, Vice Mayor Glass launched into one of her more prolonged riffs that fell just short of burying us all in a potpourri of parenthetical statements, repetition and minutia. And when it started to look like it might be an unannounced filibuster, she ended it where she started: Let’s have a meeting next Tuesday, June 23 and another on Tuesday, June 30. The council took almost two hours to decide that. (Passed 5:0)

Informational Presentations:

  • CoMission gave a presentation regarding its efforts relating to the Sebastopol Community Vitality Project of which it is the consultant. During his presentation, CoMission founder Craig Litwin made several references to the budget he was awarded on May 5. He alluded that it may not be enough to continue his work much longer. Well, Councilmember Hinton was paying attention and asked him how much of that $40,000 budget was left. When his response fell far short of an answer, she dropped all subtlety and said, “I didn’t hear a number.” So we discovered $10,000 is left and that will only take us into July.  A report can be viewed here.

Regular Agenda Items Continued:

  • Councilmember Gurney asked and the council supported (5:0) the GoSonoma Act Expenditure Plan of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. The Measure “M” one quarter cent transportation sales tax will expire in 2024. This act would replace it with a one quarter cent transportation sales tax. The presenter stressed this was an extension only, not an added tax. If, on the ballot in November and approved by two thirds of the voters, here’s what it would do. (Click on the Expenditure Plan for more details.)
  • The council discussed sending a letter to Sonoma County about a proposed gas station, market, car wash and RV storage facility at 5300 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa. The council has already sent a letter opposing the project, but that project has now been resubmitted with some changes. The best argument for this project could only be, “Hey, it ain’t a casino!” A letter of opposition, on a 5:0 vote, will be sent.
  • Recology Sonoma Marin asked for a rate increase for can pickup and the purchase of two new eco-friendly trucks. (The two old trucks “inherited” when they took over from the Ratto Group do not meet California air standards.) Single family rate change for single cans would be 1.7% per month, with the actual monthly rate changes falling between 20 cents per month to $1.05 per month; the most commonly used 32 gallon size would rise 35 cents per month. Commercial single refuse can rates are requested to rise 2.1% per month. The actual monetary amount of the commercial rate increases falls between $1 per month and $13 per month; the oft-used 4 cubic yard bin would be increased by $10 per month. Recology also asked for a 13.5% across the board increase because they believe Sebastopol rates are 40% lower than others in the region. This increase will also cover the purchase of those new trucks. Councilmember Gurney was assured that the trucks would be assigned to Sebastopol. It passed 4:1 with Councilmember Carnacchi in the minority. He objected to the rate increase for the new trucks that will be owned by a private company.

A Parting Shot:

  • Councilmember Carnacchi asked Acting Chief of Police Greg DeVore to prepare a report, covering the last ten years, of how many times the police used a taser, pepper spray, baton or firearms in performing their duties. Then he asked, over the same period, how many citizen complaints there were. When he was informed that there are about 1,200 recorded incidents a year in Sebastopol, the councilmember didn’t have the good manners to withdraw is request. This is Small Town Sebastopol. The chief can’t farm this out to his IT department. He must do it himself. There were two chiefs in that time period before him. We should be looking forward for change, not backward. It’s not too late for the councilmember to call and say, “Fuhgeddaboudit.”

Elapsed Time: 5 hours (6 –11 p.m.)

Next regular city council meeting is July 7, 2020, at the Teen Center, 425 Morris Street at 6 p.m. There will be two special city council meetings on the issue of police use-of-force on Tuesday, June 23, and another on Tuesday, June 30.

Your can view this meeting and others at:

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


(1) comment


This measure M expenditure plan needs to be looked over more closely. Seems to be vague, lacking specifics. Maybe there is some additional supporting documentation? The April 13, 2020 version had funding expressly for SMART, and said this: "SMART $40.0 million."

(The link provided in this article does not tell the whole story.)

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