Necker’s Notes is no more

By Laura Hagar Rush, Townsy Media, March 4, 2021

Fans of the long-running, city council round-up (and send-up) known as Necker’s Notes were saddened this week when correspondent John Necker sent a notice to his subscribers that he was hanging up his spurs.

“After a long decade of laboring to inject just a little moderation into the politics of Sebastopol, it’s time to admit that my efforts have come closer to those of Don Quixote than those of Ida Tarbell. The windmills won,” he wrote. “Thank you for your support and criticism. Both were helpful.”

Necker has declined to elaborate on his decision to quit writing his column, but 10 years of sitting to the bitter end of every city council meeting twice a month and writing up a summary — for free — seems reason enough.

In a note to his editors (of which I was one), he announced his decision to lay down his pen with his usual diplomatic reserve:

“I quit. Don’t be lookin’ for anymore summaries because I hit the wall, ran out of gas, lost my sense of humor, the buzzer went off, came to my senses, saw the light, got vaccinated and got abducted by aliens, no longer want to Make Sebastopol Great Again, sobered-up, and just flat got too old for this shit.”

Tell us how you really feel, John.

Necker’s practice of telling readers how he really felt about what was happening at Sebastopol City Council meetings irked city council members (who were often the butt of his jokes) but won kudos from readers who found Necker’s Notes’ more readable than the usual dull council recitals found in the local newspapers.

Necker’s Notes began in 2011 when Necker and a handful of his fellow citizens got together to oppose the city’s attempts to ban leaf blowers. Not that he loves leaf blowers. He dislikes listening to them as much as anyone else, but he and his fellows found the council’s approach to banning them high-handed.

After the leaf blower issue, um, blew over, Necker began attending city council meetings, taking notes, and piecing them together the next day into a fun-to-read, easy-to-digest, bullet-point report, enlivened with sharp-elbowed jokes and funny links, which he published at SebastopolCitizens.org.

In 2019, Sonoma West began printing an expurgated version of Necker’s column as “Gang of Five.” It was expurgated because certain powers-that-be found Necker’s humor too hard on Sebastopol’s hard-working and also unpaid (except for insurance) city council people.

I was editor of Sonoma West at the time, and since I was the person who drafted Necker into sharing his column with the paper, I was assigned the task of combing through his columns and taking out any possibly “offensive” material. I always felt my edits made his column a lot less interesting, but I linked to Necker’s original so people could get the full belly-laugh benefit of his unexpurgated column.

The edits didn’t assuage the members of the Sebastopol City Council, several of whom button-holed me at public gatherings to tell me what a disservice I was doing to the community by printing his column.

While I felt their pain, I always felt we were doing the community a service by providing blow-by-blow accounts of the city council meetings, written with enough verve and humor to keep readers engaged. A spoonful of sugar as they say – enlivened with a spoonful of vinegar.

Necker’s Notes had a good long run. It will be missed.