Tuesday, July 12, 2011

To Beet or Not to Beet, That is the Legal Question

Think a moment of the American Dream, evolving though it may be in these turbulent times. What did you envision? It probably had something to do with home-ownership, yes?

So, let's say you're living out that dream. Oh, let's just pick a location. How about Oak Park, Michigan? That's about as "Americana" as it gets, don't you think?

Now, enter mom Julie Bass, who perpetrated a travesty by committing a horrific and heinous crime planting a vegetable garden, along with a little haven or herbs and a fringe of flowers, in her own front yard.

Say what?

A "Garden Renegade" is Born

I first became acquainted with Julie's story by reading the Raw Story short here.

Treehugger also provides a summation video of this issue from Michigan's WXYZ television station, and I've got that video here.

Self-dubbed a "garden renegade," Bass originally decided to plant a vegetable garden in May after a sewer project had obliterated her front yard. Rather than re-growing grass or adding shrubs or sod--the latter of which she has noted in interviews is quite expensive--she opted for peppers, tomatoes, and the like.

This rampant vegetablism on Bass' part has gotten her into hot water with the certain unnamed neighbors, who complained to the city, and thus with the city of Oak Park, Mich.

According to an ABC News interview, the city has charged her with growing a "vegetable garden in front yard space." If Bass is convicted of this "crime," she could spend up to 93 days in jail under these draconian and vaguely worded codes.

The ABC News interview, and others quoting Bass, point out that she said she sought and received approval from both neighbors and city officials in her Detroit suburb before she went ahead with the plantings of five decorative planter boxes in her family's front yard.

Nonetheless, head honcho in charge of beating back people wanting to grow modern-day victory gardens, a.k.a., Oak Park's Planning and Technology director Kevin Rulkowski, told WXYZ in the video you see above, "I told her don't do it, and she went ahead and did it anyway."

The nut of the argument, if you will, comes down to the wording of the city's code. Per ABC News, the Oak Park city screening and landscaping ordinance states, "All unpaved portions of the [screening and landscaping] site shall be planted with grass ground cover, shrubbery, or other suitable live plant material."

What's with the Vegetable Vendetta, Mr. Rulkowski?
If peppers, zucchini, and other edible plantings are not suitable, what is? Would Mr. Rulkowski have Bass grow pot plants instead? Or is it instead okay to persecute a family, with children I might add, for growing edible foods? Yes, let's strong-arm them into growing grass, nothing, or only ornamentals.

Bah, humbug. Humbug, I say! (And someone should stuff said humbug in Rulkowski's ear!)

Bass rightly has called for a jury trial, and her pretrial hearing is slated for July 26. Mark your calendars! Naturally, Julie's attorney Solomon Radner does not believe that a jury will convict his client of a crime. He aptly alludes to First Lady Michelle Obama's drive to get the nation's families to grow more fruits and vegetables, doing so herself on the White House's grounds, and to partake of them as steps toward better health.

As a mom who involves the kids whenever possible in her vegetable gardening--with not much luck growing tomatoes or peppers this year, darnit!--I am adding my voice, for what it's worth, to Julie's campaign. Her blog, Oak Park Hates Veggies, will carry continuing updates and is interesting to read besides.

I see this move on the part of the city of Oak Park, Mich., and Mr. Rulkowski, as a means to squash families and the folks of low to moderate means (though I'm not presuming to know the Bass family's financial details) like so many weeds under a corporatist or business-coddling boot. Down with the people; up with the well-to-do!

For goodness' sake, it's not like we've been hearing about or experiencing the skyrocketing costs of food worldwide, with food riots and the like--not just here in the States. Oh, wait. Yes, we have. Here and here and here and here for starters.

What's the big deal about vegetables? It's not a hazard to herself or her neighbors. It's not a blight on the neighborhood or an eyesore that brings down property values. Take a look at the photos and videos. It's one or two bad seeds--if that could ever be proven--who complained to the city and who, for whatever reason, are holding the reins attached to Mr. Rulkowski's muzzle.

VoN will actively follow this story and hereby issues a resounding boo, hiss to Oak Park, Michigan, and Kevin Rulkowski, for their adherence to draconian and poorly worded city codes. If we can find out further steps to take in support of Bass other than this column--even interviewing her if she has the time--we will cover it here.

What say you, readers? Are you in support of Bass' decision to grow a vegetable garden to supplement her family's food supplies? Please offer your thoughts below.

1 comment:

  1. UPDATE: You can sign the petition supporting the Bass family's right to grow vegetables in their own yard, at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/oak-park-hates-veggies/ or you can join the Facebook page. In addition, you can also contribute to the legal defense fund at the Oak Park Hates Veggies blog on Wordpress.