Thursday, July 07, 2011
Government Stupidity: Outlawing Vegetable Gardens
The Bass's front yard was torn up after replacing a sewer line, and after the work was completed Julie Bass decided to grow a vegetable garden, planting basil, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, and cucumbers in five raised beds and bringing down the wrath of the city's central planners.
Julie Bass said, “We thought we’re minding our own business, doing something not ostentatious and certainly not obnoxious or nothing that is a blight on the neighborhood, so we didn’t think people would care very much.”
In another day, the Basses would have been considered 'patriots' for planting a 'victory garden.' But some obnoxious neighbor complained about the aesthetics of cucumber blossoms, and called the city. The city then sent out code enforcement.
“They warned us at first that we had to move the vegetables from the front, that no vegetables were allowed in the front yard. We didn’t move them because we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong, even according to city code we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong. So they ticketed us and charged me with a misdemeanor,” Bass responded.
The Oak Park City code says that all unpaved portions of the site shall be planted with grass or ground cover or shrubbery or "other suitable live plant material." The code was clearly meant to insure vegetated ground cover, as opposed to expanses of bare, eroded dirt. But apparently, a power-triping city Planning and Technology Director Kevin Rulkowski has insisted that peppers are not suitable. He said, “If you look at the dictionary, suitable means common. You can look all throughout the city and you’ll never find another vegetable garden that consumes the entire front yard.”
Excuse me? I checked five dictionaries, and not one equated "suitable" with "common." Sounds like a petty official caught shooting his mouth off and now scrambling to defend himself.
He continued, "...if you look around and you look in any other community, what’s common to a front yard is a nice, grass yard with beautiful trees and bushes and flowers.”
Really? "Beautiful" trees and bushes? Just what is the legal criteria for deciding what is "beautiful?" Is a Weeping Willow beautiful, or a mess? Are a field of Black-Eyed Susans 'beautiful flowers,' or 'overgrown weeds?' Are bushes with red flowers preferable to bushes with small white ones?
As "The Agitator" reported, "God forbid your yard doesn’t include beautiful trees, bushes and flowers. It’s your job, Oak Park citizens, to give Kevin Rulkowski pretty things to look at."
Furthermore, Mr. Rulkowski is dead wrong: I have seen plenty of yards in multiple states in the Northeast that have planted vegetables in the front yard...and I myself, as I write, have green peppers, chives, and oregano planted in the front, alongside tall, grassy field daisies.
The city prosecutor intends on going all the way through a jury trial for this awful insult to the community...meaning 93 days in jail if he wins. What a waste of city money...what a waste of resources...what an abuse of the power to jail.
In a time when we are experiencing 10%+ unemployment - with Michigan at the top of the nations' jobless basket cases - discouraging anyone from growing vegetables because they are not 'pretty' enough is indefensible idiocy, and, quite frankly, neither the neighbors nor the city's business.
Oak Park wins our first "Authority Running Amock" Award. We hope that Bass's neighbors start planting beautiful flowering chives and flowering squash in their front yards, so that by becoming 'common,' they will also become 'suitable.'
Or, better yet, just ignore this stupid law altogether and ask the city to find Mr. Rulkowski something worthwhile to do.