Monday, July 18, 2011

Julie Bass - Dirk Becker

Lately I have found myself fascinated, no really, obsessed, with the story of Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan. After having to tear up her yard for a plumbing issue caused by a tree on the city's side of the sidewalk (at her own expense), she decided it would be a nice plan to put a raised bed garden in instead of the lawn. She called the city offices to see if it would be all right. They read her the ordinance, which said the unpaved areas of the front lawn must be planted with suitable live plant material. (It said nothing about grass) The planner says he advised her against vegetables, but she decided since it wasn't actually illegal, she would go ahead. She put in a very nice, neat garden with lots of mulch to keep the weeds away.

The city took offense that she ignored their advice. A series of escalations occurred, ending with Julie being ticketed for her puppy being too old to be without a license, and finally, a misdemeanor arrest for the vegetable garden.

Julie is a migraine-suffering, homeschooling mother of six children with an independent streak. The Oak Park city officials seem to be typical well-intentioned bureaucrats, afraid that the blight of neighboring Detroit will be contagious. They police their city's code enforcement rigorously. Both sides dug in to their positions. Julie started a blog and a Facebook site that quickly went viral (over 30,000 people have "liked" the site) after a Fox News report on local Detroit TV stations.

Subsequent TV coverage made the Oak Park city officials look silly. They are evidently are not skilled at dealing with mass media and the internet, or familiar with the urban farming movement. It appeared as if they were pursuing vindictive actions against her after the case was dismissed without prejudice (meaning charges could be filed again for the same offense) but asked her to appear in court anyway on the dog license issue (which she had previously resolved, paid a late fee, and appeared in court to have dismissed.)

As I said, I've been obsessed with this story, posting comments on Julie's blog and Facebook page, watching the TV show, and so on, at all hours of the day and night! Other than Oak Park being less than an hour from here, I wondered why I cared so much, since I have a backyard garden, not a front yard one. As I was told on another issue recently, it's not my fight!

Yesterday I watched Fox's Let it Rip show segment about Julie and the news commentator, Alexis Smith, made a statement that so many people around the world feel like they have a dog in this fight. The issue is larger than Julie's garden - for some it is the right to farm or urban garden, some feel there is too much government intrusion in their lives, some, including Julie's lawyer, think it is about due process of law and city officials abusing too much power. One Facebook fan is periodically posting her own personal diatribe against her own "evil "homeowner's association, taking advantage of the interest in Julie's page.

Yesterday I learned there is a British Columbia man facing similar charges, only he is facing six months in jail for comtempt of court if he does not remove a compost pile (or maybe manure pile) because a neighbor complained. He is doing this on his 2 1/2 acre property in an rural area and he -gasp- SELLS his produce at a farmer's market!!! Now, there's a fight I could possibly make into my own!

No comments:

USDA - Latest News Releases

The Ohio State University Extension News Releases - RSS feeds


USDA Agricultural Research Service

Purdue Agriculture News - Agricultural News

MSU Extension Emergency Management Updates

Geek.Farm.Life Podcast