The green movement doesn't have much use for lawns. Yeah, they make suburban enclaves look tidy and uniform, but really, would it be so effing bad if your house had something useful — say, a vegetable garden — instead of a high-maintenance water-hog outdoor carpet? What's the worst that could happen? Well, as Michigan woman Julie Bass discovered, if your city planner is certifiably power-crazy, you could be looking at 93 days in jail.
After her front yard got dug up for sewer line maintenance, Julie Bass decided to put in raised vegetable beds instead of reseeding the lawn. It was awesome — the neighborhood kids helped out, everyone got to see where their food came from, the Bass family got fresh cheap produce. Your basic home gardening idyll. But then some disgruntled neighbor, maybe someone who didn't get enough free tomatoes, ratted Bass out to the city of Oak Park, which has rules about what kind of vegetation is allowed in front yards. When Bass wouldn't move the beds, the city slapped her with a ticket and a misdemeanor charge. Bass is demanding her right to a trial — and if the city wins, she could legally get up to 93 days in jail.
What's so bad about front-yard gardens? Well, as city planner Kevin Rulkowski points out, city regulations stipulate that front yards must comprise "suitable live plant material." "If you look at the definition of what suitable is in Webster's dictionary," says Rulkowski, "it will say common." So since everyone else doesn't have vegetable gardens, the Basses can't either.
Leaving aside that this argument sounds like the beginning of a high school student's writing assignment ("Webster's dictionary defines 'success' as…"), it appears Rulkowski has never actually cracked his beloved Webster's. You wanna play semantics, Rulkowski? Let's play: The first definition for "suitable" is "adapted to a use or purpose." We'd be hard-pressed to come up with a better illustration than a vegetable garden that benefits people all over the neighborhood.