Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mother of 6 Threatened With Jail Time for Front Yard Garden

There are other words for it than "ridiculous", but I really do make an effort to keep this a fairly family friendly blog and keep the cussing out of it, but this time, it really would be warranted.  That lady, Julie Bass, over in Oak Park, MI that I've been going on and on about has been informed by the city idiots that they are planning on taking this case all the way, so she is facing possible jail time of 93 days for growing vegetables in her own front yard!

For those that haven't been following this story, Oak Park has an ordinance that states that front yards must contain "suitable plant material" and, apparently, the official Oak Park dictionary, or at least what they are using to prosecute from, defines "suitable" as "common" so they are saying that this

is not "suitable" because most people have the economic and environmental drain of boring green grass on their lawns, rather than something practical, educational, healthy, and tasty on their lawns like the Bass family does.  Well, they didn't put it exactly that way, but that's what they are claiming.

A possible 93 days in jail for this:
 and this
 and this
 Do you even see any weeds here?  If you are a weed sympathizer, then maybe I can see an issue, since, clearly, they've all been brutally torn out by the roots and cast away somewhere else not visible in these pictures.  But, if you're looking for a lawn to prosecute, I think maybe they need to be looking elsewhere!  Like maybe a lawn that contains the illegal kind of weed!  There is no crime happening here, yet, for some reason, they want to play the bad guys and pick on a family just trying to eat healthy cheaply!

*sigh*  What is this once great nation coming to?

Fortunately, all our rights haven't eroded away yet.  We can still write emails, make phone calls, and send letters (or dictionaries, since it sounds like they need one in Oak Park!) to the city officials responsible for this mess (note: the mess is not in Julie Bass's well maintained garden in her front lawn.  It is clearly in their brains and, for now, legal documents).  Maybe send them pictures of your front yard garden.  If you don't have a front yard garden, maybe now would be a good time to plant one.  Or borrow mine as an example.  Or google "front yard gardens" and see what all pops up and send them some of those pictures!

For your convenience, here is the cast of troublemakers, er, city officials, and their contact information:

City Planner:
Kevin Rulkowski

City Manager (Mr. Rulkowski's boss):
Rick Fox
Gerald E. Naftaly

Mayor Pro Tem:
Michael M. Seligson

City Council:
all phone calls go to 248.691.7410

Angela Diggs Jackson

Paul Levine

Emily Duplessis

All snail mail goes to the person you are mailing it to
c/o City of Oak Park
13600 Oak Park Blvd
Oak Park, MI 48237

If you are going to send emails, you can make it easiest on yourself by addressing it to Mr. Rulkowski, since he seems to be the evil mastermind main person that Julie Bass has been having to deal with and he's the moron guy that was quoted on the news as not knowing what "suitable" meant and then just "cc"ing the rest of the addresses.

Now let's let them know that they need to drop this stupid case...and then I'll be able to go back to mostly blogging about happy things like yummy recipes and what's growing in my own yard, front and back!

(Oh, and it probably wouldn't hurt to drop a line to your US Representative and Senators, letting them know about the current situation and that you think there should be a federal Right to Garden protection law on the books to help keep things like this from happening in the future!)


  1. I'm in Australia and I'm shocked!!!

    All we can say is "Only in America!"

    I shall send an email to that, ahem, man too!

  2. mamamia
    Actually it happens in Canada as well. Its amazing how governments want people to be reliant on the system and not self sustainable.

    Will send some pics and stuff soon to these foolish people.

  3. What if everyone who reads your blog sent a copy of the write up this story to their local news,requesting they provide media coverage to get the word out about what's going on,and maybe get this family a little more positive attention.

    Just a thought.

  4. what about her email? I can't seem to find it. I want to send her a copy of what I'm sending to everyone else. Do you know it? or where I can find it??

  5. I don't think she has published one. You could post it as a comment on her blog if you wanted her to see it though. She's great about reading and responding to comments. Her blog is

  6. I have earthbox gardens on my porch and my neighbor freely gardens (huge garden) in his off to the side yard. NO one complains we are below poor here. If I grow extra it goes to my neighbors.

  7. This is my email that I sent to the contacts listed in this blog post:

    Dear Mr. Pea-brain, er, I mean Rulkowski,

    I'm writing to express my deep concern for what you are doing to the Bass family. I read about your hatred for clean yards and vegetables and felt compelled to write. I'm not an activist, and don't usually protest in any way, shape or form, but this is just too ridiculous to ignore.

    I understand the reasoning behind keeping neighborhoods clean and in aesthetically pleasing state, but come on! Prosecuting someone for a vegetable garden is a bit of a stretch. Don't you have more important matters to attend to? Probably not, as I suspect that's the very reason you are mercilessly attacking an innocent family. Do you find yourself in a position to find something to do and earn your paycheck or find another job? I have a feeling that this is your true motivation.

    I suppose that once you've finished your crusade against vegetable growing housewives, you will launch another crusade against garden gnomes and flowerbed ornaments.

    Your actions are a clear abuse of authority and I implore your supervisor to fire you with feverish haste. How dare you and your constituents infringe on someone's right to grow perfectly legal, harmless vegetables. I'm pretty sure this is treading into civil rights territory, and I hope that the people of Oak Park, Michigan take swift action to clean up the corrupt, evil, vile members of Oak Park city council.

    Thank you for your time.

    F* you and have a sh*y day

  8. Perhaps a more respectful tone in letters directed toward them would accomplish more? Catching more flies with honey than vinegar and all that?

    Having said that, lots of good points in there and a darn funny (to me anyway) letter!

  9. I didn't get to check all my blogs until now, so I can't write a letter during my free time (which ends in a few minutes). But I will do so during tomorrow's free time because this situation is utterly rediculous.

    Isn't the internet grand? Most of us wouldn't even know about this issue if it had happened in the mid 80's. I doubt it would have made national headlines.

  10. Oh man! Glad my city doesn't do this, or if they do, no one has called us out on it yet. We ripped up half our front lawn to plan a food garden and we haven't looked back yet!

  11. This is absurd & I thank you & the lady who posted it to facebook for bringing this to our attention.

    We have similar laws here in my city in California- about needing to have grass on our front lawn, etc. And recently myself & my neighbor were visited by the police & given 2 weeks to 'fix' our infractions or face fines.

    My problem? My lawn was no more than an inch- however I had about 7 straggly weed stems (yes- stems) in the yard. I hadn't bothered to mow it- because, as I said- the grass didn't need cutting.(They should come back during the rainy season! Then they will have a reason to give me a ticket LOL :)

    My neighbor's serious infraction? Her jasmine was growing on the fence that the 2 of us share. Little did they know that we had been nurturing that gorgeous jasmine for several years to get it to that point.

    This kind of stuff is ABSURD!

    We literally have men selling crack in the street 2 blocks away. I cannot even drive through that street without having to stop & wait while they finish up their 'business'. Our local park has had both a drive by shooting and a riot in the past month. My kids cannot play in our park because of the grown men & women loitering & causing problems. People have been found having sex in the bathrooms. (GROSS!)

    But they found the time to worry about my lawn?

    I don't know what Oak Park is like- hopefully nowhere as bad as my Los Angeles suburb- but COME ON! A front yard garden is now something to prosecute? (or PERSECUTE?)

    What is our sad world coming to?

  12. Does anyone know if she needs help with legal fees? I'd donate in a heartbeat.

  13. I don't know if she needs help with legal fees, but I will post here, on twitter, and on facebook if she does mention a way to help her out like that. I've gotten the impression from her blog that the lawyer she has helping her our is working for far less than what he's worth, but beyond that, she hasn't said anything about funds for these shenanigans.

    As of right now, the only thing she has specifically asked for by way of help is for people to show up at the courthouse on July 26 for the pretrial and for people that are too far away to do that to send emails and letters to the people I listed above.

  14. So silly. What a waste of gov. time and money. We have worked veggies into our front garden and have even had corn growing at times. NOTHING but positive feedback one city over!

  15. Melinda Baker, Las Vegas, Nv,July 10, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    Maybe we could do the same thing with mr. Rulkowski as we did with Pres. Obama. Let's send him to Washington D.C. I think he might just fit right in.In fact they are probably already acquainted, since both are from Chicago. (a city with more problems than this man and his neighbors vegetables!)

  16. There is now a legal defense fund set up: (Also available as a link on the side bar of her blog

  17. well, at least she can now be famous for going against policies set years ago. The man was doing his job and now may get fired for enforcing policy set by others. I guess we all have forgotten this. Is it worth this , when it could have been planted in the backyard? Animals come and steal food from gardens and can get killed crossing the street. Homeless individuals or hungry children pass by and may want to take the food if it is within view each day. Food spoils and smells from gardens . This is silly, kind of like the Emperors New Clothes. Everyone wants to act as though this is ok, but would you want her next to your home with food almost in your front door? be honest. It is sort of tacky and rebellious to some degree. She has a back yard.

  18. Are you serious? First off, it is HER property that she OWNS so who are you to tell her what she can do on her property if it isn't hurting anyone or anything. She has her reasons for not planting it in her backyard and it is not your place to judge those reasons. Animals go for ornamental plants as well, so that argument is out. And, honestly, yes, I would LOVE my neighbors to have a vegetable garden in their front yard rather than a tacky monoculture of boring, useless, resource draining, unsustainable green grass. It IS okay!

  19. And having done some research on this in covering this story, I should mention too that Rulkowski had a hand in forming this vague ordinance that never would hold up in court should it actually make it there because of the sloppy wording. He can't just pass the buck to someone else when he loses his job, as he should. If they didn't want veggies in the front yard, the ordinance should explicitly say that!

  20. Oh dear Anonymous poster of July 16, Thank you for the laugh! That is priceless! I for one, and many others besides, would LOVE to have her garden next door to mine. It sounds as if you may be afraid of the actual homeless 'individual' than of him or her raiding your neighbor's garden, your concern for her veggies is overwhelming! And what heartless person would tell a hungry child he or she can't have a FRESH, home grown tomato if he or she is hungry? Why not let the landowner worry about who or what eats from her front yard garden? Your concern for someone losing his job is noteworthy, but the policy, years in effect or not, is in need of change. There have been many 'policies' about things through the years that would never fly if still on the books these days. And I'm sure someone DID lose their jobs when they were changed. Segregation comes to mind. This IS ok. Cities & towns all over the country have been changing code and ordinance to allow chickens again, to make sure that, within reason, people have the allowance to grow their own food & raise chickens for fresh eggs if they so choose. People should have the right to grow veggies in their front, back or side yards, wherever they can. What would be a good example of Emperor's New Clothes would be if NO ONE spoke out about this vindictive persecution and pretended that it was ok. Your sadly misguided view on this is your rightful view, but I think my Victory Garden growing grandmothers would have a few words to say about it: Shame on you. There's something wrong in this world & it needs fixed. Help make it better or get outta the way.

  21. When these things start happening I know the wrong people are in office. A pro gradening pro-chicken person needs to be running. We all need to take turns going to town meetings and make sure they aren't outlawing gardening or water collection.

    Has anyone heard of I sign lots of petitions on their website and many are successful. She could reach millions making a petition.

  22. And I would happily share my homegrown food with the homeless or hungry children. Some families depend on the free school lunches that aren't available in the summer - so help yourself hungry children.