Michigan Woman Charged Criminally For Growing Vegetable Garden In Her Own Front Yard

Julie Bass is facing a misdemeanor charge in Oak Park, Michigan. Her crime? Planting vegetables in her own front yard. It is the latest example of the criminalization of American society.

If you look at the photograph in the article below, Bass has arranged her garden in a neat grouping vegetable patches.

However, the city code limits a homeowner to “grass ground cover, shrubbery, or other suitable live plant material” in any unpaved portion of their yard. So, she could solve the problem by paving over her entire front yard? If she paves it over, can she put plants on the asphalt rather than a car?

City Planner Kevin Rulkowski insisted that “If you look at the definition of what suitable is in Webster’s dictionary, it will say common. So, 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.”

Here is the actual Webster definition of suitable:
“a : adapted to a use or purpose
b : satisfying propriety : proper
c : able, qualified <a suitable candidate for the job"

The dictionary lists as "obsolete" the meaning ": similar, matching."

Rulkowski's defense of the use of the criminal code to enforce his vision of "nice, grass yard[s] with beautiful trees and bushes and flowers" would not meet the definition of what is suitable for most citizens. Yet, it is part of a disturbing trend of criminalization in our society.

Bass now appears to need a “shrubber”:

Source: MLive as first seen on ABA Journal

50 thoughts on “Michigan Woman Charged Criminally For Growing Vegetable Garden In Her Own Front Yard”

  1. anon nurse,

    Your battle is a worthy one. I have a simply hilarious story about a bad-boy local politician that you will greatly enjoy.

    I’m too tired to get the links together tonight but I will do so tomorrow evening and email them to you.

  2. pete,

    πŸ™‚ …and may God bless the United States of America…, as well as the mighty Carrion flower.


    Weary, weary, weary on this end. Good points, all, as usual.

  3. it is a victory garden for the War on Terror. what if the terrorists attack our food supply? is the city planners office anti-american? why doesn’t mr. rulkowski have an american flag pin on his lapel? does he expect ms. bass to cut and run? she is a mama grizzly. don’t retreat, reload.

    did i forget anything? i got most of that from the bumper stickers on one pick-up truck.

    srsly though, i expect no matter how she decorates the beds the city won’t be happy until all the worthwhile plants are gone. too bad she can’t grow some of these http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrion_flower

  4. anon nurse,

    Smaller populations usually result in public servants being more immediately answerable to the constituents.

    Her neighbors may or may not be happy about the garden and concerned with how its placement might affect the resale value of their homes but the rest of the city now has to deal with the “national” attention that places their city in an unfavorable light causing potential home buyers to think twice before even looking at a home for sale in Oak Park. Many will blame the public servants for bringing such unwanted attention to their doorstep.

    Although Oak Park has a City Manager form of government, the mayor is running for reelection and this situation is already negatively impacting on his campaign.

  5. Just tell the Village Board that it’s a vegetable garden designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and they will put your house on the FLW Tour. -HenMan

    πŸ™‚ (…very close to the truth…)

  6. Some people choose to live in communities where exteriors are monitored. Such communities restrict the colors of dwellings, outlaw play ground equipment, outlaw garden sheds, prohibit overnight parking except in garages, and sometimes even prohibit UPS and FEDEX from delivering packages. Other communities don’t have those restrictions or have fewer restrictions. In Steamboat for instance you were allowed a detached garage and in that you could have up to 10% of the area of your primary dwelling as a workshop or artists’ studio, without plumbing. Other communities object to that. In some communities you can have two dogs of any size, in some communities you can have two dogs weighing less than 40 pounds, in some communities no dogs at all. In some communities children aren’t allowed. In some communities there is a lot of pot smoking allowed, others are very strict. In some communities you can drink in parks, in others it is not allowed.

    The real problems start when there are different rules for different people, unpublished procedures, and “selective prosecution”.

  7. Aesthetics mean everything. I do not think the woman should be charged with a crime for planting a vegetable garden in her front yard; however, as another reader pointed out, it looks sightly. She needs to work on beautifying it. I would be ticked if I had to look at that everyday. Just make it look nice.

  8. Well I got a degree in city planning instead of law because I wanted to be positive not negative. What gets me is that my husband and I tried really hard to be a constructive part of the Steamboat Springs community. My husband was all sentimental about his childhood there. I got a kick out of a blog after Steamboat Springs had a big shortage of resort workers that was tied to inexpensive and unappealing housing. They said they went back to old public meetings and that Kay Sieverding was the ONLY person who spoke to the need to have short term single resort workers’ housing, more like college dorm housing than the condos they built for families with small children. My husband and I wrote many letters and spoke out at many meetings in Routt County / Steamboat Springs about how to broaden the employment base and have a diversified economy. It was like throwing pearls before swine. Some of this happened after 9/11 took the focus away from government corruption but a lot of it was before then. Maybe it was related to lack of church going, maybe to drugs, I don’t know, but we never expected it. When I studied city planning at MIT, the subject of discriminatory enforcement never ever came up.

    Now, I am trying to get warrants for arrests and detention I already suffered. They’re supposed to let you see the warrant before you are arrested. The US Attorney in Colorado, where I was a federal prisoner in 2005, 2006, and 2007, writes over and over again that they have never heard of me, have no records about me etc. All the feds seem to want to do is pretend that I wasn’t incarcerated without criminal procedure; they don’t seem at all interested in figuring out how to make their systems stronger. This makes me think that many more Americans will be incarcerated by the feds without criminal procedure and that the USMS is transforming itself into some sort of special unit police force where people with the right connections can arrange for U.S. citizens to be detained without a criminal charge. Maybe in a few years the USMS will actually be killing people.

    Did you know that DOJ has a Data Integrity Committee that is supposed to be responsible for implementing the Privacy Act but that the Committee never has meetings?

  9. If she lived in Oak Park, Illinois instead of Oak Park, Michigan, she would have no problem. Just tell the Village Board that it’s a vegetable garden designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and they will put your house on the FLW Tour.

  10. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/07/11/993474/-Special-Comment:-The-Nations-Purpose?via=siderec

    This is what I’m going to speak to in a Special Comment on tonight’s edition of Countdown. I hope to expand the view even a little more: that the only true mark any of us leaves on this earth is whether we improved or hurt the lives of the others around us. -Keith Olbermann


    It’s bad out there… I, too, know from personal experience. But in the end,
    as Keith Olbermann said, “…the only true mark any of us leaves on this earth is whether we improved or hurt the lives of the others around us.”

    So one keeps “fighting the good fight”… In the end, what more can one do. The corruption is deep and pervasive. America has its own Stasi-like force running games on the streets of America but, until it hits home, it’s hard to believe.

    Behind the scenes, there’s always been a lot of ugliness… But the last ten years have taken a mighty toll on this “republic” of ours…

  11. The federal courts have different laws, unpublished procedures, and different punishments for different people too. If you don’t believe me, go look right now in the 10th Circuit 11-1227 and you will see them saying that Rule 11 judgments don’t require a Rule 11 (c)(6) order if they are issued against Kay Sieverding. This judgment caused me to lose my credit, my reputation, my business, and my home. It makes me extremely angry and extremely bitter.

  12. Blouise:

    Your link links to a much larger vegetable garden a few blocks away, in the same government area, and brings up the subject of “selective prosecution”. That is the exact problem that I had. I was threatened with jail because a man I was paying trimmed a few small branches that were hanging low and hitting my car when I drove onto my property. I brought photos of the exact same tree showing where Kevin Bennett’s employees had cut branches as big or bigger (they would fall off in a minor storm), plus big cuts he did to other trees along the road in city easement the same week to the city council and asked why I was threatened with 18 months in jail and he was not but they refused to respond to me. I also had problems wanting to have a circular drive even though they were all over the city including on my own street. I found gardens planted by individuals and landscapers close to the street and none of them had gardening permits– I was the only homeowner required to have a gardening permit; they never issued one to anyone else and had no form. I was criminally charged for complaining about zoning violations; Rick Brown and his wife, (he was a police officer) got $10 K for complaining about their neighbors’ zoning violations. (The criminal charges had only the signature of the city council presidents’ wife, who was not a government employee, but was allowed to sign forms on the line for police officer). I was also accused of calling my neighbor an “__sshole”. I don’t think I did, I am not a big swearer and of the 7 people who were present, only one person claimed I did and she also impeached her testimony by claiming that I went on her property and scared all her workers. The workers under oath said that they never saw me on their land and weren’t afraid of me at all (I’m not very scary). In any case, President George Bush called a reporter an __sshole on national television and no one criminally prosecuted him.

    I made a sign “Same Laws for All”.

  13. Kay,

    I live in a small town that is considered a suburb of a larger city by outsiders … but not by the people whose great x5 ancestors came here in the late 1700’s to early 1800’s and established the community.

    We had a few public officials who embarrassed the town with stupid “official” stunts and none of them found it at all easy to gain employment in the public sector again. Stupid stunts by public officials embarrass small towns and hurt their property values which is how the next small town, where said official tries to go, sees it.

    Oak Park City Planner Kevin Rulkowski’s future is not all that rosy … unless he’s getting ready for retirement.

  14. Clearly subversive activity… so, of course they had to charge her.

    Blouise, You said “nobody in their right mind is going to hire him.” Unfortunately, given the current climate… he’ll be wooed and courted. And I say, “Bring it on.” There’s nothing I welcome more than homogeneity…and perfection. Next stop… Stepford.

  15. Here’s the house I lost to government corruption.


    I had an attached building lot with a fantastic view too.

    From: “Tom Ernst”
    To: “‘David Sieverding'”
    Subject: RE:
    Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2003 08:26:17 -0600
    X-Priority: 3 (Normal)
    Importance: Normal
    X-Loop-Detect: 1

    Not much in comparison.

    I was looking at a vacant lot next door to Bennett to purchase. When we
    were walking the property with our three kids, we noticed the property
    below us and thought it was a wonderful view. Just then Bennett came out
    of his house and met us. In short, he said if any of us attempted to
    step foot on the property he would shoot us. He also mentioned that if
    we built a home on the property he would put up a privacy fence so we
    couldn’t see the property that went down to the river.

    He scared the hell out of my wife and kids. Needless to say we never
    went back to the property and found something else.



    I don’t think anyone cares about local government corruption except for the victims. The guy in Oak Park will probably get a promotion and at least job security for covering up corruption. In federal court, they just claim “immunity” for any and every crime they commit while in public office. Then you have to pay outrageous fees to their crooked lawyers and if you protest the USMS will lock you up without a criminal charge or an arraignment until you agree to do what they want. That’s probably one reason why property values are down; it is not worth being a home owner under those circumstances. And no one should ever trust the federal courts, at least based on my experience to date. It’s all a matter of who you know and who you pay.

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