Julie — We were able to change our chicken & goat laws here in Denver, and I’ve seen firsthand how powerful a massive email campaign can be.
Basically, I think there are a couple of levels to the way that folks could help you. You’re absolutely right that bloggers getting the word out about this situation is great.
However, a bunch of indignant blog posts and/or comments on message boards doesn’t necessarily translate into something that really hits home for the decision makers in the Oak Park government. That’s where funneling all of this public attention and outrage into an email campaign can be really helpful.
Bloggers can only rile people up so many times, so I think it’s valuable to really have a focus so we can get the most “bang for our buck,” so to speak. I understand that right now you’re not sure of the best person(s) to target in an email campaign, and that’s ok. Talk to your lawyer, your family/friends, and make a decision as to what you think would be most effective. If you can, try and find an ally on your City Council (though I know that may be hard). Ultimately, this is a political issue (isn’t everything) and in that arena City Councilmembers can be adept at helping you guide public pressure to the right place.
If you decide it’s appropriate/helpful, we can all send emails that CC the planning guy, the City Manager, the Mayor, and all members of City Council. It’s not hard to do — that’s what CC is for. Once you decide on the best course of action, I would really strongly suggest doing a blog post with a list of all of the email addresses for the relevant folks, and a plea for all those reading to send emails covering certain points. You and your lawyer can certainly work out what the best points to cover would be, but you might include asking everyone who lives in a city that allows front yard veggies to state that fact (and include their city’s ordinance, if they want) — plus sending photos of front-yard gardens from around the country. Make the Oak Park officials feel like the neanderthal, behind-the-times buffoons that they are.
I know I’m being pretty heavy-handed with the advice here, but I know first-hand what a difference an avalanche of targeted emails can make. The city is less likely to do something stupid (like throw you in jail) if they know that people all over the country are watching. And, the only way they’ll know we’re watching is if we tell them. When we were working to change the chicken laws in Denver we could generate 70 emails in a day with an “action alert” like this one. You have such a bigger reach, with all the bloggers that are following this — if you came up with a targeted email list and a plea, I bet you could get 500 emails in a day. That would REALLY cause the relevant people to sit up and pay attention.
And speaking of people watching… I would also suggest contacting every media figure who’s been in touch with you about this story, and giving them an update that includes the threat of 93 days of jail time. That’s sure to make good copy, and continue to embarrass the city.
I know you didn’t ask for any of this, Julie… but what you’re doing is important. Keep your chin up!