whenever someone trots out arguments about property values to justify some zoning regulation or another, i have to confess that i am instantly suspicious. these usually come under the category of “slippery slope” reasonings, and those get me worried.

in our case, it was:

if we allow tomatoes, what if she decides to grow corn? (“so what?” i privately thought…)

if we allow a garden in the front yard, what if she decided to make a compost pile there? (yes, what if i do? i wondered…)

if we let her get away with vegetables, what if she decides to get chickens? (oh, how i wished i could have had chickens in oak park! but look at me now! hurray for karma!)

but sometimes they are downright absurd. like, if they let people have well-maintained vegetable gardens in their front yards all kinds of hell and mayhem will break loose in their formerly pristine cities. as if the sight of cucumbers out in the open will produce wide-scale violence and atrocities. of course, gardens in the back of houses are still okay. hidden veggies don’t inspire chaos the way that an open display of a little lettuce will. but expose the masses to some fresh parsley and you will rue the day you lifted those zoning restrictions…

when i used to blog from detroit people from seattle would pretty consistently seem perplexed about why anyone cared that there was a garden in our front yard. i didn’t fully appreciate their confusion until i came here and realized that it’s actually odd here not to have something useful growing un your yard. and if you don’t, you almost certainly have a very close neighbor who does. oh, and guess what? property values here are many many times higher than they are in good ‘ole oak park.

yes, i realize that many factors go into determining property values. but i do find it interesting to point out that in spite of the plethora of front yard gardens that abound in seattle, housing values here seem pretty solid, and they are about a gazillion times higher than they are in the detroit area…

i also find it interesting how much more beautiful it is here. when we went back to detroit over the summer we were hit-like an almost physical force- by how starkly ugly and visually dull it was. our old neighborhood was one big block of boring. our old house was so sad and so uninspiring and so u-g-l-y. with a brand new lawn, which less than a year after they’d put it in was already beset by weeds and partly patchy and balding, the house looked tragic and almost desolate.

in seattle, the houses look alive and vibrant with personality and quirks that reflect the people who live in them. driving or walking is a feast for the eyes here; in detroit it’s a starvation diet of stale wonder bread: same, same, with more of the same. very suitable and very normal. and the property values reflect the same low standards as the aesthetics.

so, back to the issue at hand. in the recent attack on jason helvingston, the city of orlando, florida is attempting to preserve property values (so they say) by ensuring that front yards have a “finished look”. i’m not sure what that means, and if they really mean to imply that you can’t plant a new tree or put in small flowers that aren’t “finished” growing, or can’t build a border around an area unless you can “finish” it all at once… it’s just the kind of ripe-for-selective-enforcement peach that’s juicy to pick for officials eager to stamp out initiative in an uppity front yard gardener.

jason has said that they’ll take his house before they take his garden, but i really hope it doesn’t come to that. i really hope they don’t just bulldoze it either, like they did to denise morrison over in tulsa. i could say i’d be shocked if either of these things happened, but i wouldn’t be telling the truth. i’m glad that the media spotlight is once again shining on the shameful local officials who are cracking down on the wrong people. with so much evil in the world i am still truly surprised each and every time i hear that people get in a fret about some upright person trying to responsibly grow some food on their own land.

i don’t know why i should be, but i am.

let’s hope the city of orlando picks up their marbles and goes home before they harass mr. helvingston any more.

stay tuned…