We return to Orem, Utah, the city that has asked its residents to stop gardening for three years while it applies pesticides in an attempt to stop an invasive beetle from spreading. Now they’re jailing little old ladies who don’t water their lawns.
Betty Perry, age 70, was arrested on July 5 when she refused to cooperate with police who showed up to issue her a citation for failure to water her lawn and for the general weediness of the place. During the scuffle, she fell and got a bloody nose. After she was booked at the police station, the higher-ups realized they had a PR nightmare on their hands and let her go.
Now the city has offered to assist her with her lawn problems, and feminist attorney Gloria Allred has gotten involved. We assume that the ordinance she was accused of violating was Chapter 11 of Orem’s city ordinace, which includes the following:
16. Vegetation. Dead, decayed, diseased, or hazardous trees, weeds, hedges, and overgrown or uncultivated vegetation which is in a hazardous condition, is an obstruction to pedestrian or vehicular traffic, or which is likely to harbor rats, vermin or other pests.
A harmless enough ordinance (and Chuck B. can certainly attest to the value of some kind of regulation of overgrown gardens given his experience with his neighbor), but I think the folks in Orem are having a little trouble with interpretation. A dry, brown lawn is a downright sensible decision right now. Weeds are a hassle, and they’re unsightly, but a hazardous condition? And who defines weeds? Who defines pests?