Political Column — The Right to Garden
Everyone wants to make progress. To actually do that there are important questions to ask, the two most important being “Progress toward what?” and “How?” Studying reformations of the past, how they worked, and when they didn’t, helps to inform us on what may or may not work in the future.
The first modern city-wide zoning ordinance was enacted in 1916 by New York City. The idea spread and in 1926 there was a Supreme Court case between the Village of Euclid and Ambler Realty Company. It was determined that such zoning ordinances are legal. This innovation grew out of similar ideas that have been enacted in cities throughout the world for thousands of years. And once the idea took hold, it grew.
Part of the reason it grew is because as technology progresses there are growing pains that society goes through. Every industrial revolution brings a set of problems like overcrowding in highly polluted and unsanitary cities. But a solution always brings its own problems as well. For instance, urban sprawl is a direct result of zoning ordinances.
Some problems become noticeable only when they get to an extreme point. In Miami Shores, Florida a few years ago vegetable gardens were outlawed through zoning ordinances. To correct this problem the state government passed SB 82 in 2019 taking the power to illegalize gardens away from smaller municipalities. This is both good and bad. It’s good because the right to garden is protected in the state of Florida. And it’s bad because to protect that right they consolidated power, taking it away from the more local units of government that are closer to and in greater contact with the people.
There are two things that we need to make progress toward, both the protection of the right to garden, as well as the importance of local governance. And both can be achieved.
Look at the progress that has been made in history. As part of taking his position as king in 1100AD King Henry I had to agree to the Charter of Liberties. In the early 1200s King John, Henry III, and Edward I all confirmed versions of the Magna Carta. In 1628 Sir Edward Coke was able to get the Petition of Right passed against King Charles I. After the Glorious Revolution the English Bill of Rights was passed in 1689. And in 1791 the American Bill of Rights was ratified. Each of these enacts limitations on and checks against government imposition. And each one is a progression, learning from and expanding upon those of the past.
There were major problems between each of these developments, but that doesn’t mean that progress hasn’t been made. Two steps forward and one step back is frustrating, but it is progress. And there is something to be said about too much change happening too quickly. It destabilizes society, and that is not desirable. So, while I am for progress, I am also for a conservative approach; a conservative progressive.
We can take the lessons learned from these events and apply them to make our own small step toward progress. The right to garden is a political issue that should be addressed at the local level, at the same level of government that in other places it has been taken away.
In my article “Fighting Local Government Corruption — Part 17 of ?” I proposed the wording: “No person shall be denied the right to plant, grow, and cultivate vegetables, fruits, herbs, and other vegetation upon their property as they see fit.” Part of the bill in Florida reads “Except as otherwise provided by law, a county, municipality, or other political subdivision of this state may not regulate vegetable gardens on residential properties.”
Whatever the wording may become, there is an opportunity to make progress. To extend the pattern of history that has protected the fundamental rights of the people. To make a conservative approach toward a better world, and to do it at the local level, from which it may grow into something greater.