More Dogs on Main Street |

More Dogs on Main Street

Tom Clyde, Record columnist

Things are different down there in Happy Valley. They don’t coddle their criminals the way we do around here. A recent story from Orem brings things into focus. An Orem City cop busted a hardened criminal a repeat offender over the Fourth of July holiday. The villain was dragged off to the Utah County Jail, booked, and later sent to the hospital to have her wounds checked out. In the fracas during the arrest, this hooligan was wrestled down and cuffed, and in the process, ended up with a split nose that required treatment.

And what violent crime was being brought to justice, you might ask? It’s really terrible. The woman had an unkempt, brown lawn. Oh, the humanity. Yes, down in Orem, it is a crime to have an unsightly yard around your house. And Betty Perry, a 70-year-old military and federal government retiree, was charged with failure to irrigate. I saw her yard on TV, and it was, in fact a weed choked dust bowl. She may be a fine person, but nobody is going to accuse her of having a green thumb. It makes my yard look pretty good by comparison. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the City had been after her last year about the condition of her yard. This time, Perry had been on vacation, and the lawn had obviously dried out while she was gone. She had been doing a major interior remodel, and had not had the time or money to get to the landscaping yet, she said. Some people just don’t care if they have a green lawn or not.

Having achieved scofflaw status, the City wasn’t going to mess around this time. No zoning enforcement pansy on this one. Since all the meth labs in Orem have been converted to ice cream parlors, the cops had time on their hands to go after the sort of dangerous criminals who bring down property values in an already dicey market. The cop approached her in the front yard and demanded her name. Ms. Perry said she had done nothing, and walked into her house. At that point the officer grabbed the criminal and cuffed her. She claims that her nose got split open when he hit her with the handcuffs trying to get them on her.

Apparently the 70-year-old lady was too much for one of Orem’s finest, and he called for back up. The news reports say that the cop had only a pick-up truck, and did not want to transport a violent offender to the slammer in the truck. So a squad car arrived, and a second Orem City cop evaluated the situation and decided that the bone dry conditions in the yard were such that jail was the only option. So, nose bleeding, she was hauled off, to jail.

It’s not clear how long she was held before a jail supervisor finally looked at the situation and said, "Oh my flippin’ heck!" or words to that effect. She was taken to the hospital, checked out, and given a ride home. The police department spokesman said she was taken home because there were "other options available to handle the situation besides holding the woman in jail." Do ya think?

Her LDS Bishop vouched for her, and said she was "a great lady," according to the Tribune report. If she had been drinking a beer in the dried out yard, they may have shot her on the spot. Somehow, when her lawyer is through with this one, I suspect her yard will be the envy of the neighborhood, with maybe a couple of cops showing up every Saturday to do a little mowing and weeding.

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There is, of course, so much wrong with the whole situation. Let’s start with the fact that it hasn’t rained in a Biblical 40 days and 40 nights, and apparently will never rain again. Everybody should have a dead lawn this year. The people who deserve a crack across the bridge of the nose with one of those big cop flashlights are the ones with the lush green lawns. Next year, when we are really rationing water, it would be nice to think that the Kentucky blue grass people have already used their share. But, in Happy Valley, it would go against the grain of culture to admit that there were limits or resource allocation issues. Orem is about green lawns and suburban bliss. Nothing upsets that applecart like somebody with a parched lawn right next door while you’re trying to pump up the appraisal so you can qualify to refinance.

If you are waiting to see somebody hauled into jail for wasting water, don’t hold your breath. That’s not going to happen.

Meanwhile, we have people whining that they can’t water more often than every other day in Park City. Really, folks, once a week ought to do it. Park City is giving expensive tickets to people who water more often than the already wasteful every-other-day schedule, or during the heat of the day. But I’d hardly describe our current irrigation restrictions as even mildly conservation oriented. There’s not much brown around here despite a very severe drought condition. That concerns me because we are mostly dependent on ground water, which doesn’t behave completely predictably. It may take three or four big winters to get things back to normal. Or we may have pumped the aquifers so aggressively in the name of green lawns that they might never come back to normal, what ever that is.

Sticking those electronic signs at the entrance to town is pretty ugly, a little alarming to visitors who don’t know that a Stage I drought means you can waste as much water as you like every other day. I’m sure the City is watching things carefully, but given the dry summer, on the heels of a puny winter, it seems like we might be asking a little more in terms of conservation.

But at least we’re not hauling old ladies to jail for conserving water.