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Editorial: Persecuting an idealist – Thomas Jackson is an urban farmer

A landscaper by the name of Thomas Jackson faces 30 violations from the City of Toledo for attempting to beautify his neighborhood, but he has the support of his neighbors, Green Party, key figures, the Lucas County, and the state of Ohio. (Must see. Mike)

Toledo, Ohio – The city should make him citizen of the year. Instead, the city is persecuting him.

Toledo Blade
Dec 26, 2016


Thomas Jackson is an urban farmer. Thomas Jackson is a man who is beautifying his neighborhood. Thomas Jackson, who had a record as a young man, turned his life around and went to school to learn how to be a master gardener and harvester of food and trees.

Thomas Jackson is the kind of person the city should lift up and celebrate. Everyone who has met him or been to his neighborhood — Milburn Court, Auburn Avenue, and Macomber Street and their environs — and seen his work, from Congressman Marcy Kaptur, to the Green Party, to University of Toledo professors and students, to representatives of the Ohio EPA, says what he is doing is fantastic.

What he is doing is turning vacant lots of dirt and weeds into green, growing space.

The city should make him citizen of the year. Instead, the city is persecuting him. In the absence of leadership by the mayor’s office, District Councilman Tyrone Riley seems to be driving city policy and enforcement. And it has been a witch hunt aimed at Mr. Jackson.

Worse, this is not about policy. Mr. Riley seems to have a personal beef with Mr. Jackson.

The putative issue is mulch piles. Mr. Jackson acquires mulch and spreads it in abandoned lots, building beds that will become gardens. He is waiting for the mulch to turn to new dirt. He plants trees around the lots and beds to beautify them. There are 14,000 empty lots in Toledo. Very few of them will ever have a new home built on them. Mr. Jackson is not the problem; he’s the solution.

As Miss Kaptur says, urban farming is a realistic option for Toledo. Cleveland is pursuing it — aggressively. Why isn’t Toledo?

Toledo not only has no city program for urban agriculture, it has no protocols for urban farming.

Moreover, Mr. Jackson is doing it, and he knows what he is doing because he trained for it.

Yet the city is trying to destroy him.

The councilman and a few of his constituents say the mulch smells bad and attracts rats. Most who have investigated, including a Blade editorial writer, have detected no smells and no rodents.

But Mr. Jackson has found himself in housing court, and, eventually, in violation of city ordinances. He must now move his mulch piles. He has been ordered to destroy many of the improvements that have been made on several vacant lots in center city Toledo. He has been ordered to destroy his own work — done with much care and physical labor.

This is a man who gave away a couple hundred pumpkins he’d grown to his neighbors this Halloween.

And more than 100 of those neighbors have signed a petition saying they support Mr. Jackson. They say he has done more for the neighborhood than the city ever did — he has lifted it up.

But the city is putting him down.

Housing experts have told The Blade’s editorial board that there are scores of violations, throughout the city, far more egregious than Mr. Jackson’s mulch piles.

Folks who have worked with Mr. Jackson — at the Land Bank for example — say he is a superb landscaper. They say he is highly professional and easy to work with.

Mr. Jackson has had to spend money he hasn’t got on a lawyer. And he will have to spend money and time to move the mulch.

Why is the city persecuting this man? He’s exactly the sort of pragmatic idealist we need.

Because he is on the wrong side of petty power, and the city apparatus always stays on the right side — it is no more complicated than that.

The danger is not only that this decent man will give up on his dreams and leave the city, but that other people like him will. There will be a chilling effect, not only for urban farmers but all visionaries who take a risk — at least the ones who haven’t the wherewithal to wire the system.

Read the complete article here.

Also see:
Toledo Urban Farmer Faces Penalties After Turning Vacant Lots Into Growing Space