B.C. homeowner “fined” $5,200 for growing cucumbers in his basement?

Yet another case of regulatory excess — story by Sam Cooper of The Province, as published in the Abbotsford Mission Times:


Len Gratto on his property in Mission on Sat. Jan. 8, 2011. Len Gratto is ready to join an “imminent class action” law suit against Mission, for hitting him with a 5,200 grow op inspection fee. The 67 year old says he and his wife were growing cucumbers in the basement, he never grew pot, and he and many other Mission residents are being unfairly searched and fined. Photo by: Les Bazso, PNG

“There’s no way Len Gratto is paying a $5,200 fine to Mission city hall for growing cucumbers in his basement.

Gratto – a 67-year-old who has lived for 30 years with his wife in their Mission home – says he’s raring to join an imminent class-action lawsuit attacking the municipality’s grow-op bylaw inspections.

A number of citizens, led by Mission man Stacy Gowanlock, will allege their homes were illegally searched for pot grow-ops and they were slapped with fees and repair orders costing upward of $10,000 – all on questionable evidence.

Gratto says he’s never grown pot, but “laughable” evidence against him consists of pictures of some “dirt” on the basement wall and “a furnace pipe going up into the chimney, where it should be.”

“It’s upsetting they can do this,” Gratto said. “We were growing cucumbers in the basement because they wouldn’t take outside.”

Gowanlock said he was searched in 2009 and hit with thousands in fees and repair orders despite never growing pot in his home. A lawyer could be filing his civil suit within days, he said.

“I’m going to be the one that steps forward,” he said. “It’s the whole process. You’re violating people’s rights.”

And in a move that could potentially alter the landscape of drug enforcement in B.C., the B.C. Civil Liberties Association says it will join the battle against Mission but widen the focus into a region-wide challenge to “home grow-op bylaws.”

Grow-op bylaw programs, which are based on provincial legislation, allow municipal inspectors to enter homes with abnormally high hydro usage – about 93 kilowatts per day or more – and look for evidence of illegal marijuana grow-ops for public safety reasons. Inspectors don’t have to find grow-ops, but if they find supposed residual evidence, such as high mould readings, they levy search fees and order repairs. If homeowners don’t comply, homes are tagged under the bylaw and effectively condemned as unsafe, and unsellable.

According to proponents, the bylaws have been phenomenally successful in driving pot production out of the Lower Mainland.

In mid-December, the BCCLA’s Micheal Vonn led a delegation to Mission’s council, warning grounds for a class-action suit are strong, and searches are “putting innocent people under horrible duress.”

Read more: http://www.abbotsfordtimes.com/story.html?id=4086299#ixzz1AhNiYOdq

via B.C. homeowner “fined” $5,200 for growing cucumbers in his basement? | The Bovine.

City of Cleveland Passes Emergency Vote to Support Occupy Movement

Written by admin on 06 December 2011

Cleveland City Council officially supports the Occupy Movement

 
The Cleveland City Council pass an emergency resolution 1720-11 in support of Occupy Cleveland and the Occupy Movement in general. The final vote from all the Wards was 18 yea and 1 nay.

With the passing of the 1720-11 resolution Cleveland (a US City with a population of 2,250,000 people) joins other cities (Seattle, LA and Chicago etc.) that also have voiced their official support of the Occupy Movement. The following Resolution was sent to President Barack Obama and all members of the U.S. Congress.

Cleveland City Council officially supports the Occupy Movement
Cleveland’s Resolution No. 1720-11

Council Members Cummins, Westbrook,Zone, Cimperman, Cleveland, Mitchell,J. Johnson, Brancatelli, Brady, Polensek, Pruitt, Conwell, K. Johnson, Dow. FOR ADOPTION December 5, 2012

AN EMERGENCY RESOLUTION

Recognizing and supporting the principles of the Occupy Movement and the peaceful and lawful exercise of the First Amendment as a cherished and fundamental right in the effort to seek solutions for economically distressed Americans at the federal, state and local levels; committing to work with the Jackson administration to take steps to minimize economic insecurity and destructive disparities in the City of Cleveland; and requesting our County, State and U.S. elected leaders generate solutions for economically distressed Americans.

WHEREAS, Cleveland community members, like others across the United States, are frustrated by the continuing economic crisis that threatens individual, family, small local business and City finances, and our community’s quality of life, and are participating in Occupy protests to make their voices heard; and

WHEREAS, the economic roots of these protests are varied, including sustained unemployment, growing income disparity, banking system failures, stalled earning power, and unjust tax systems, that all contribute to ongoing wealth disparities; and

WHEREAS, the political roots of these protests are also varied, including the growing political power of corporations, influence of money on elections and public policy and inability of average citizens to have their voices heard and needs met through formal political forums,thus contributing to citizens pursuing alternative political arenas; and

WHEREAS, this prolonged economic downturn has hurt nearly all Americans, in the areas of wealth loss, unemployment, and housing access, it has taken an even greater toll on people of color and women. Women are 29% more likely to be poor than men. The poverty rate for single mother families has increased to 40.7%. Economic gains made by people of color since the Civil Rights Movement have been substantially reduced by the Great Recession; and Caucasian Americans experienced a net wealth loss of 16 percent from 2005 to 2009. African Americans lost about half of their wealth and Latinos lost two-thirds of their wealth in this same period [Ref: Census Bureau, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010]

WHEREAS, more than 25 million Americans are unemployed and seeking work; more than 50 million Americans are living without health insurance; and, more than one in five American children are growing up in households living in poverty without sufficient resources tomeet basic survival needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter
[Ref: unemployed defined as unemployed,marginally attached to the labor force, or working only part-time for economic reasons, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-15.Alternative measures of labor underutilization];
and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in its report, a “CDC Health Disparities & Inequalities Report – United States, 2011″ documents that income inequality in the United States is the highest among advanced industrialized nations, with wide-spread inequities in U.S. health outcomes by income, race, and gender; and

WHEREAS, over the past 30 years, gains in our economy have accrued largely to the top 1% of Americans, who now control 43% of the total net wealth, and to the next 19% on the top that control 50% of the wealth in the United States (top 20% controls 93% of wealth with the bottom 80% controlling only 7%) due in part to public policies that can be changed
[Ref:Wealth Income and Power , by G. William Domhoff, UC Santa Cruz, 2011]
; and

WHEREAS, one of the largest problems distressing our economy is the prolonged foreclosure crisis, with many owners struggling to obtain loan adjustments and too many banks continuing the use of flawed review procedures which end up flooding the housing market with foreclosures and result in blighted and de-valued housing stock due to the high number of properties being left vacant and abandoned and poorly maintained; and

WHEREAS, the Cleveland-Lorain-Elyria metropolitan area has been particularly hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis, ranking 27th of 366 metropolitan statistical areas in the rate of foreclosures (8.2%) according to a March, 2011 ranking compiled by an analysis of LPS Applied Analytics Data by Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC); and

WHEREAS, the Cleveland-Lorain-Elyria metropolitan areas ranked eighth amongst the nation’s 25 largest metro areas in its percentage of underwater mortgages (41.5%) according to third quarter 2011 data provided by Zillow Real Estate Market reports; and

WHEREAS, local governments are straining under the increasing weight of responsibility to provide for basic support services at a time of declining tax revenues and as a result of budget reductions by the state and federal government; and

WHEREAS, the structural causes of the economic crisis facing our society require decisive and sustained action at the national and state levels. Cities are harmed by the crisis and must play an important role in the development of public policy to address it; and

WHEREAS, this Council commits to working with the Jackson administration to continue taking steps to minimize economic insecurity and destructive disparities in the City by:

1. following the City’s Community Reinvestment Act practices to ensure that public funds are invested in responsible financial institutions that demonstrate strong support for our community. The Council may also consider future legislation to promote responsible banking and provide an incentive for banking institutions to invest more in our City, particularly with regard to stabilizing the housing market and supporting the creation of new businesses. This review should include evaluating City policies on responsible depositing and management of City funds;

2. examining the number of home foreclosures in Cleveland, the geographic neighborhoods in which the foreclosures are occurring, and lender information on homes involved in the foreclosure process, including real estate owned homes; working with the Cuyahoga County Land Bank, the City of Cleveland Housing Court, and Case Western Reserve University’s NEOCanDo to gather qualitative data on the circumstances and causes of foreclosures and the foreclosure methods and practices of lenders, including reviewing apparent inequities many people in Cleveland face when lender foreclosure proceedings occur;

3. consulting with advocates of tax reform and experts on equitable taxation and review past tax reform efforts in order to work effectively with the County and State Legislature toward a more equitable tax structure;

4. as federal and state assistance dwindles, continuing to use available resources to provide assistance for the most vulnerable people in Cleveland; and

5. because reforms in education and career preparation are essential for building a viable future and disparities in these areas begin very early in life and often continue through adulthood,seeking maximum possible funding for Early Learning and Basic Education in the State Legislative Agenda; and recognizing the critical importance of supporting community colleges,technical colleges, and state universities as they provide access to retraining and workforce development opportunities; and

WHEREAS, Congress must generate solutions for economically distressed Americans by:

1. Supporting job creation, making substantial investments in the nation’s critical physical and technological infrastructure, and reducing the deficit by adopting fiscal policies with equitable corporate and individual taxation and by allowing the 2010 extension of President Bush’s tax cuts to expire in 2012 as the law currently requires;

2. Tightening regulation of the banking and financial sector, including adoption of new rules and vigorous investigation and prosecution of individuals and corporations that violate the fraud, theft, and securities laws; and

3. Retaining or increasing community-building block grants for local schools and social services and protect public education from devastating cuts and prevent tuition levels that block fair access to higher education; and

WHEREAS, this Council does not condone actions that infringe upon the lawful rights of others, obstruct or interfere with the efforts of law enforcement officers to protect such rights, or cause personal injury or property destruction; and

WHEREAS, Americans can and must resolve the divisive economic and social realitiesfacing our nation in a peaceful way that honors our commitment to democracy, equality and justice; and

WHEREAS, this resolution constitutes an emergency measure for the immediate preservation of public peace, property, health, or safety, now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF CLEVELAND:

Section 1. That this Council recognizes and supports the principles of the Occupy Movement and the peaceful and lawful exercise of the First Amendment as a cherished and fundamental right in the effort to seek solutions for economically distressed Americans at the federal, state and local levels.

Section 2. That this Council commits to working with the Jackson administration to continue taking steps to minimize economic insecurity and destructive disparities in the City of Cleveland.

Section 3.
That this Council requests our Congressional leaders generate solutions for economically distressed Americans.

Section 4.
That the Clerk of Council is directed to transmit copies of this resolution to President Barack Obama and all members of the U.S. Congress.

Section 5.
That this resolution is hereby declared to be an emergency measure and, provided it receives the affirmative vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to Council, it shall take effect and be in force immediately upon its adoption and approval by the Mayor; otherwise, it shall take effect and be in force from and after the earliest period allowed by law.

BC:rns12/5/11
SLF ®12/5/2011 6:17 PM

via City of Cleveland Passes Emergency Vote to Support OWS | KenBurridge.com.

Senate Bill Codifying Detention Without Trial Passes 93-7

Senate’s Disastrous New Detention Bill

International Justice, Security and Human Rights, USA | Posted by: Tom Parker, November 18, 2011 at 9:30 AM

Update 12/2/11: The Senate passed NDAA. President Obama must veto this disastrous bill.

The new National Defense Authorization Bill (S1867) presented to the Senate by the Armed Services Committee is such a disaster for civil liberties and human rights it is difficult to know where to begin.

Section 1031 of the Bill extends the Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed after the September 11th attacks to encompass any individual who has “substantially supported” Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or “associated forces”.

This is extraordinarily vague. The phrase ‘associated forces’ is so flexible that it can be used to encompass almost any militant Islamic group in existence from Indonesia to Nigeria. It might include political parties who share some of the militants’ aims but not their methods – like the Hizb ut Tahrir movement active in Western Europe and Australia.

The Bill does not set any territorial limits on where this conflict is being fought. The presumption is that US forces can engage terror groups with kinetic weapons systems wherever they find them – London, Copenhagen, Istanbul and Kampala are all fair game and to hell with consequences for any citizens of those countries who get caught in the middle.

Also alarmingly imprecise is the term “substantially supported.” In the past the Department of Defense has described both writing an opinion piece for The Guardian, a globally respected British newspaper, and detainee suicide as terrorist acts. To date, this bar has not been set high.

Some of those accused of terrorist affiliations have languished for almost a decade at Guantanamo and are still no nearer having their day in court. Requiring trials by Military Commission will simply relegate more accused individuals to the Twilight Zone of indefinite detention.

Article 9 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) requires trial within “a reasonable time” and so this measure also racks up another human rights abuse for the United States government while contributing nothing to the overall security of the American people.

Also, let us not forget that the Military Commissions currently consist of two temporary courtrooms on the Guantanamo Naval Station that have barely managed to process six cases in almost a decade. How on earth does the Senate expect them to cope with such an expanded mission?

One answer might be building more courtrooms, and of course more prisons to hold the accused. Yet, Guantanamo is already the most expensive prison on earth – it currently costs the US taxpayer $800,000 per prisoner per year to run – even a former deputy commander calls it “expensive” and “inefficient”.

So much for slashing government spending – where’s the deficit reduction super committee when you need it?

Even if an individual is exonerated of any wrongdoing, Section 1033 of the Bill requires that they continue to be held in Gitmo if there is a confirmed case of detainee recidivism in that individual’s country of origin.

Imagine if your personal freedom depended on the lawful behavior of every single one of your fellow 350 million US citizens – we’d all be in jail.

Finally, there is the military itself to consider. The armed services have a limited criminal investigative capacity and much of that force is already deployed down range in vital counter-terrorist operations. Giving the military an expanded investigative mission is going to divert resources from the frontlines.

That does not seem very smart.

No one wants this. Not the military. Not the intelligence community. Not law enforcement. Not the courts.

S1867 proposes an ill-conceived fix for a problem that doesn’t exist. Federal courts have processed hundreds of terrorism-related cases in the decade since 9/11. The process is established, respected, efficient and well supported.

The Senate seems to have forgotten T. Bert Lance’s celebrated dictum ‘if ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and, if this Bill passes, we are all going to have to live with the consequences unless President Obama finally shows an appetite to fight for what he once believed in.

On the campaign trial Mr. Obama described Military Commissions as “an enormous failure.” They were then and they still are today. We are calling on President Obama to stand up for America’s courts and veto this legislation if it clears the Hill.

Add your voice to those calling on the President Obama to reject S1867 by clicking on this link and taking action.

via Senate’s Disastrous New Detention Bill | Human Rights Now – Amnesty International USA Blog.


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