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Salem’s Lot

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The Salem City Council

The Salem City Council's official Christmas Card.


A terminally ill woman in Salem, Oregon found herself under arrest as part of the city’s crackdown on “dangerous and illegal yard sales”.

But according to the woman, Jan Cline, it was a cruel overreaction. “I recently learned that I’d developed a bone marrow cancer, the kind that eats through the bones and causes holes in the bones so that just by walking I can break a leg. All I was trying to do was raise some extra money to pay for all the medical bills.”

In one fell swoop, Ms. Cline, a small business owner, lost her ability to work, her independence, and ultimately her insurance as she ran out of coverage. “The medical bills were still mounting up, and my options were to make the taxpayers foot the bill or sell off all the things I’d collected over the years, so I thought that I would sell off my things.”

She was doing quite well with it, and had even taken steps to reduce the nuisance factor. “I was making a few hundred dollars every weekend. And I held the yard sales in the back yard so that we weren’t goobering up the neighborhood. It’s not like I’d regurgitated everything onto the front yard where anyone could see it.”

However, according to police it doesn’t matter. “The law says you’re allowed three yard sales a year, and that’s it. She was having them weekly, we had no choice but to issue the arrest warrant,” said Salem Police Department Communications Director Mark Buchholz.

Some community figures were even less sympathetic. Salem City Councilor Bob Cannon said “Look, these illegal flea markets wreck property values. Lower property values mean lower tax revenues. These sorts of crimes need to be dealt with more sternly, so I’ve filed a bill to make the sentence a five year minimum.”

When asked if he weren’t overreacting he replied testily, “What sort of excuse is ‘I had to pay down medical bills to save the taxpayers money’? If she needed money that badly she should have gone on welfare and medicaid like a patriotic Americans. We need to clip that sort of radical antigovernment activism in the bud. What the Cline woman was doing amounted to treason, it was property tax terrorism. Pure and simple.”

But despite her legal difficulties, there has been a positive response. “Someone called me an offered to help me set up a donations page and a facebook page to help pay the costs. The response of people that want to help has helped make up for the city’s attitude.”

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