Story Archive

Rules Are Rules

Jan Cline of Salem, Ore., is trying to fight off terminal bone cancer. “Just by walking I can break a bone,” she says. Cline wants to be a good citizen and pay her mounting medical bills. “It’s a struggle,” she says. “It’s a struggle for me because I’m very independent, used to taking care of myself.” To help, she has been selling off her possessions in a series of yard sales. The problem: Salem has a law limiting residents to three yard sales per year. She didn’t know about the law until a city inspector stopped by her house and ordered her to stop the sales. If she has another one within a year, it’s a misdemeanor and she’ll be subject to a $300 fine. “I hope no one else has to give their lives away for nickels and dimes and then be told they can’t even do that,” Cline said. After explaining to the inspector what she was doing and why, “He said, ‘I’m sorry. Rules are rules.’” (RC/KATU Portland) ...“Rules are rules” — the bureaucratic equivalent to the parental “Because I said so.”
Author’s Note: After Cline’s story was aired (and was quickly picked up by ABC News), outraged viewers from all over the country started helping raise money for her. Within two days, the donations from concerned strangers broke $10,000. The last update on the web site set up for her (August 22) noted the total had hit $35,300. Salem mayor Anna Peterson was working to get the yard sales moved to commercial property to get around the city’s restrictions, but Cline protested: she thinks an exception needs to be made in the law. She died the next month — October 2011.
Original Publication Date: 11 September 2011
This story is in True’s book collections, in Volume 18.

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