Culture

The Rasta Man vs. the State

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Joseph Diliberti -- identified by the L.A. Times as a "veteran, Rastafarian, flutist and iconoclast" -- is locked in a battle with the government over some weeds. No, not the kind of weed you're thinking of.

Tony Perry of the Times reports:

Come on-a my house.

What started out in 2004 as a $27,000 bill for weed abatement has ballooned -- with penalties and other charges -- to $69,322, far beyond the financial means of Diliberti, a former Marine who lives on a disability pension from his war injuries.

Diliberti refused to pay a bill from a contractor hired by the local fire district to remove combustible vegetation in the fire-prone region.

He was fishing in Baja California when the weed-choppers arrived. He says the plants were native chaparral and thus not a fire hazard. He won the backing of the Escondido-based California Chaparral Institute….

Because he refused to pay the weed bill, Diliberti was not allowed to pay his property taxes.

Now, the land east of El Cajon is among those properties to be sold by San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister at the annual tax auction March 18 -- with a minimum bid of $72,000.

Offers by McAllister to set up a payment plan for Diliberti were rebuffed.

"I don't compromise!" Diliberti shouted at the fire board in an emotional meeting last summer. "Either you get rid of that bill or you get rid of me!"

The Times notes that "it may be difficult to find a buyer for property so remote and without running water, sewage hookups or telephone service" and that McAllister "has no plans to evict Diliberti." Nonetheless,

by law, McAllister is required to collect back taxes and governmental liens from the Diliberti property. If it isn't sold, it could be put on the list for the next sale in May. And if it doesn't sell then, could Diliberti go on living there, year after year, as long as no one buys the property?

For a slideshow of Diliberti's home, which he describes as "art that's habitable," go here.

[Hat tip: Ken Basart.]