Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, December 3, 2013
An ambitious 11-year-old Portland, Ore. girl was told by the city government that she couldn’t sell mistletoe on the city’s streets to help cover expenses for her braces – but that it was OK for her to instead beg for money.
According to local ABC news affiliate KATU, Madison Root and her father were selling bags of the hand-cut, hand-wrapped Christmas decoration Saturday morning near the Skidmore Fountain in downtown Portland when a security guard told her she needed to stop selling the plant because of a city ordinance that bans such activity in a public park “except as expressly permitted under the terms of a lease, concession or permit.” The guard then told Root and her father that she could sell her mistletoe outside of the park’s boundaries – and thus away from the crowds visiting the city’s weekly market in the park – or could instead ask for donations.
“I don’t want to beg! I would rather work for something than beg,” Madison told KATU reporter Dan Cassuto. “It’s crazy. People can get money for pot. But I can’t get money for braces. I’m working for this! They’re just sitting down on their butts all day asking for pot.”
Madison’s father said that her daughter wanted to help defray some of the cost for her braces because of how strongly she believes in a “high work ethic.”
“We totally understand the rule,” Ashton Root told The Oregonian. “But here she was selling mistletoe and all around her were people playing music for money, or asking for money for pot, or just spare change. We’re allowing people to beg, but not to sell; it seems like there should be some sort of exception.”
A spokesman for the Portland Parks Bureau told KATU that begging is considered to be a form of free speech and thus protected by the First Amendment.
Should Madison decide she wants to try again, she will have to undergo a strict process to become a licensed vendor at the city market.
“Applying for a booth is a juried process. I had to show samples of my jewelry to a panel of jurists. … We have to pay to maintain our spot at the market,” Viki Ciesiul, the owner and designer of Viki Homemade Jewelry told ABCNews.com Monday. “We [vendors] are trying to avoid too many types of street vendors who might bring the place down. There are many ways she can participate and rules are there for a reason.”
The story does have a happy ending, however, as after KATU‘s story on her aired various viewers ordered mistletoe from her and even a local Christmas tree farm donated $1,000 toward the cost of her braces. Madison had her top set installed on Monday.