PORTLAND -- A Lake Oswego 6th grader and some bags of mistletoe are putting a spotlight on Portland’s panhandler clogged streets.
On Saturday, 11-year-old Madison Root was told she couldn’t sell mistletoe near Skidmore Fountain, even though she was standing amid buskers and people begging for money. But her family said, she's going to come back.
Ashton Root, Madison’s father, said something’s not right. Last week, Madison decided to earn some money to help pay some of the $6060 cost of her new braces. Her father had sold mistletoe for money when he was young. So on Friday, she spent some time at her uncle’s Newberg farm harvesting mistletoe.
On Saturday, she bagged it and tied it with ribbons and plopped down at Skidmore Fountain in downtown Portland looking to sell it for $4 a bag.
“We understand that the Saturday Market, World Market and Skidmore Market are for vendors paying for space,” Ashton said. “However, the Skidmore fountain area is considered a public park and is always full of musicians, acrobats, singers, jugglers and a whole lot of people flat out begging for money.”
But private security with Pacific Patrol Services quickly swept in and told the little girl she was welcome to give her mistletoe away, but she couldn’t sell it.
The selling of items in a city park without a permit is against the law. According to Ashton, even asking for a donation would qualify as selling.
However, there were plenty of people playing music with a hat out and asking for money.
Begging, they there were told, is allowed.
"People can beg for money. But I can't sell to raise money for my braces?” said an incredulous Madison to KGW Saturday evening. "They can beg for money for pot? It's ridiculous."
Madison's father was equally frustrated.
"Begging is a kind of commerce," said Ashton. "Either allow people to beg and sell or don't allow anyone to beg or sell."
The Root family ran up against the fact that panhandling is not commerce, but free speech, as a recent move to regulate panhandling in Portland, Maine has found.
"There's a long line of case history that establishes that anti-panhandling laws unconstitutional," said Becky Straus of the ACLU of Oregon. Straus wouldn't comment on Madison's particular predicament.
But when Madison’s story hit the press it got huge attention over the weekend [daily mail link]. Not since Multnomah County fined a little girl for selling lemonade at Last Thursday has the quashing of kid commerce struck such a cord with people.
The Oregonian reported that once word got out Madison sold 30 bags of mistletoe to one man. She also received a $1,000 donation from Clackamas County Christmas Tree farmer Ken Cook.
The Roots are soldiering on.
On Monday, Madison got her braces and the family plans to return to Skidmore Fountain to try and sell more mistletoe or give it away.
“Madison is absolutely determined to once again hit Skidmore,” said Ashton who thought the whole things was silly.