Mayor to review laws after girl, 11, banned from selling mistletoe

Mayor to review laws after girl, 11, banned from selling mistletoe

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The saga of the 11-year-old entrepreneur and her box of mistletoe prompted the mayor to say he'll review city laws and the Saturday Market to invite the little girl back.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales confirmed Tuesday morning he met with Commissioner Amanda Fritz to discuss why city code would ban a child from selling mistletoe from a public park while allowing begging, pan-handling, singing, and protesting.

A spokesman for Mayor Hales said he plans to contact the staff at Portland's Saturday Market to better understand what happened and whether procedures could be tweaked to allow kids to sell.

Late Tuesday afternoon, an executive from Portland's Saturday Market also contacted KATU with an invitation: Madison Root, 11, can come back, apply to be a full member, sell her mistletoe, and she won't need to pay the standard fee for vendors.

Young entrepreneur Madison thought it would be a success if she sold a couple dozen bags of her mistletoe on a chilly Saturday morning next to the Skidmore Fountain.

A few days later, she suddenly has far too many orders to handle coming in from all over the United States.

"There was never enough mistletoe for this," said her dad, Ashton Root, who helped his daughter collect and bag the mistletoe from oak trees growing on his brother's farm in Newberg.

Madison's saga started on Saturday morning when she was banned from selling the mistletoe she collected in downtown Portland because city code forbids unauthorized sales activity in public parks, which is where vendors hold the weekly Saturday Market.

KATU News aired a story about the 11-year-old on Sunday night after her dad called its newsroom.

By Monday, KATU viewers had placed hundreds of orders and a local entrepreneur even donated $1,000 in seed money to help Madison grow her business.

Meanwhile, officials in City Hall were silent, refusing to return phone calls or speak on camera about the city code that appeared to encourage begging rather than selling.

By Tuesday, television and radio stations across the country aired KATU's report for their own local viewers.

National television networks and news websites also picked up the report of the little girl from Oregon who was told she's allowed to beg, but not sell, including FOX News and The Washington Times.

People from all over the country have been contacting KATU's newsroom trying to reach Madison Root to order mistletoe.

The newsroom has heard from CEOs, Army captains and people in Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, Virginia, South Carolina, Colorado, Massachusetts, California, Georgia, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, California, Texas.

And those are only the people who happened to mention where they live.

"Never beg for anything - and never give up - why are we teaching our children the wrong thing?" wrote a woman named Constance in an email to KATU reporter Dan Cassuto.

Some people aren't pleased.

"I find it quite offensive," wrote another viewer, upset with Madison's message that laws should encourage working, not begging.

The legal issue is somewhat complicated.

Portland City Code 20.12.020 outlaws soliciting or conducting business from city parks without proper permits or permissions. This includes giving away a product with the "intent or expectation" of receiving money.

Begging and protesting are allowed, says a spokesman for the Portland Parks Bureau, because those are activities considered free speech and protected by the First Amendment.

The Portland City Attorney did not return repeated phone calls requesting an official position on the ordinance.

Contact KATU reporter Dan Cassuto at DCassuto@katu.com or @DanCassuto on Twitter.