Many Americans remember summers spent as a teen, learning about the value of money by opening up a lemonade stand, babysitting or cutting the neighborhood lawns.
Now the mayor of one city in Alabama is hoping to change a city ordinance to keep the tradition alive.
Teens in the Birmingham suburb of Gardendale are technically required to have a $110 business license to cut lawns.
The ordinance is not new. It was enacted in 2007, and Gardendale Mayor Stan Hogeland told Fox News that it was never intended to apply to teens making a little extra pocket money when school lets out.
It all began when 15-year-old Alainna Parris mowed the lawn of her grandparents and a few neighbors last Thursday. She was hoping to earn extra money for a missionary trip, her grandparents Elton and Melba Campbell, told Fox News.
A man with a professional lawn care business, someone whom no one involved would name but who had been servicing many of the neighborhood lawns for years, reportedly approached one of the homeowners.
He allegedly told the homeowner that he noticed the young lady had been mowing lawns in the subdivision and threatened to call City Hall if he saw her mowing again without a business license.
That neighbor called Alainna’s grandparents, and her grandfather shared his confusion in a private community message board on Facebook.
“I did not intend for all this to happen when I posted my question,” Elton explained. “I simply wanted to know if a teenager had to get a business license.”
Hogeland, who was born and raised in Gardendale, has served as a city employee for 35 years. He said that the incident was a first.
Though the ordinance as it now stands would legally require a teen who mows lawns, or babysits or even washes cars for pocket money to obtain a business license, he said that that that wasn’t the “spirit or intent” of the ordinance.
“Typically,” Hogeland explained, “if you’re doing business, whether it’s in Gardendale or New York City, if you’re performing a service and you get paid for it, you’re supposed to have a business license.”
However, “it was never meant to deal with kids cutting grass,” the mayor emphasized. “My clerk, in all her research reviewing the past five years, can’t find anyone applying for the license in these kinds of cases.”
The mayor added, “it’s not something we look for, not something we’ve ever dealt with, because there was no need to deal with it. These are kids earning extra money in the summer, like they always do.”
Hogeland said he’s concerned young people will now worry that they will get in trouble, looking over their shoulder for a policeman or a city official every time they perform a task for some spending money - and he wants to change that.
At a Monday night council meeting, he plans to address the controversy over the ordinance and figure out how to clarify and change the policy to allow young people to mow lawns without a business license.
“My intent is to get something in our ordinance that tells that young lady that you don’t have to look over your shoulder, we got your back, we’ve got you taken care of,” Hogeland said.
For her part, Alainna told Fox News that she didn’t feel threatened, but felt that “this whole thing has been blown out of proportion.”
She said that she mowed lawns last year and there were no issues. “I don’t know what made this year different,” she said, adding, “I do hope that there is some kind of change that what make it safe for anyone under 17 or 18 years old to mow a lawn without being made to think it’s a business. I’m looking forward to going to the council meeting on Monday to see if any changes will be made.”
As for the Mayor, he says “it’s commendable and I want kids to do it. They’re learning the value of a dollar, and the value and rewards of hard work, they’re also learning the value of seeing you create a job well done, stand back and say: ‘I did that, I’m pretty proud of myself.’
"That’s the kind of thing you want going through a kid’s head, they can later move out into the workforce. Do something you’ll be proud of, and reap the rewards of it by getting paid, that’s the American job description.”