Thursday, November 03, 2011
State sweeps the “aloha” from the “Aloha State”
by Larry Geller
(thanks to Anonymous commenter for pointer to this issue)
KITV’s heart is in the right place. Check this out:
Homeless people along Kalakaua Avenue are cleared out Wednesday morning. While the street is cleaned up, the latest move doesn't clear up the problem for those without a home.
It was moving day for nearly a dozen homeless campers who had been living along a strip of land owned by PBS Hawaii.
[KITV, Homeless Cleared From Kalakaua Avenue, 11/2/2011]
It’s rare that a reporter will lead with the fact that all this displacement is not helpful for those without a home (a kinder usage than the common “homeless”). But it’s downhill from there.
To put this in perspective, PBS has not moved to evict the homeless occupiers of its property for some time. And it appears that in this sweep, everyone was notified and able to leave under their own steam, without confiscation of property. Good so far.
For some reason, though, PBS decided to deny that the sweep had anything to do with APEC. Of course it must have, because the property is right across the street from the Convention Center, the state wanted very much to get rid of these people at this time.
PBS Hawaii Vice President of Communications Roberta Wong Murray is quoted in the KITV article as saying the timing was a permitting issue. Maybe so, maybe someone went knocking over at the permitting office to say “get those people a permit FAST!” But this quote from the KITV interview cuts PBS down a few notches:
"We would have preferred to have this done months ago, but there were complications and those just got cleared up. So, all the elements are in place and today we're just doing the right thing," said Murray.
It’s probably too much to expect candor like “APEC is coming, so they told us the homeless had to go.”
Apparently the police were perfectly honest about it:
[A homeless man] said the cops told him why he had to leave.
"APEC," he said. "I don't know what is that, but, you know, must be something very important."
[Civil Beat, Kalakaua Homeless Cleared Near Convention Center, 11/2/2011]
But then the CB article quoted PBS:
"We've been working on this for months," Leslie Wilcox, president and CEO of PBS Hawaii, told Civil Beat. "The strip of our land fronting the city sidewalk is not a place to live."
She said the growing size of the encampment and complaints from neighbors — not the timing of APEC — prompted the cleanup.
Probably nobody is fooled. Especially the sweepees:
Donya Hernandes, 40, told Civil Beat Tuesday that she thought the government was trying to get rid of them because they are an "eyesore problem."
The sweeps can’t be blamed on security considerations except where security personnel need to occupy an area themselves and ask everyone to leave, homed or homeless. For other areas, there are moral issues with sweeping away people just for the sake of appearances. In this case, there are no security personnel to be stationed at the site—the KITV story confirms that the Reynolds Recycling operation is remaining.
Look, the state is not doing much for these people, which is why many individuals and families (including children) live on the beaches, parks or sidewalks. It should be our shame. Instead of helping, we confiscate property, push people around like some sort of underclass, and cut mental health services instead of increasing them. Now we are embarrassed because the world is coming to see, so we try to get rid of our “eyesore problem.”
What we are witnessing is the removal of the “aloha” from the “Aloha State.”
it would have been nice if PBS had been honest and said: "APEC was a factor" or similar. but that requires some integrity which apparently PBS higher-ups have little or none of. of course, on the other hand, aloha also means goodbye. so, in one respect, we are just seeing the shadow side to the kind of aloha as it is marketed.
It is depressing to see someone like Leslie Wilcox lie about the process. You'd expect some higher standard from someone who heads PBS Hawaii. Then again, she did come from commercial broadcast television, which ignores social conditions on an on-going basis.
A better image of PBSH would have been to use the said land for the homeless, allowing them in to camp. Provide showers and bathrooms...The Mayor/Governor could have stated that Hawaii is working on its affordable housing situation..that people are important!