Monday, July 07, 2014

 

Troubling questions plague Honolulu's rush to criminalize homelessness


By H. Doug Matsuoka

[The criminalization bills in this post are up for second hearing on Wednesday, July 9, 2014, on the 2pm agenda. The hearings will be on the campus of Windward Community College at Hale Akoakoa.]

The Mayor's Message:
On June 12, 2014, Honolulu's Mayor Caldwell sent a message (MM58) to the Honolulu City Council along with drafts of two proposed ordinances. These drafts were immediately introduced by Council Chair Ernie Martin and scheduled for the first of three required public hearings only 14 days later, on June 26.

"With the Council's support, I anticipate that together we can make significant improvements for our Waikiki businesses, workers, and visitors." Honolulu's residents, the general public, and the homeless — all constituents of the City & County of Honolulu — are notably missing from the list of beneficiaries.

The Bills:
Bill 42 is the "sit/lie" bill making it a crime to sit or lie down on the sidewalk in Waikiki. Bill 45 extends this island-wide. Violators will face up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. If you are camping out in line for the new iPhone, you are exempt. I'm not kidding.

Bill 43 makes it illegal to pee or poo in public in Waikiki, and its counterpart Bill 46 extends that island-wide. To help force the issue, the Mayor has been closing public restrooms early. The criminalization of those literally "without a pot to pee in" strikes many people as unfair, unconstitutional, mean, and idiotic. Indeed the testimony submitted in writing and at hearing was overwhelmingly in opposition to these bills.

The Problems and Unanswered Questions:
Here are a few highlight testimonies that bring up major problems with these bills:

Councilmember Breene Harimoto is on record opposing this sort of criminalization of homelessness and his testimony on June 26 articulates his objections. (Harimoto will be leaving the Council for the State Senate this coming January as he is running unopposed for the seat vacated by David Ige who is candidate for Governor.)

Harimoto: "The fact of the matter is that the homeless issue didn’t happen overnight. This situation has been brewing for years — I would say even decades. And it’s reached a crisis situation. And here we are today trying to find a quick fix. I think we’re fooling ourselves to think that we can solve this by making this law."


Activist Kathryn Xian found major flaws in the Mayor's ad hoc effort:

Xian: "If you want to help the homeless, this is not part of a comprehensive plan. You have models for comprehensive plans that have been proven to work. Criminalizing the homeless is not part of a comprehensive plan. It is unconstitutional. It divides our community between rich and poor."

The sit/lie bills are practically clones of last year's Bill 59, which was the first proposed ordinance to so directly and blatantly violate King Kamehameha's Kanawai Mamalahoe (Law of the Splintered Paddle). What makes this notable is that Kamehameha's law is enshrined in the Hawaii State Constitution and is well known to the public as a principle means of protection from the abuse of power. It literally grants safety to those who "lie by the roadside." (See my post discussing this in relation to last year's Bill 59).

The City's Corporation Council has signed off on the legality of these proposed ordinances, yet last two year's sidewalk ordinances are still subject to Federal Court proceedings.

Activist and Hawaiian cultural practitioner Laulani Teale quoted Hawaii attorney Derek Kauanoe's research on the subject.

Teale quoting Kauanoe: "Honolulu's several anti-homeless ordinances helped rank our city among the 'meanest to the homeless' by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. This is precisely the type of government conduct the Law of the Splintered Paddle was intended to protect people against."

Councilmember Kymberly Pine couldn't vote for previous bills that so literally violated Kamehameha's law. Here's her testimony against last year's Bill 59:

Pine: "I have a strong objection to the term 'lying down.' It's just something my district would not support as my district does interpret Hawaiian law very seriously. We do have the largest Hawaiian Homes population and the terminology 'lying down' does violate their belief of what the constitution is."

How will Councilmember Pine and the rest of the Council resolve the issues that plague these criminalization bills? Bill 59 was deferred by public outcry. Yet that bill was resurrected by the Mayor in Bills 42 and 45.

I plan to be at the hearing on July 9 to lend my presence against these bills. On the next page are links to the bills and othe relevant info. Hope to see you there.

H. Doug Matsuoka
6 July 2014

Makiki, Honolulu

Links and info on next page:



Facebook Event to Oppose 2nd Hearing of these bills:
https://www.facebook.com/events/337213836428929/

Mayor's message to the Honolulu City Council:
http://www4.honolulu.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-150445/MM-058(14).PDF

Bill 42
http://www4.honolulu.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-150454/dspage03258996542835187127.pdf

Bill 43
http://www4.honolulu.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-150455/dspage02291732910336576078.pdf

Bill 45
http://www4.honolulu.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-150844/DOC002%20(16).PDF

Bill 46
http://www4.honolulu.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-150845/DOC002%20(17).PDF

My post on last year's Bill 59 and the Kamehameha's Kanawai Mamalahoe:
http://www.dougnote.com/2013/09/no-on-city-council-bill-59.html



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