Monday, June 15, 2015
Cui bono? Who benefits from Honolulu’s persecution of the homeless?
by Larry Geller
Cui bono, "to whose benefit?", is still used as a legal term. It is used by police and by mystery writers to find who has a motive for a crime.
In crime novels the information is often laid out for the reader—in theory, it ought to be possible to solve the crime, if the reader were only as clever as the fictional detective.
The publication today of the University of Hawaii study defined what can easily be interpreted as crimes against Honolulu’s most vulnerable citizens, including the illegal confiscation of ID, medicine, children’s items and other personal property, and failure to store and return other property as required by the city’s own ordinances.
So the city has stolen from the poor. That’s a crime in my book.
In fact, we know the direct culprits, the city workers and police officers conducting the sweeps in an illegal manner. They are not, however, bad apples. And therein lies the mystery. Who sent them to do the dirty work? And so we ask cui bono, who benefits, from allowing the predation on the poor to continue?
It was not the job of the study to go deeper than the evidence and form conclusions that perhaps should have been obvious to the rest of us earlier. If you read it, you’re now familiar with the crime scene and its victims.
It’s easy to speculate on who benefits. So here is my short list of suspects:
- the developers and the development community that is allowed to build condo towers for the ultra-rich without being required to contribute to the truly affordable rental pool
- the Waikiki tourism interests who just want the homeless out of their sight
- the reporters and editors who advance the fiction that 140% of median income, or $93,940 for a single person according to this morning’s paper, can be used in the same sentence as “affordable housing”
- Ikaika Anderson and members of his City Council committee who listen to testimony about how the personal property laws are enforced and swallow the misrepresentations of city officials without question
- City Council members, all those who allow the reported damage to be inflicted in order to receive campaign contributions from Waikiki businesses and developers
- State legislators who know better but who refuse to speak out about what the city is doing
- State legislators who perpetuate the HCDA, an independent body enabling developers to get rich from those condos, while ignoring the growing poverty and homelessness that has built up over a decade or more
Let there be no question that this is a murder mystery: It was not within the scope of the study to uncover the bodies—that is, count the many people who have died as a result of living on the streets without adequate shelter or medical care. Lifespans are shorter for street dwellers.
It may be unpalatable, but public policy really does result in avoidable deaths.
So when will we see the last chapter? This is an interactive novel. We won’t get to see the ending unless we participate in ending the crime.
- UH study documents horror of Honolulu’s “compassionate disruption” policy (6/15/2015)
- Rant for Flag Day: Honolulu’s true nature should be reflected on its city flag (6/14/2015)
- UH Study: City’s Recent Moves Aren’t Curbing Homelessness (Civil Beat, 6/15/2015)