Anti-graffiti bill stalls in legislature

Anti-graffiti bill stalls in legislature
Legal murals painted in Kakaako that would not be affected by anti-graffiti legislation
Legal murals painted in Kakaako that would not be affected by anti-graffiti legislation

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A lot of people on Oahu would probably agree that graffiti seems to be getting worse. There is a bill that was introduced to try to tackle the problem, but it has stalled at the State Capitol.

Senate Bill 2602 was aimed at reducing graffiti by having someone spearhead efforts against it.

"The idea was to get a person within state government whose sole job would be to fight the graffiti problem, because right now, there is no one that you can point to who's taking the lead," said Sen. Will Espero (D-Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, Iroquois Point), who sponsored the measure.

Currently, there are several graffiti hotlines on Oahu for people to call to report graffiti or have it cleaned up, including numbers for Honolulu Police, the parks department and the city's department of facilities maintenance, with one main goal.

"When graffiti is placed on public spaces that are City and County property, that it be covered over immediately," said Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

That's what's been happening lately in Chinatown, where merchants have been fighting back. For example, a big wall on Pauahi Street at Restaurant Epic was once a target for taggers. But it has been covered with graffiti-resistant paint that is cleaned often. It seems to have kept graffiti at bay.

"As soon as the graffiti appears, almost, the next day, a week, they cover it over," said Sandra Pohl of the Arts District Merchants Association. "It seems that those building don't get attacked as often. But they still do."

The bill does not target street art like the ones in Kakaako. In fact, those could possibly be encouraged with an anti-graffiti coordinator.

"This person can also be an advocate for arts competition, community arts programs, where youths and others can express themselves in a legal manner," said Espero.

The measure says the anti-graffiti coordinator would be in the Lieutenant Governor's office, which voiced its support. However, it also said it currently doesn't have the funding, staff, or expertise to do it.

The bill was deferred earlier this month by the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee. Espero said he was disappointed, but said there were still opportunities to resurrect it in the current legislative session.

"This is just not nuisance, this is a crime," said Pohl. "This affects our daily lives."

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