Measure to remove abandoned vehicles faster headed to final votes

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A measure that would require the counties to remove abandoned vehicles from public roadways in ten business days is going to a vote before the full house and senate.

A conference committee approved a final version of the measure, which includes provisions to aid efforts at the county level.

"It's been a compounding problem. It's become an epidemic," said state Sen. Maile Shimabukuro (D-Leeward Oahu Coast). "Constant posts on social media. constant calls to our office, constant frustration from people across the state."

There are an estimated 600 to 800 abandoned vehicles on Oahu right now, littering roadways everywhere from Kalihi to Kaneohe. But the problem has been especially bad in Leeward Oahu, where cars can stay for weeks or longer.

"It happened to me in front of my house," said state Rep. Cedric Gates (D-Waianae, Makaha). "An abandoned vehicle was actually lit on fire and blew up. Fire, ambulance, everything came, and you know, that's what I don't want to see happening in our communities."

Gates introduced the measure, which originally only required that counties must remove abandoned vehicles in ten business days. That ran into resistance from the county level.

"You're giving the county and unfunded mandate, an unrealistic deadline," said Shimabukuro. "Are you guys nuts?"

But the city is now actually welcoming this bill. That's because it's going to provide tools to make it easier and faster to dispose of abandoned vehicles, as the proposed law would no longer require them to auction the vehicles, even if they're not drivable.

"If I have a piece of junk but the registration is current, I have to put it through the auction process. So this allows me to junk it," said Sheri Kajiwara, director of the city's Customer Services Department.

"If we don't think it's going to sell, there's no sense to hold it for a month or two months for the auction process. Let's get rid of that vehicle, make room, make space, and get more vehicles in for processing," she said.

The city also has been aggressively tracking down military members who've abandoned their vehicles, cutting that number down last year from 600 to fewer than 200. If this measure becomes law, space to store those vehicles will open up more quickly, allowing more cars to be taken off the roads.

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