Mayor claims City Council is trying to stall efforts to move homeless from parks, sidewalks
The council has a different story.
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At Aala Park on Monday, pedestrians zig-zagged down sidewalks cramped with tents.
Despite offers of help and constant sweeps, the majority of these campers repeatedly refuse shelter.
The park served as the backdrop for a news conference called by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. He told the media current homeless enforcement laws are insufficient.
“We’ve been doing the same thing for a while, getting the same result,” said Caldwell.
In an attempt to bolster current laws, the mayor proposed Bill 51 and Bill 52, which would outlaw obstructions on sidewalks and make it illegal to live on a sidewalk or any other public areas if shelter is available.
But even if the bills are passed, it could be a while before they’re actually enforced.
“The unfortunate thing is that council members have linked a report before these bills become effective,” said Caldwell. “The report requires the city and county of Honolulu to submit a comprehensive, inclusive report on how we’re dealing with homelessness in each of the nine council districts.
"Until they approve that report by resolution these bills are ineffective.”
Councilman Trevor Ozawa said the report is about holding the city to its pledges.
“The mayor wants complete control with no accountability," he said. "The council wants him to show he’s doing his job and that he’s helping with the problem in each district.”
Council Chairman Ernie Martin denied claims the council is stalling enforcement.
“The mayor’s statement’s are just his normal overreactions,” said Martin. “The council agrees a bill like this is necessary but doesn’t want to put the city at unnecessary and costly legal risk.”
The legal director of ACLU Hawaii also questions the bills constitutionality.
“Our concern is these types of bills what they’re doing is criminalizing everyday innocent behavior. Things like sitting down on a sidewalk. Trying to find a place to sleep at night,” said Mateo Caballero.
The mayor said a lawsuit is a possibility, but added he believes the city has worked hard to get the law right.
“People sue us on a regular basis. So will lawsuits be filed? Perhaps. Do we have a strong defense? Absolutely. I think we’ve written it as well as we possibly could,” Caldwell said.
The bills go before City Council on Wednesday for a final vote.
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