City council approves extending sit-lie ban, but mayor undecided on whether to sign

City council approves extending sit-lie ban, but mayor undecided on whether to sign
Published: May. 7, 2015 at 10:34 AM HST|Updated: May. 7, 2015 at 7:01 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu City Council has approved a bill that would expand the city's ban on sitting or lying in certain areas of Oahu, but Mayor Kirk Caldwell is undecided on whether he'll sign it into law.

The council approved the measure 7-2 during its regular session Wednesday. It expands the so-called "sit-lie" ban to the Kapalama Canal area, along with parts of Aala, Punchbowl and McCully.

"The problem at the Kapalama Canal, especially, has gotten so much worse, just even in the last few weeks," said city councilman Joey Manahan, who represents the area. "We were out there yesterday, and every time I go out there it's gotten that much worse."

Previous sit-lie bans in Waikiki, the Downtown business district and Chinatown have reduced the number of homeless there. In those areas, the city could argue that people blocking sidewalks affected businesses.

Mayor Caldwell believe's that may not be the case in the new areas.

"What we're doing is just driving them further and further out from more business and urban areas into more residential areas, and then they try to expand 'sit-lie' into those areas," said Caldwell, who added that it was unclear whether the city could legally defend the expanded ban.

The sit-lie bans also appear to be forcing more people onto state land, such as areas between freeway and highway overpasses, as well as Kakaako.

"It's obvious that that's happening," said state Sen. Josh Green (D-Kona, Ka`u). "I'll be very frank. I don't support those policies of pushing anyone anywhere."

As of Wednesday morning, there were 116 tents at the large and still-growing Kakaako camp near the John A. Burns School of Medicine. Medical students themselves are taking notice, as well as some action.

"We've mentioned it to each other, about how there's more tents and more people outside, and it seems to be getting worse and worse, and want to know what's being done and what we can do about it," said Daniel Okubo, a medical student. He's also co-president of the Partnership for Social Justice, which held a symposium on homelessness at the school Wednesday night.

Caldwell said he will wait for the city's corporation counsel to review the bill before he decides whether he'll sign or veto the measure.

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