Mayor Caldwell vetoes sit-lie expansion, offers alternative bill
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has vetoed a City Council expansion of the current so-called sit-lie laws to parts of Aala and Kapalama Canal.
"I just vetoed my first bill as mayor of the city of Honolulu," said Mayor Caldwell.
On Thursday a possible solution to put an end to homeless camps like the one along the Kapalama canal was struck down, at least for the time being.
The revisions to Bill 6 also include specific language that makes it illegal to sit or lie on the sidewalks on "both sides" of the streets that are designated in the Waikiki, Chinatown and downtown Honolulu zones. It would further add language to specify the inclusion of "extended sidewalks," meaning the area that extends 10 feet out to the unpaved area from a curb or edge of a sidewalk.
Phil Jorgensen works across the from the canal at Kahala Pacific Flooring.
"I don't understand why they just can't say no tents. Clear out your tents. That seems so basic," said Jorgensen.
Like most folks in the area, Jorgensen has been keeping a close eye on the sit and lie expansion bill hoping for a solution.
"What I'm concerned about with this hot summer coming in the afternoons when the sun is blazing over there this is the shady side of the street so they're sitting on our door step," said Jorgensen.
The mayor told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in an article published Thursday morning that he will veto the bill because he believes the amended language to Bill 6 would expose the city to potentially "costly legal challenges" and subsequently open the door for current sit-lie laws to be nullified by challenge.
"What happened is that council applied this to areas that were not business and commercial. They applied it to real estate and apartment zoned areas," said Mayor Caldwell.
The mayor along with the Corporation Council has already provided recommendations that would make the bill stronger from a legal stand point. However it doesn't keep the homeless from camping in residential areas.
City leaders are also proposing to buy the Hilo Hattie store and turn it into a shelter in an attempt to get homeless people off the streets.
City Councilman Joey Manahan says if the city gets the bid, construction could begin in the next few months, however, Mayor Caldwell's office says it would take much longer than that.
City officials did confirm that the property Hilo Hattie sits on is owned by a land owner and not by the company. According to Mayor Caldwell, the lease for the land alone is $106,000 each month.
"The building is in bankruptcy. So any solution is not going to be a story term one," Managing Director Roy Amemiya said. "It's going to require a lot of work. There are leans and we're going to be having to work with the court.
"It should be very close to a decision being made. My understanding in the month of May they should be done with the bidding process," said Councilman Joey Manahan.
Mayor Caldwell also said the City is still looking at other possible locations including Sand Island.
Along with the vetoed bill, Mayor Caldwell offered to the city council an alternative bill. Mayor Caldwell urged the city council to pass the legally defensible bill as soon as possible and he committed to sign it into law, if passed.
The mayor's veto letter to the city council notes "I continue to wholeheartedly support the intent and purpose of Honolulu's recently adopted Sit-Lie Laws…" However, "The fact that the Department of the Corporation Counsel has refused to sign Bill 6 as to form and legality reflects that Bill 6 contains legal deficiencies, thus making it more likely that the bill will be subjected to unnecessary legal challenges and to the payment by the City's taxpayers of costly attorneys' fees incurred by plaintiffs. I am also gravely concerned that the passage of Bill 6 may result in a challenge to the legitimacy of the Sit-Lie Laws, which are clearly intended to maintain pedestrian access over sidewalks in business and commercial areas and which have been extremely effective in the areas in which they have been enforced."
The letter to Council reads:
Dear Council Chair Martin and Councilmembers:
I continue to wholeheartedly support the intent and purpose of Honolulu's recently adopted Sit-Lie Laws (Ordinances 14-26 and 14-35), which prohibit persons from sitting or lying on public sidewalks in certain areas zoned for commercial and business activities so that the general public can use the sidewalks for pedestrian access. Through those laws, the public sidewalks in those areas continue to be accessible so that pedestrians can safely and effectively move about from place to place, and businesses can provide entertainment, goods and services to the people of the City and County of Honolulu.
I am also acutely aware of the many challenges faced by the people of the City who either are forced or choose to live on the sidewalks, in unsanitary and unsafe conditions. Their living conditions are undesirable from not only their perspective, but also that of the people of the City who walk, drive, own a business, live in a house or attend a school next to them.
It is an untenable situation, and one that we – the City Council, this Administration, and each and every community of this great city - must address, working together.
It is, therefore, only after serious and considerable deliberation, that I return to you with my veto, Bill 6 (2015), CD1, FD1, Relating to Public Sidewalks (“Bill 6”).
Bill 6 proposes amendments to the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu that would unlawfully expand the Sit-Lie Laws. On its face, Bill 6 clearly goes beyond the intent and purpose of the Sit-Lie Laws because it seeks:
• to impermissibly amend the Sit-Lie Laws by enlarging the original purpose to include areas abutting the public sidewalk, such as unpaved, landscaped or unimproved public property, and by calling such abutting areas an “expanded sidewalk area as an extension of the sidewalk”;
• to include areas that are zoned apartment or residential use, which are areas in which commercial and business activities are not permitted;
• to further expand the public sidewalk to include landscaped areas of the banks of the Kapalama Canal, which are not intended for pedestrian use; and
• to further expand the public sidewalk to areas that may be privately owned.
The fact that the Department of the Corporation Counsel has refused to sign Bill 6 as to form and legality reflects that Bill 6 contains legal deficiencies, thus making it more likely that the bill will be subjected to unnecessary legal challenges and to the payment by the City's taxpayers of costly attorneys' fees incurred by plaintiffs. I am also gravely concerned that the passage of Bill 6 may result in a challenge to the legitimacy of the Sit-Lie Laws, which are clearly intended to maintain pedestrian access over sidewalks in business and commercial areas and which have been extremely effective in the areas in which they have been enforced.
The Sit-Lie Laws already identify the areas zoned for commercial and business activities in which the general public most urgently requires use of the sidewalks for pedestrian access for those activities. Those laws are working, but rather than attempting to expand those laws through the approval of Bill 6, we should focus our collective energies and attention to working together to find, create and provide affordable housing for all of the people of the City, including those of us who are less fortunate.
I am committed to working with the City Council to improve the Sit-Lie Laws, and I sincerely hope you will join me in doing so. Towards this end, if the Council wishes to expand those laws beyond the existing geographical areas, then I urge you not to override this veto and I enclose with this message for your consideration a proposed bill for an ordinance that will pass legal review and that addresses the concerns that led to the introduction of Bill 6. If the Council passes this proposed bill, I will sign it.
For the reasons stated above, I am returning Bill 6 (2015) CD1, FD1, with my veto, and I urge you to sustain it.
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