‘People demand action’: Honolulu Mayor displeased by council’s response to homeless bills

Updated: Jul. 29, 2018 at 9:09 AM HST
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Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell expressed his frustration with the City Council on Saturday after the council's decision to defer two bills related to Hawaii's homeless.

Introduced by Caldwell in late June, Bill 51 and Bill 52 would outlaw sidewalks on obstructions and make it illegal to live on a sidewalk or any other public areas if shelter facilities are available.

Both proposals would also have given police the authority to arrest anyone who refuses to move from a public space after being told to leave. The Honolulu mayor said that the bills would have been a big step toward moving Hawaii's homeless off the streets.

Caldwell called out two city council members in particular for deferring the bills.

"We're trying really hard and that's why it's really, really unfortunate that Councilwoman Carol Fukanaga and Councilmember Trevor Ozawa deferred these two bills recently," Caldwell said on Saturday. "So they couldn't even get a second reading."

"We're asking that they get off their butts, move the bill forward (and) make them better," Caldwell said.

Ozawa says that Caldwell has vetoed similar measures proposed by the council in the past, over concerns that those laws could make the city vulnerable to lawsuits.

Shortly after the mayor introduced the bills, officials with the American Civil Liberties Union said that the two proposals may be illegal.

"One thing we know from the courts is that you cannot criminalize someone's status, and with bills like this that seem to target people who are unsheltered, it seems to be quite close to that," said Joshua Wisch, executive director of ACLU Hawaii, in early July.

Ozawa insists he supports what those bills could do to clear sidewalks and help the homeless, but says before he can vote yes, the mayor needs to address some serious questions.

"I don't care who introduced it, I just want to know are we going to be sued? Are the taxpayers going to be sued? And will we have enforcement?," Ozawa said.

Both bills could be reintroduced in committee on August 29, but Ozawa says he will only consider supporting the bills if Caldwell works with the council and explains why he changed course.

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