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Honolulu mayor scolds council members for shelving bills

July 29, 2018

HONOLULU (AP) — Two Honolulu City Council members are failing to serve their community by shelving two bills that would get more homeless people off city sidewalks, according to Honolulu’s mayor.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell issued the rebuke Saturday during a news conference upon introducing the bills to give the city additional tools to keep pedestrians safe and get more homeless into shelters, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported .

The bills were deferred by the Council’s Public Works, Infrastructure and Sustainability Committee last week after passing first reading, because administration officials were unable to provide information requested by council members.

Bill 51 would make it illegal to obstruct a public sidewalk or interfere with the “free and unobstructed passage of pedestrians,” while Bill 52 would ban sleeping on a sidewalk.

The bills would cover the entire island, unlike the city’s “sit-lie” laws that ban sitting or lying on sidewalks in specific business areas because those actions impede commercial activity, Caldwell said. The administration has opposed island-wide sidewalk bans in the past over concerns they were too broad and would fail a constitutional challenge.

Bill 51 would pass such a challenge because sidewalk obstructions create a public safety hazard by forcing pedestrians to walk in the street, Caldwell said.

″(The sidewalk) is for people walking, clear and simple,” he said. “I don’t see where there’s going to be a valid constitutional challenge.”

In regard to Bill 52, four conditions would have to be in effect before police could issue a citation or make an arrest: Shelter space must be available for the offender, transportation to the shelter must be offered, an officer must issue a written request for the person to move, and the person must be given an hour to vacate.

Caldwell said residents from Chinatown and Waikiki — areas represented, respectively, by Council members Carol Fukunaga, chairwoman of the Public Works Committee, and Trevor Ozawa, who requested the deferral — have demanded more be done to make sidewalks safer.

“These two members represent those areas but they’re ignoring the demands of their constituents that we do something,” Caldwell said. “Therefore, we’re asking that they get off their butts, move the bill forward, (and) make them better, working with the community.”

Ozawa said Saturday that the mayor’s office was not presenting a clear plan and vision for addressing the problem, and he accused the Caldwell administration of doing a “flip-flop” on the issue of banning the homeless from sidewalks.

He told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser he is concerned the two bills would open up the city to costly lawsuits.

Ozawa challenged Caldwell to attend the committee’s next meeting Aug. 29 to explain the legal basis for the bills himself.

Fukunaga said it’s “pretty common” for Council members to defer proposed measures when city agencies are unable to provide requested information. In this case, they failed to explain how the two bills would survive scrutiny on constitutional grounds.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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