HONOLULU (AP) – Honolulu is expanding its ban on sitting and lying down in public places to additional parts of the city, despite Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s veto.
The City Council voted 6-3 Wednesday to override the veto and enact its recent bill that expands the ban to additional locations.
The island first banned reclining on sidewalks in commercial parts of Waikiki, after the tourism industry complained that the city’s problem with homelessness was deterring some visitors from returning to its iconic beaches.
Caldwell vetoed the sit-lie expansion bill last month because it took the ban from commercial zones to areas off sidewalks, such as the bank of a canal where a small tent city emerged.
The mayor said the bill could face legal challenges if it appears the city is targeting homeless people, and he doesn’t want to jeopardize current city laws that ban sitting and lying down in Waikiki and other parts of Oahu.
But the majority of the council decided to go ahead with the expansion anyway, saying it brings parity to neighborhoods that have seen an influx of homeless people since the ban went into effect in Waikiki.
“I ended up with a tent city on the banks of the Kapalama Canal,” said Councilman Joey Manahan, adding that his constituents feel that his neighborhood has become a “dumping ground” for homeless people.
“The public doesn’t understand why it isn’t already illegal to pitch a tent in downtown Honolulu,” Manahan added.
Councilman Ron Menor voted against the proposal, saying the proponents hadn’t offered an adequate rebuttal to the fears of legal challenges.
“If a legal challenge is initiated, and the city loses, then the taxpayers of this island are going to be saddled with a burden,” Menor said.
Menor planned to introduce a new proposal Wednesday that he said reflected the mayor’s alternate proposal. He said the bill is more legally defensible because it removes the areas that are outside residential zones. But Council Chairman Ernie Martin said the mayor’s proposal didn’t go far enough.
“What he had sent down was so diluted,” Martin said in an interview.
“There’s always been legal concerns,” Martin continued. “These are risks we felt the members were willing to take, only because we are at a point where we have reached crisis proportions.”
Councilman Trevor Ozawa said the issue of whether the bill is legally defensible should be left to the courts.
Members of the public spoke who opposed the bill said the city should be more focused on providing housing and services than criminalizing homelessness.
“This is such a crisis,” said David Cannell, 62, who was previously homeless for eight years. “It’s a city of squalor. This isn’t a third world country. … Everyone has to go somewhere to get some sleep, at least. So where do they go?”
Councilman Brandon Elefante and Councilwoman Kymberly Marcos Pine voted against the override because they disagree with the principle of the sit-lie bans.
“It has just gotten out of control. … When are we going to stop?” Pine said.
The council also planned to introduce new proposals Wednesday to expand the sit-lie bans even further.
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