The Honolulu City Council voted to pass two controversial bills that would give the City additional authority to remove persons and property from public spaces like sidewalks and parks. The measures are seen by many as targeting Oahu’s urban homeless population, though, it may also help curb the vendors operating on waikiki’s sidewalks.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell wholeheartedly endorsed both measures - saying city officials needed more authority to address the problem of chronic homelessness. Advocacy organizations decried the move as criminalizing homelessness.
A last minute controversy arose when members of the council inserted language that would allow them to delay or block implementation of the bill - even if it is signed into law. Council Member Ikaika Anderson of Windward Oahu voted “No” for that reason.
Councilmember Kimberly Pine from West Oahu has previously opposed similar bills like sit and lie bans because many of those targeted end up in her district. On these measures she voted “Yes” but expressed reservations. She cited an increase in crime and damage to public parks in her district as major concerns for her constituents.
Bill 52 passed the council on a 6-3 vote, but retained the requirement for 9 additional studies to be performed before enforcement can begin.
Mayor Caldwell reacted to the vote via Twitter saying - quote - “Even though the City Council passed bills 51 and 52, they did not delink the need for a comprehensive homeless study before enforcement begins. Even with my signature, enforcement will be delayed. The public is crying out for help in clearing sidewalks for their own safety.”