Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Testimony in opposition to Bills 42, 43, 44

I shamelessly borrow from H. Doug Matsuoka's more eloquent post to frame my own contribution:

[This is my testimony to the Honolulu City Council which will hear Bills 42, 43, and 44 on Thursday, June 26, at 8:45 am, then immediately again by the Zoning Committee at 9 am. Bills 42 and 44 propose to make it illegal to sit or lie on the sidewalk (in Waikiki for Bill 42, extending to Downtown in Bill 44), and Bill 43 makes it illegal to urinate or defecate in public even if there are no restrooms available. These criminalize the acts of living, innocent behavior, of the homeless without addressing any remedy for them. The Council refuses to address the causes of homelessness on Oahu, where the median selling price of a used house is $682,000.

Links to the bills and other cited material are at the end. Doug]

Testimony in opposition to Bills 42, 43, 44

Aloha Chair Martin, Vice Chair Anderson, and Council Members,

I write to oppose the passage of Bills 42, 43, 44, which would criminalize sitting or sleeping on the sidewalks of Waikiki and perhaps also the rest of the island, as well as forbidding urination or defecation in places that often lack restroom facilities.

I live in Temple Valley, Ahuimanu, and work in Honolulu; I take frequent bike rides and ferry my kids to soccer and music on the weekends, so I see a lot of the island. We have regular visitors who stay in Waikiki or right near Kaimana Beach. Since the financial crash of 2007 the problem of homelessness has become more and more visible. I'm sure you're trying to address the problem, insofar as the problem is frames as one of seeing (and smelling) something unsightly. But the problem runs much deeper than my or anyone's line of sight. For every homeless person there is a lost job or a mental health problem or a drug problem. To put it even more succinctly: every person who lives on the street has a story. We owe it to them to respect their stories.

What the council would do, were it to approve these bills, is to privatize blame while socializing the notion that the rest of us should be able to spend our days unaware of others' suffering. It would legislate the notion that not having a place to live (in such an economy as ours!) is the fault of the person who does not have it. And it would endorse the idea that the rich, who will be moving into the fleets of fancy highrises in Kakaako—and who are moving into my area of the island, too—deserve better than to notice people who couldn't afford 1 square foot of their condo or house.

Let's stop obsessing on how bad homelessness LOOKS and pay more attention to the underlying issues. I know there are no easy fixes, especially since the economy is more global than local. But economy aside, affordable housing can be legislated, can it not? Compassion, I might add, is free.

Yours truly,

Susan M. Schultz
47-728 Hui Kelu Street #9
Kane`ohe, HI 96744
[more from Doug]

Bill 42 criminalizing sitting and lying down on Waikiki sidewalks:

Bill 43 criminalizing urinating and defecating downtown:

Bill 44 extending Bill 42 provisions to include downtown and increasing punishment to $1,000 and 30 days in jail:

Email testimony to Honolulu City Council (Use subject line to tell them you oppose Bills 42, 43, and 44):

Sign up to testify:

Honolulu Council Calendar with links to agendas:

No comments: