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Marcus Landsberg Headshot

Lying to Legislate

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Honolulu City Council's Bill 44 includes for its foundation: "Sitting or lying down on the sidewalk is not the intended or customary use of public sidewalks."

You don't need to be in Hawaii three weeks to know that's not true.

In 1797 Kamehameha the Great said, "May everyone, from the old men and women to the children be free to go forth and lay in the road." (i.e. by the roadside or pathway). This is an excerpt from the Kanawai Malamahoe, the Law of the Splintered Paddle.

Now I'm not quoting that to say it is currently binding law, in spite of the fact it is included in the Hawaii State Constitution. But we were look for what is customary, two hundred plus years is enough time for a custom. When we look to what is intended for our roadsides, I would suggest the first accepted monarch of the islands should be able to have a say.

Look, the solution to homelessness is going to take a multi-part, many phased program. It will need dedicated social workers, Housing First availability, dedicated ambulances with mental illness and substance abuse backgrounds, and interpreters of various languages. Los Angeles has recently made great strides with the police department saying through its Captain, Mike Oreb, "We're not the Homeless police". Honolulu on the other hand is trying to incarcerate everyone. Young police ordered to carry out the raids in Honolulu often have a crisis of conscience, "I'm here to protect and serve citizens too weak to help themselves, not collect and destroy their property until they move to another part of town." Never mind the pressure of the City Counsel to build new prisons with mainland money. Meanwhile crime is down. When you need a certain number of prisoners to break even on a new prison, and not enough people are going to jail what do you do? You make more reasons people should go to jail. Like sleeping.

Whoever acts as the Homeless Czar in Honolulu, we need to make sure they understand the solution is a multi-faceted program.

See extended version of the same article with pictures here.