A bill that would allow the city to remove just about any type of personal property from sidewalks advanced unanimously Tuesday out of the City Council’s Public Safety and Economic Development Committee.
“We need to ensure that those sidewalks are opened for all members of the public, and not just a select few," said Windward Oahu Councilman Ikaika Anderson, who’s spearheading a similar measure, Bill 6, which would allow the removal of tents from city sidewalks.
Two women who live on North Beretania Street told committee members the Occupy Movement at Thomas Square has changed the character of the area. Protestors have been at the Kakaako location since Nov. 5, 2011.
“It seems to be intimidating,” said Ann Beeson, “The number of tents, the amount of stuff (and) the combination of occupiers and homeless."
“Sanitation is also a problem here,” added Karen Edwards. “I've stepped in what very much looked like human excrement and urine."
Under Bill 7, introduced by Council Chairman Ernie Martin, the city could confiscate almost any type of property found on sidewalks without providing prior notice. Instead, the city would attach a note at the location of where an item was taken, informing the potential owner of how to get it back within 30 days.
“The city will be able to come in, take the items and remove them, and then restore public access to our sidewalks to all members of the public,” said Anderson.
Bill 54, signed into law 14 months ago by former Mayor Peter Carlisle, requires the city to provide 24-hour notice before going back to remove illegally stored property on sidewalks. The measure has not made much of a difference at Thomas Square.
“It hasn’t done anything to help anybody off the streets, it’s just continually put them in a state of crisis,” said Sugar Russell, an occupy protestor from Chicago who has been at the park since June of last year.
Meanwhile Anderson's measure Bill 6, would outlaw the pitching of tents on city sidewalks without a permit. The bill allows police to charge violators with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and as much as a $1,000 fine.
In a Feb. 20 letter to the City Council, American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii senior staff attorney Dan Gluck wrote in opposition to the bill, saying it would cause unnecessary incarceration.
“Bill 6 does nothing to address Honolulu's homeless problem,” said Gluck. “Rather, it just shuffles people from place to place, moving homeless individuals farther from service providers and saddling the homeless with criminal records (making it more difficult to find employment and housing).”
Bill 7 faces a public hearing and second reading before the full City Council after clearing the committee vote Tuesday. Bill 6 has yet to be heard at the committee level, but Anderson said some of its key points could be folded into Bill 7. Bills must pass three readings before being forwarded to the mayor for consideration.
Correction: A prior version of this story stated Ikaika Anderson was the sponsor of Bill 7.