In the aftermath of the Council’s override of Mayor Caldwell’s veto of the latest sit-lie bill, it might be a good time to reflect on the path we are taking with regard to the issue of homelessness. Bill 6, which expanded the City’s sit-lie law is in effect following the Council’s override of the Mayor’s veto on June 3rd. The Mayor never objected to the ultimate goal of the bill, which was to protect local business and their right to engage in commerce without obstruction. His main concern was the fact that it could be legally challenged.
Perhaps Bill 6 might not have been necessary if the Administration had begun to enforce existing stored property ordinances, especially in those areas identified in Bill 6, before instead of after passage. But it is worth remembering that while the Mayor may have the luxury of restricting his attention to matters of island-wide importance, each Councilmember by design must be primarily concerned with the issues affecting the constituents he or she represents.
That is why in the eyes of the Council, something had to be done for those affected businesses, similarly for what we did for Waikiki. In our eyes, no one Oahu business is more important than another. Over the past two years, the City Council has taken extraordinary steps to provide the Administration with the resources to manage our homeless issues – nearly $50 million in Fiscal Year 2014 and another $30-plus million for FY 2015. My concern is that we have very little to show for it – despite all statements about the urgency of the problem. Where is the transitional housing? Where is the permanent housing? These are absolutely critical to prevent homeless persons from merely shifting from one locale to another. Housing First is nothing without housing.
As for the criticism that the Council and the Administration are not working hand in hand to solve the problem of homelessness, I see the Council-Mayor relationship historically as a system of checks and balances. We are not, and cannot be a rubber stamp for the Administration. With an issue as complex as homelessness, or even rail, differences of opinion will emerge along with different approaches to solve the problems.
Like each of the eight other members on the Council, I also have a district with pressing needs and concerns. I advocate for the resources to meet those needs and I rely on the support of my colleagues to be successful. Likewise, I supported my colleagues whose districts are being overrun by illegal campsites and who preferred to override the Mayor’s veto. Bill 6 which may not be perfect but it is the best we have at this point in time. As evidenced by the recent armed robbery at the Kukaniloko site in Wahiawa recently, the problems associated with unchecked homeless encampments may already have grown to a significant level in our district as it has in other Council districts. We need to provide law enforcement with adequate tools to protect our residents and local businesses in Wahiawa as well as Waikiki.