H. Doug Matsuoka's notes in the margin of the Big Everything.


NO on City Council Bill 59 criminalizing homelessness

On Wednesday, 9/11, the Honolulu City Council will hear the first reading of councilmember Stanley Chang's Bill 59, another in a series of bills promulgated by the Council against the humblest in our community.

My testimony follows. The illustration is from the referenced educational pamphlet published by the HSBA Auxiliary. Links to the pamphlet, as well as to Bill 59 and the agenda are at the end of this post.

10 September 2013
"Even in a democracy like Hawaiʻi has today, citizens must always be alert to the abuses of power. Voting does not guarantee good leaders."
                                    -- The Law of the Splintered Paddle, an educational pamphlet                                                 published by the HSBA Auxiliary (attached)

Re: Testimony opposing Bill 59 Relating to Public Sidewalks

Aloha Chair Martin, Councilmember Stanley P. Chang, and the Council,

Although bills introduced in the past couple of years have outdone each other in criminalizing homelessness and outlawing free speech, Bill 59 is the first such bill to directly violate Kamehameha's Kānāwai Māmalahoe (Law of the Splintered Paddle). That law, important enough to be incorporated into Hawaiiʻs Constitution guarantees the right of our humblest citizens to, "A moe i ke ala, ʻaʻohe mea nana e hoʻipilikia," lie down by the road without fear of harm.

Bill 59 criminalizes the homeless by prohibiting them to "lie down on a public sidewalk." Your laws have driven the homeless from the parks to the roadside where you now subject them to criminal penalties.

At last week's Homeless Assistance Workgroup meeting organized by Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland, I learned that in addition to the homeless encamped on our sidewalks, there are 100,000 "hidden homeless," those who find ad hoc accommodation but have no place of their own. I also learned that Hawaii is 50,000 new housing units short of adequate housing for its people.

Surely you must realize that Honolulu is the most expensive city for housing. The median price for a used single family home is $665,000. That's nine times the median household income. Financial experts advise families to spend no more than three times annual household income for housing.

The solution to homelessness is obviously making housing more affordable. Yet you seem to advance monied interests and criminalize the homeless. I've heard the homeless dismissed as being mentally ill, but if that's the case, lack of housing affordability causes mental illness because homelessness increases as housing becomes less affordable. You seek to criminalize the poor when the fix to homelessness is affordable housing.

In efforts to reduce homelessness, the public, our politicians, and our social service providers are often at cross-purposes.

For politicians each tent on the sidewalk is a huge political protest sign that says, "Our politicians fail us! They are servants of the rich!" So the politician's main interest isn't in providing the "safe zones" and "housing first" of campaign promises. The politician's main goal is to get tents out of public sight.


The City Missing In Action at 9/3/13 Homeless Working Group mtg

Livestream video is a great stick to poke at politicians – I mean – livestream video is great at providing public oversight of government operations. And I have to admit Iʻve caught many politicians in embarassing moments. [Hereʻs a classic video of Rep Tokioka blocking a GMO labeling vote]

So it was somewhat understandable when Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland expressed some reservations about my livestreaming Tuesday nightʻs Homeless Working Group meeting. But a big mahalo to her for allowing me to continue. I sat down and was as unobtrusive as possible. 

My 22 minute "filet" of the 1 hour meeting:

I was impressed with the community involvement and creativity. I was also shocked that the count of homeless does not take into account 100,000 "hidden" homeless who find ad hoc accommodation with friends or family but have no home or real place to stay. I also found that Hawaii is officially 50,000 housing units short at moment.

Getting back to the virtues of livestreaming, you know whatʻs really nasty? When you can show the public who was not there. At around 18:30 of the clip, you can see Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland look around for a representative from the City to respond to deOccupy Honoluluʻs Chris "Nova" Smithʻs questions about the midnight Bill 7 raids the City has been conducting. Where was Jun Yang from the Cityʻs Office of Housing? Mayor Caldwellʻs "Housing First" campaign promise seems to have morphed into the doublespeak "Compassionate Disruption" of midnight raids that take tents, bedding, and food.