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Saturday, May 27, 2017
Caldwell Veto: Bill 20 Puts ‘Sit-Lie’ at Risk
By News Release @ 5:06 AM :: 3002 Views :: Homelessness

Mayor Caldwell takes action on four bills

News Release from City and County of Honolulu, May 26, 2017

Mayor Kirk Caldwell today took action on four bills passed by the Honolulu City Council this month, signing two bills and vetoing two bills with legal concerns.

Mayor Caldwell signed into law Bill 67 (2016) CD1, relating to bicycle facilities. Authored by Councilmember Carol Fukunaga and passed 8-0 by the council, the bill requires certain new or converted office buildings located near rail stops in the Transit Oriented Development zone to include showers to accommodate bicycle commuters.

“This law will make it possible for commuters to bike to their neighborhood rail stop on their way to the office, with shower facilities available at work in new buildings,” said Mayor Caldwell.

Mayor Caldwell also signed Bill 14 (2017), relating to Transit Oriented Development, which the council passed 9-0.

Mayor Caldwell vetoed Bill 20 (2017), relating to public sidewalks, after the Department of the Corporation Counsel identified legal concerns that could subject the city to unnecessary legal challenges. The mayor provided an alternative bill supported by the legal team and said he would sign it if the City Council passes the legislation. The proposal includes the “Ala Moana – Sheridan Zone A” alone, without the expansion of the southern portion of Makahiki Way.

In his veto letter, Mayor Caldwell noted, “I continue to wholeheartedly support the intent and purpose of Honolulu’s recently adopted Sit-Lie laws, which prohibit persons from sitting or lying on public sidewalks in certain areas zoned for commercial and business activities so that the general public can use the sidewalks for pedestrian access.”

However, he said he had grave concerns that due to the bill’s possible legal issues, “passage of Bill 20 may result in a challenge to the legitimacy of the Sit-Lie laws, which are clearly intended to maintain pedestrian access over sidewalks in business and commercial areas and which have been extremely effective in the areas in which they have been enforced.” The mayor encouraged the council to “focus our collective energies and attention to working together to find, create and provide affordable housing for all of the people of the city, including those of us who are less fortunate.”

Mayor Caldwell also vetoed Bill 23 (2017) – Relating to City Parks and Recreational Facilities. In his veto letter, the mayor states that “The Bill is unsigned by the Department of the Corporation Counsel as to form and legality because it violates the separation of powers doctrine, Sections 4-201 and 4-202 of the Revised Charter of the City and County of Honolulu 1973 (2000 ed.) as amended. The Bill also proposes to disrupt the balance of power between the two coordinate branches of government, the City Council and the Executive Branch.”

Mayor Caldwell included the following points in response to issues raised during City Council deliberations:

Concern over commercial activity.  Through testimony and discussion, we recognize the City Council’s concern that a transfer to DES would commercialize Thomas Square.  This will not be the case.  Thomas Square was dedicated to the city from the state through Executive Order No. 3783. The Executive Order states clearly that Thomas Square must be maintained as a public park pursuant to Section 46-65.6, Hawai‘i Revised Statutes. Additionally, the Executive Order places management of Thomas Square with the City and County of Honolulu and is not department specific.

DES Director Guy Kaulukukui inquired with the State Board of Land and Natural Resources on whether the board would need to approve a transfer of Thomas Square from the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to DES. In a letter dated January 26, 2017, from Chairperson Suzanne D. Case to Director Kaulukukui, the chairperson stated that the proposed uses of Thomas Square are not inconsistent with the Executive Order, and that they did not plan to place the issue on any forthcoming Board agenda.

Therefore, it is my administration’s intent that Thomas Square remain a public park, open to the public, with many if not all of the same programmed activities which have operated at Thomas Square for decades. This includes activities such as plant sales, dog shows, arts and crafts sales, cultural events, and more. DES is responsible for administering the vendor agreements for the food and gift shop concessions at other public parks throughout O‘ahu, such as Ala Moana Regional Park and Hanauma Bay. DES may consider similar concessions at Thomas Square, but it is important to note that DES will not permit any kind of activity that is inconsistent with the public park purpose of Thomas Square.

Improved maintenance and security.  The main reason for transferring the responsibility for Thomas Square from DPR to DES is the fact that Thomas Square will be maintained by a dedicated crew and monitored more closely for security violations. Within DPR’s current budget and staffing, Thomas Square is maintained as best as possible, but by a roving crew. Due to its proximity to the Neal S. Blaisdell Center, the DES maintenance and security teams can include Thomas Square in their area of responsibility on a daily basis.

While improved since the start of the city’s renovation project at Thomas Square, the park has been the scene of crime and vandalism; residents do not feel safe entering the park, especially at night. The sidewalks around the park have been occupied with tents and other structures in the past, blocking passage for residents wishing to walk safely down the sidewalk. This is unacceptable activity in any of our public parks. The transfer provides an opportunity to better manage the park, especially given the cultural and historical significance of Thomas Square.

The bills were passed during a Honolulu City Council meeting on May 10, 2017.

-END-

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