Mayor is right to seek compromise on performers' ban
The City Council has approved a bill that bars performers from sidewalks on Kalakaua Avenue for three hours daily.
CITY Councilman Charles Djou's certainty that a ban on sidewalk performers in Waikiki
will draw a lawsuit makes Mayor Hannemann's effort to find a compromise all the more important.
Failing that, Hannemann should veto the measure that the Council has approved and help to craft another that would protect pedestrians and the rights of performers.
In view of a 2001 state court ruling that declared a similar ordinance unconstitutional, the bill Djou has championed as a safety issue will likely meet the same fate.
The new measure outlaws people who juggle, sing, play musical instruments or strike a pose from doing so between 7 and 10 p.m. daily along a five-block span of Kalakaua Avenue from Lewers Street to Uluniu.
Djou contends that safety is foremost in the bill because crowds that gather to watch performers often force other pedestrians to step into the street to get around them. Complaints from retailers and other merchants that performers and their audiences interfere with their businesses also factor in.
The previous law was thrown out in a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ruling by Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall declared that it violated First Amendment rights to free speech and due process.
ACLU warned that it would file suit against Djou's measure and had asked an expert on First Amendment issues to discuss the matter at a Council meeting scheduled for January. However, the bill was put on a fast track last week when a third committee hearing was waived, resulting in the Council's final vote in a special meeting held Tuesday.
Djou waived the third reading because he did not believe the facts or testimony would change and that public safety warranted quick action. As to the lawsuit, Djou said the timing of the vote didn't matter. "The ACLU is going to sue us whether or not we do this in December, January or next year," he said.
Hannemann, who questioned the need for a quick vote, hasn't said if he will veto the bill, but has suggested designating areas for performances where pedestrian safety and congestion would not be a worry. That might satisfy the legal concerns and fall in line with what Crandall said would be "less restrictive alternatives" for the Council to consider.
The mayor says that while public safety is the overriding concern, he will scout out Waikiki and meet with the ACLU to find "common ground."
Many tourists and residents enjoy the sidewalk performances, saying they add to the area's festive atmosphere. The city should be able to accommodate the entertainers while minimizing safety problems.