Mayor seeks lawsuit-free limits on street performers
Mayor Mufi Hannemann said he will veto a bill that would have banned street performers from Waikiki to stave off a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Instead, the mayor said yesterday that he will introduce a compromise bill to regulate rather than ban performers.
Councilman Charles Djou, who represents Waikiki and introduced Bill 71 to ban performers, said he will move to override Hannemann's veto.
Hannemann said in his discussions with the ACLU, it was clear to him that the city would have been sued if Bill 71 became law.
"We can't keep paying these legal fees every time we get challenged for something," said Hannemann, who added that he believes the city stood a good chance of losing in court.
Djou, who is a lawyer, said a legal challenge from ACLU would be without merit and that he's disappointed the mayor gave in to threat and intimidation.
"I don't think the ACLU, merely by threatening lawsuits, should direct or discourage otherwise good public policy," he said.
Lois Perrin, ACLU Legal Director, said a lawsuit over Bill 71 was no empty threat. "It was very likely, and to be done in short order," she said.
Perrin said a ban violates the performers' constitutional First Amendment right to free speech. She said the ACLU continues to believe that no law is necessary to address street performers in Waikiki.
And she said she's thrilled that Hannemann will veto Bill 71, praising his compromise as a step in the right direction to balance free speech and public safety.
Hannemann said his administration is still working out the details of his proposal. But he intends to require performers to purchase a permit to perform in Waikiki, specifically along a stretch of Kalakaua Avenue targeted by Bill 71.
Under Hannemann's proposal, the city Department of Transportation Services would designate six locations along Kalakaua between Lewers Street and Uluniu Avenue. Street performers would need a permit to perform at these spots between 7 to 10 p.m. daily.
A permit, good for half a year, would cost $20-$25. The locations would be assigned on a rotating basis.
Djou said he would study Hannemann's proposal but he does not believe it has merit. Still, he said, it deserves a hearing, which it will get after the Council votes on overriding the mayor's veto.
The council has 30 days after the mayor rejects a piece of legislation to override a veto. Hannemann needs the support of four Council members to sustain his veto.
The City Council approved Bill 71 last month by 7-2 vote. Many Waikiki residents, businesses and police support the ban because they said the performers pose a safety hazard by clogging busy sidewalks.
The city enacted a similar ordinance in 2000. The ACLU challenged the law and a state judge struck it down.