Reject bill stifling sidewalk performers
Mayor Hannemann has said he will veto a bill that would ban sidewalk entertainment during evenings in the heart of Waikiki.
MAYOR Hannemann has rightly chosen to veto a proposed ban
on sidewalk performers in Waikiki and seek a balance between public safety and the performers' First Amendment rights. The veto, if upheld, will avert a lawsuit and retain the festive activity popular among tourists.
The ordinance proposed by City Councilman Charles Djou would forbid mimes, musicians, jugglers, living statues and other entertainers from performing from 7 to 10 p.m. in the heart of Waikiki -- the five-block stretch of Kalakaua Avenue from Lewers Street to Uluniu Street.
Hannemann proposes that six locations in that area be designated for performances during that period. Performers would be required to pay $20 to $25 for permits and assigned to designated locations on a rotating basis.
An ordinance similar to Djou's proposal was struck down in 2002 by Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall, who ruled that it violated the entertainers' constitutional rights to free speech and due process. Crandall ruled that the city could have been less burdensome by adopting a formula that would put limitations on performance areas and assure safety to pedestrians. That is precisely the purpose of Hannemann's proposal.
Djou accused the mayor of cowering to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the earlier lawsuit and promised to challenge Djou's proposal in court. However, Djou is being more contentious than the ACLU, whose legal director, Lois Perrin, supports a compromise aimed a balancing free speech and public safety.
Djou's proposal has received much support from the Waikiki business community and residents concerned about sidewalk congestion, which they say forces pedestrians to step onto the street. The Waikiki Neighborhood Board and Waikiki Residents Association supports it. However, forcing the entertainers to relatively remote parts of Waikiki would amount to a ban.
The City Council approved Djou's proposal by a 7-2 vote. Four votes are needed to override the veto. The mayor's proposed compromise deserves a hearing before the Council prior to a veto override vote, not afterward, as Djou suggests.
Street performers are popular worldwide, and Hannemann says his approach is similar to that taken by some mainland cities. The Council should be fully informed about the modest alternative to drastic action that would surely result in a court battle.
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