Don't let private interests kill Waikiki street life
CITY Council Bill 71, which would restrict street performers on public sidewalks in Waikiki from 7 to 10 p.m. along Kalakaua Avenue between Lewers Street and Uluniu Avenue, has an agenda other than public safety. The bill's supporters are not accurately reporting what is taking place on the ground, and they shape their facts to fit a singular point of view.
The University of Hawaii study (cited by Mike Peters in his Dec. 27 "Gathering Place" column) that describes alleged dangers street performers pose to public safety was commissioned (paid for) by the Waikiki Business Improvement District Association. Some of the conclusions vary widely from other established sidewalk studies and have yet to be independently analyzed. (For more information, see communityartsadvocates.org/saawaikiki.html)
Bill 71 is a part of a continuing effort of the business community to put money first while effectively taking away a free amenity that the people of Oahu and Waikiki visitors cherish.
A thorough read of Bill 71 will reveal its true agenda -- a ban on street performers in Waikiki.
We all know it's possible to make it legal to do something, but then add so many restrictions that it's unfeasible. In addition to severely restricting the times and locations people can perform, it seems as if Council members took a walk down Kalakaua one evening and then added sections to Bill 71 that would put a restriction on every single performer they saw.
PHOTO COURTESY JON MITCHELL
The "Copper Cowboy," aka Jon Mitchell of Waikiki, won't be able to use a toy gun in his act under Bill 71.
For example, Sec. 29-3, "Conditions for Performing," contains 13 crippling restrictions on street artists. Part (K) describes a ban on toy guns. Even though, the Federal Aviation Administration allows toy guns in the cabins of commercial aircraft and you can legally purchase a toy gun at any toy store, the City Council has decided that street performers will not be allowed to use toy guns in their act. Check off cowboys.
The reality is that Kalakaua Avenue during the evening is normally free of heavy traffic. People are comfortable, happy and polite because an evening on Kalakaua is more of a stroll on a fascinating boardwalk then a mad dash to catch the last bus at 5 p.m.
Some of the last words Councilman Charles Djou, sponsor of Bill 71, said at the Council meeting went something like this: Someone will sue us, either for restricting free speech or for knowing there was a danger on Kalakaua Avenue.
I've yet to hear of a city being sued for having someone pushed into the street, nor in the 20 years street performers have been on Kalakaua has anyone been injured due to street performers. But if Bill 71 does go into effect, Honolulu will have achieved the remarkably distinctive feat of being sued two times in five years for the exact same thing -- for again trying to put connected business interests, in the guise of public safety, ahead of free speech in Hawaii.
Jon Mitchell, who performs as the "Copper Cowboy," is a resident of Waikiki and a member of ROAAR (Residents of Oahu and Artists Against Restrictions).