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Council debates sleeping ban in park


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POSTED: Thursday, February 12, 2009

An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union said a City Council bill banning homeless people from camping at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki is fundamentally flawed.

“;The bill is vague,”; said Dan Gluck, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Hawaii. “;If you take a young child to the park during the day, and that child falls asleep, that child would be violating the law. That's the problem: If you say you are going to enforce the law for some people and not others, it's a violation of rights.”;

The city already has an ordinance banning homeless from sleeping in the park from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., but it is difficult to enforce or is not enforced at all. Kapiolani Park would be the exception by banning homeless people during the day as well.

The Council, in its role as the Kapiolani Park trustees, heard arguments yesterday on both sides of the issue.

“;I get complaints almost daily about the homeless in the park,”; said Councilman Charles Djou, who represents Waikiki. “;This is becoming a private, exclusive domain instead of a park for all families.”;

Residents from Waikiki and representatives from a society dedicated to preserving the park testified in favor of the ban for the park.

The issue of pushing homeless out of parks became a hot issue when Mayor Mufi Hannemann started clearing out city parks several years ago, including Ala Moana Beach Park and several Leeward Coast parks.

“;A part of me thinks, 'Welcome to my community's life,'”; said Council Chairman Todd Apo, who represents the Leeward Coast. “;This isn't a new issue. I think everyone recognizes the Leeward Coast has taken a brunt of the homeless issue for years now. We're not solving the problems, and where do they go?”;

The City Council did not take any action on the proposal yesterday.