My Turn: Get tough, don’t enable panhandlers

For as long as I remember, Hawaii has been an extremely liberal state, led mostly by politicians that throw out words like ohana, pono, malama and aina. They try to appeal to the masses by appeasing rather than offending anyone.

They cannot seem to make hard decisions without taking it to the people for their opinions. The only problem is that the only people who have the time to attend these meetings, have time to attend these meetings! The rest of us are busy trying to make a living! Let me ask you where that has got us?

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Our kids cannot afford to live here, the ones who try to stay are working two or more jobs, housing is unaffordable, rentals are scarce and overpriced, traffic is only getting worse, and homelessness is rampant! I could go on but all of us know the problems due to lack of leadership.

A couple of days ago, my wife and I found time to attend a forum to discuss the increased problem of alcohol/drug abuse, panhandling, filthy streets/parks, and crime. The meeting was spearheaded by Nakoa Pabre, the owner of Umekes, a man, that if he ever chose to run for office, I would support 110% because of his concern for our community and common sense.

The meeting began with nothing more than a Facebook post, which got picked up by West Hawaii Today. On short notice, this meeting was heavily attended. I believe that his intentions were to deal with the problems that I just described, instead it was moderated by a politician who allowed it to turn into a long drawn out discussion on the issue of homelessness islandwide, statewide and nationwide. The speakers invited to this forum included a full scope of state agencies, county agencies, protective services, nonprofits, politicians and the usual enablers.

We listened for the first hour or so about the amazing amount of time, money and effort that goes into bathing, feeding, cleaning up after, and categorizing the homeless. Then we heard about their needs in order to have a place to live the way they want, including putting a village just below one of our two high schools, where they can live without roofs, (they don’t like roofs), live in their cars, and shoplift from their very own mini-mart, all of this without having to make behavioral or conduct changes.

We then heard from a Parks and Recreation manager who explained that 80 percent of his employees’ time is spent cleaning up drug paraphernalia, blood and feces from the parks our kids use. It is disgusting that the parents are asked to walk the fields in order to ensure that there are no needles or human/animal feces that could make the children sick. We were told that there are no vagrancy laws, no public intoxication enforcement or testing, and it is up to law-abiding taxpaying citizens and business owners to monitor, photograph, and document trespassing for over a year and three offenses in order to turn it into a jailable situation, otherwise it remains a misdemeanor.

We were told that drug abusing, alcohol abusing, offensive criminals are citizens, therefore they have rights. What about ours? Do you think this is being ignored because it’s not revenue generating? Like tickets and fines on visitors and residents? Maybe. All I know is if we let this continue there will be no revenue, visitors will not want to come here. Residents will not want to stay here.

We need politicians to say no for once, and mean it! We need new laws to address certain issues that are not currently in place, we need to enforce the laws that are on the books, we need to listen to anyone who has common-sense ideas regarding this degradation of life in Kona.

Yes, I said Kona, not the world! This is one defined problem, not homelessness in general. Those who want help here can get help from those programs I spoke of above.

It’s not brain surgery, let’s see, panhandlers, how about this: If you are making money on one of our street corners, are you reporting it to your case worker? If not, you lose all of your unemployment/welfare benefits. If an honest person is on benefits and gets a job, guess what, their benefits go away! Lets see how many corners we can clear up.

Meth use, illegal, you get picked up and put in jail and get help. At least detox!

Litter, you get fined the same as a taxpayer, and it will be taken out of your benefits!

Right now, there are no consequences. We have this $96 million monster-sized new courthouse, the way things are now we could have used a turnstile, because we have nowhere to incarcerate people. Maybe we need a equal size prison and rehab center. It would probably cost less in the long run.

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It’s not that hard. The new word for politicians to use should be this old one used by Hawaiians, kapu!

Erik and Kristin Frostad are residents of Kailua-Kona.