My Turn: Sit-lie ban, why not Kona?

Why not Kona?

In 2014, Oahu implemented a county ordinance known as the sit-lie ban. Starting in Waikiki, homelessness reportedly dropped 83% in the first two years. Hawaii Tourism Authority president George Szigeti praised compassionate disruption, as the sit-lie ban is otherwise known, for “virtually eliminating homelessness in most high traffic areas.” The ordinance has since expanded to over 15 additional zones on Oahu.

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Why not Kona?

The Kona police department told me they have no enforceable vagrancy laws, impeding their attempts to clear sidewalks and makeshift camps. We need to house and support the homeless; few disagree with those longterm goals. However, leaving people on the streets shortterm isn’t safe, hygienic or acceptable.

This is a public health and safety issue of critical importance for the homeless, as well as for our neighborhoods, businesses and visitors alike. Lest we forget, one-fifth of Hawaii’s economy depends on tourism.

Let’s contact Hawaii County Council members for districts 7 and 8 and respectfully press for an answer about writing, passing and implementing a sit-lie ban in Kona without unnecessary delays.

Disrict 7 —Rebecca Villegas (808) 323-4267 rvillegas@hawaiicounty.gov, Committee Chair for Public Safety, Committee Vice Chair Parks &Recreation

District 8 — Karen Eoff (808) 323-4280 karen.eoff@hawaiicounty.gov, Committee Vice Chair for Public Safety, Vice Chair County Council

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County Council members work for “we the people.” Speak up.

Becky Mello is a resident of Kailua-Kona.