It’s a $75,000 check from a group of businesses to the Honolulu Police Department to address specific illegal activities in one particular neighborhood — Waikiki.
The gift is from the Waikiki Business Improvement District Association, known to many as “BID,” which includes among its board members representatives of many of the major Waikiki resorts, hotels and other businesses. The resolution says the money is to be used “to address various illegal activities on the public sidewalks in Waikiki along Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues and connecting side streets, and the beach from Kapahulu Pier to the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa.”
In a letter to Safety, Economic Development and Government Affairs Committee Chair Tulsi Gabbard last week, HPD Chief Louis Kealoha said the following illegal activities have generated the most complaints in Waikiki:
Structures on Sidwalk
HPD Major Ron Bode testified Wednesday that the money will be used “to fund overtime for officers participating in these patrols.” He said that finances are tight right now, that “the problems are pretty extensive and the complaints are many.”
Bode works in the Waikiki district and declined to answer the Council’s questions about police operations in other areas. Civil Beat contacted both the BID and the HPD via telephone and email Wednesday seeking comment. Neither organization responded to questions as of 5 p.m.
The gift isn’t the first of its kind and is part of a broader partnership between the Waikiki business community and the Honolulu Police Department, according to Council member Stanley Chang. His district includes Waikiki and he’s a non-voting member of the BID board.
“I think it’s been a very successful public-private partnership for many years now, and I look forward to advancing the purposes of public safety for our residents and our visitors alike,” Chang told Civil Beat after the meeting.
But some other Council members and citizens raised concerns about the gift to the police department.
Michael Daly, a street performer in Waikiki, said he worried the increased patrols would limit his ability to express himself.1 Dan Gluck of the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii raised the idea that enforcing on the sidewalk might infringe on the rights of Waikiki’s many homeless denizens.
Gluck also raised questions about the idea that some citizens can essentially pay for additional police protection.
Council member Nestor Garcia cast the lone vote against the resolution, specifically mentioning sidewalk entertainers. Both Vice Chair Ikaika Anderson and Floor Leader Romy Cachola voted with reservations.
“The intent of the donation is more or less an incentive for your folks, because it can be interpreted that way,” Cachola said.
The resolution itself references Section 13-113 of the Revised Charter of Honolulu, which deals with gifts to the city. It also pointed to a 2005 resolution that established a city policy for the solicitation and acceptance of gifts to executive agencies.
Those references to city ethics guidelines appear to be boilerplate in all gifts to the city. The latter resolution states that “despite the public benefits, gifts offered to the city must be scrutinized by the council to assure that they do not raise conflict of interest problems, special treatment concerns, or other ethical issues.”
Special treatment would be the potential snag in this scenario.
Asked what citizens who feel they need additional services from the police and don’t have $75,000 to donate to the city should do, Chang offered some advice.
“They should share their concerns with the police department. Any time they see any sort of suspicious activity, call 911 immediately. Contact the police department, your elected officials, the Council or the mayor,” Chang said. “This particular kind of public-private partnership is unique, as far as I know. It’s been successful, as far as I know. And it’s certainly not the only option, it’s just one of many.”
Chang said the Council does a lot of different things to address community concerns in Waikiki and all areas of the island. He pointed to two bills — Nos. 54 and 55 — as examples. The first would prohibit the storing of private belongings on public property such as sidewalks. The second would amend the noise control ordinance.
Both bills were introduced last week and passed first reading Wednesday.
Sign up for our FREE morning newsletter and face each day more informed.