Council looks to clean up county’s front yard

NAWILIWILI — Without much fanfare or discussion, the Kaua‘i County Council sent a message to the public last week: Do not drink, urinate or defecate in front of our new home.

The seven-member legislative body unanimously passed two bills on first reading Wednesday.

Bill 2412 would make it illegal to consume or possess intoxicating liquor while within the boundaries of parking lots and grounds adjacent to the Historic County Building, County Annex and Lihu‘e Civic Center.

Bill 2413 would ban urinating or defecating in these same public areas “unless in a portable toilet or restroom.” The only exception would be for someone with a medical condition verified by a licensed physician.

Both bills propose a penalty of $1,000 and/or up to 30 days imprisonment for the misdemeanor crimes.

The Historic County Building recently completed a $4 million renovation. Council members will return to their old offices and chambers this week after spending the last 18 months at a temporary facility in Nawiliwili.

The proposed ordinances have raised the question of whether these acts are already illegal.

Council Chair Jay Furfaro, who introduced both bills, said the landscaped area in front of the Historic County Building is technically a county park.

Current county law prohibits drinking in parks after 11 p.m., but Kaua‘i Police Chief Darryl Perry has said his officers do not intend to enforce it unless it becomes a problem.

Drinking there has become a problem, according to Furfaro. Someone recently threw a liquor bottle at one of the glass doors of the building, he said.

As far as relieving oneself in public, current state law may interpret the violation as open lewdness, indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, fourth-degree sexual assault and criminal property damage, according to county officials.

But what’s really motivating these new laws? Some have speculated that the homeless who frequent the area are being targeted.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie recently promoted a 90-day plan to end homelessness. He successfully kicked out from the lanai of the Old Courthouse — part of the Lihu‘e Historic District — all the homeless who habitated there. Workers boarded the lanai, making it off-limits to anyone.

The Old Courthouse served as an official homeless shelter from November 2007 to November 2009. Abercrombie has his eye on the building, and plans to make it functional again to house some state offices on Kaua‘i.

With the end of homeless hanging out on the Old Courthouse lanai, many moved onto the nearby lawn of the historic district.

Furfaro said the bill does not target homeless persons. It is intended to curb drinking in the area and stop public urination and defecation, he said, but he did not blame the homeless.

Both bills will go through public hearing and then committee scrutiny Sept. 28. If the bills pass committee, they will go through full council on Oct. 5 before heading to Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.

Visit www.kauai.gov for more information or to view the meetings online.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.

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