A relief from Waikiki parades?
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Robbie Dingeman
A proposal that could cut the number of parades in Waikiki at least in half is marching forward at City Hall after gaining the support of a key City Council committee yesterday.
In response to legal concerns, Transportation Committee Chairman Todd Apo said he will include wording in the bill to indicate that free expression is not limited by the proposal. Both the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai'i and city attorneys with the corporation counsel's office raised the concern that First Amendment rights not be limited.
But after hearing from residents, motorists and business people in Waikiki, Apo said he believes that council members are "open to some limitations" on parades, although they need to work out the specifics.
Waikiki resident Stefan Fekete said closing Kalakaua Avenue 60 or more times a year for a parade — that was the number of closures in 2005, city figures show — clogs traffic and is excessive. Fekete said parades closed portions of the main roadway through the beachside resort three times in two weeks.
"Don't get me wrong — I love a good parade, but only a Hawaiian theme or a few religious ones," Fekete said.
But he has some questions about the validity of other themes: "To celebrate the artery-clogging Spam? Can they do that?"
The Transportation Committee is considering a bill first proposed in 2004 to limit the number of parades in Waikiki to two a month. While the proposal gained some support initially, it had stalled until now.
Deputy Corporation Counsel Reid Yamashiro said the city does need to consider free speech or First Amendment issues as it crafts any limitations.
ACLU Hawai'i Legal Director Lois Perrin wrote: "While the ACLU is sensitive to the city's financial concerns with respect to parades, the ACLU maintains that the city cannot balance its budget on the back of the First Amendment."
Councilman Charles Djou said the concerns of most residents are practical, not philosophical, differences with protesters.
He said residents just want to be able to drive to and from home and work. "There are more street closures in Waikiki than in any other area," Djou said. "It's getting a little bit much."
Marc Rubenstein, vice president and general manager of Superstar Hawaii Transit, said the frequent street closures hurt his transportation business. "We calculate that a road closure costs my company $10,000 per event," he said.
Rubenstein said that from April 29 to May 14, his business had to deal with closures caused by five events: Spam Jam, Salute the Troops, Waikiki Block Party, Mabuhay Festival and the ITU JAL Triathlon.
Toru Hamayasu of the city Department of Transportation Services said the agency had no position on the proposal because limiting the number of parades is more of a policy decision than an administrative matter.
Reach Robbie Dingeman at firstname.lastname@example.org.