Splintered paddle

Whither the Law of the Splintered Paddle?

Between Stanley Chang and Tom Brower, we need a better approach to houselessness.

Ikaika M Hussey

The Honolulu city council is set to pass Stanley Chang’s Bill 59 on Tuesday, a measure which would make it illegal to lie down on the sidewalk. It’s a move that is increasingly common in US cities, according to Honolulu Magazine – but it still contradicts Kanawai Mamala Hoe, an early Hawaiian law which is part of the state’s constitution.

Here’s what that law says, using the English translation in the Constitution:

Let every elderly person, woman and child lie by the roadside in safety.

It’s a remarkable law because it’s a restriction on the power of the government, which in Kamehameha I’s time, was absolute. Peter Young, former Chairperson of the Department of Lands and Natural Resources, writes that the law “has become a model for modern human rights law regarding the treatment of civilians and other non-combatants.”

Young also notes that “Kānāwai Māmalahoe appears as a symbol of crossed paddles in the center of the badge of the Honolulu Police Department.”

So the question is will the city obey the laws of the State, and protect the rights of people to lie on the sidewalk? And will the city get serious about building affordable housing, or is Tom Brower (and his hammer) our only hope?

Illustration by Will Caron