ACLU: Maui is one big outdoor bathroom
There's trouble in paradise.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wants Hawaii's island of Maui to forgo legislative measures to keep sleeping homeless people off the sidewalks and from relieving themselves in public.
That's right. The ACLU thinks people have a constitutional right to drop their pants and let go in front of other people.
The bills are about public health, according to Maui County mayor Alan Arakawa.
But they are also arguably about protecting the critical tourist industry, which welcomes more than two million visitors annually to Hawaii's second largest island. The great majority of Maui's tourists come from Canada and the United States mainland to the mountains-and-beaches isle with a population of 155,000.
Why should travelers who shell out thousands of dollars in airfare, hotels, and meals in order to enjoy a slice of paradise be forced to see homeless people use public spaces as open latrines and campsites?
Tourism is more important than ever on the island. In 2010, the major pineapple grower stopped operations, and in January of this year, the Hawaiian Sugar Company announced that it is ending production at the end of 2016.
Three other measures before the Maui County Council last year prohibit drinking in public areas, stealing shopping carts, and aggressive panhandling, according to an Associated Press article in West Hawaii Today.
Daniel Gluck, the legal director of the ACLU of Hawaii, told The Maui News, "The poorest Maui County residents will face criminal penalties for the basic life functions of sleeping and going to the bathroom."
Mr. Arakawa wrote recently in the Maui News that the package of bills was approved "through our Corporation Counsel attorneys."
The county attorneys sought an opinion from the ACLU because the ACLU successfully sued Hawaii County over an anti-solicitation ordinance, Mr. Gluck said. In the settlement, Hawaii County agreed to repeal portions that criminalized solicitation and begging.
So the next time you're on the Big Island and get accosted on the way to the beach or glimpse an act of nature on Maui, you can thank the ACLU.
Robert Knight is a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union.