Hawai’i’s 2022 legislative session is currently ongoing (what a horrific time) as full-time lawmakers/full-time harm doers (looking at you, Kalani English and Ty Cullen) discuss which bills they will be passing with/despite public input. I personally have no interest in volunteering my testimony for any bill but since I pay *this much* attention to local news, I’ve learned about some of the measures being considered by legislators to “address” public concerns. Issues like the rampant use of illegal fireworks in seemingly every community have impacted neighborhoods for the past few years. I join others in their annoyance with the aerials throughout the year, especially as they cause my pets much anxiety and fear. There are several bills with measures reacting to the use of such fireworks that could generate both civil and criminal penalties for users and we ultimately know that every bill intending on “cracking down” on specific behaviors like shooting illegal fireworks is simply for the legislature to justify increased policing budgets. Hawai’i’s people need funding for many resources but what we absolutely do not need is an increased number of cops or surveillance in our neighborhoods.
According to the City and County of Honolulu’s Executive fiscal budget for 2021, Public Safety funding comprises 17.81% of the budget at $530.6 million. Public Safety allowance comes in behind only Miscellaneous funds (employee retirements, healthcare, and other employee benefits) at $681.1 million or 22.86% and Debt Service at 19.59% or $583.7 million. Compare the Public Safety moneys to that of Human Services (4.13% or $123 million), which is the third smallest expense of the budget above Culture-Recreation (3.86% or $115 million) and Highways and Streets (1.41% or $42 million). According to the fiscal budget document, “The Department of Community Services (DCS) administers programs to meet the human services, workforce, and housing needs of economically challenged individuals and families with special needs in the City and County of Honolulu. The department also administers city, state and federal funds intended to facilitate community and economic development for economically challenged neighborhoods and communities.” That the entire city’s single department established to provide services to houseless and other low-income folks receives significantly less funding than that of policing is absolutely ludicrous. Hawai’i has problems that affect all of our communities, but addressing these issues with increased policing instead of helping people who really need the assistance shows exactly where our society’s priorities lie.
HPD–like all police departments across America–has more money than spit and yet people still harm each other and our neighbors, especially those who are houseless, are struggling every day. HPD does not prevent crime from happening (they most definitely cannot and will not stop people from shooting aerial fireworks every night) and their department’s very existence takes millions of dollars away from services that can improve people’s material conditions. Of course it’s easy to read the headlines about legislators stopping annoying fireworks and support the bills, but I beg folks to please use your critical abolitionist (or even if you’re not abolitionist but you’d like to see better conditions for everyone in your neighborhood) thinking skills and read between the lines. All we’ll ever get is increased policing funding and more suffering unless we push to organize for more services and no cops or cages.