Leaders in the state House of Representatives will talk with state Rep. Tom Brower about his actions before he was assaulted by two homeless teens objecting to his taking photos and videos of them and their families in a large Kakaako homeless encampment.
"The House leadership will sit down with him to discuss this," referring to "his conduct and whether it is appropriate or not," said state Rep. Scott Saiki (D, McCully-Kaheka-Kaka-ako-Downtown), House majority leader.
Saiki weighed in Friday on Brower’s actions and the problems associated with the increasing number of homeless people living in Kakaako in sidewalk tents, a number that has nearly tripled since mid-September.
Saiki said Brower (D, Waikiki-Ala Moana-Kaka-ako) told him he went to the encampment to assess the situation and to take photos of the camp but no people.
Brower maintains he did not provoke the attack. Families of the two boys who allegedly assaulted Brower said the legislator egged on the boys with taunts and laughter.
"I take his word for it," Saiki said. "He’s like everyone else. He’s just very frustrated with the situation and the seeming inability to fix it."
Brower made national news two years ago when he used a sledgehammer to bash shopping carts used by the homeless.
State Sen. Brickwood Galuteria (D, Kakaako-McCully-Waikiki) said he would "not accept any type of assault on an elected official or anybody in our community."
Kathryn Xian, head of the nonprofit Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, said she is looking into filing an ethics complaint against Brower, saying he provoked the reaction by his taunts, which she called inappropriate conduct. The homeless are sensitive, particularly the youth, to having photos of themselves and their makeshift homes displayed on social media and the news because they are teased at school and embarrassed when others discover their plight, Xian said.
Saiki said the state and county must work together to take care of the homeless situation in Kakaako. "We all need to identify any available resources that can be directed at short-term homelessness needs."
A city spokesman has said that early in Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration, the city didn’t enforce stored property and sidewalk nuisance laws in Kakaako because of rules by the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which oversees development in the area. Sweeps were done later, but this led to homeless people going to nearby land owned by other organizations and then returning after the sweeps were done, the spokesman said.
Galuteria, noting that sweeps are needed in the short term, said, "I’m just as compassionate as the next person, but … we’re going to have to be a little bit more aggressive about what we’re going to be doing about Kakaako."
Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who represents the Manoa area, said the Council has been working with U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono to try to get more help through the Compact of Free Association agreement. "They receive medical aid but no housing aid. But of course that isn’t the only problem," she said. "What we need is permanent housing."