Specials Needs, Street Performers

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - November 23, 2005
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I’m quite comfy with the new Supreme Court decision that the burden of proof of denial of special education in public schools rests with the parents.

I know all about the “big guns” theory - that government can more easily build a case than poor or under educated parents.

I’m comfy because the pendulum had swung too far in one direction. Too many parents were claiming, without good cause, that a child was being denied mainstream education or not enough special education. The burden was on our DOE and the huge court costs fell on all of us.

This brings some balance. The DOE has compassionate people who will provide special education where it’s warranted and deny it where it’s not.

I’m tossing in my 37 cents worth on the matter of the street performers in Waikiki. That’s 1,233 percent inflation since 1932, last year of the 2-cent stamp that apparently gave birth to the phrase “my two cents worth.”

Street artists give a vibrant city a touch of eccentric character. They cannot be allowed to seriously impede pedestrian flow on a public walkway.

That’s not a problem right now. The real objections are by the Waikiki Improvement Association and Kalakaua retailers who fear the street actors may be distracting tourists from shopping or going to expensive showroom performances.

Street performances are a form of speech which require utmost constitutional caution. If the city can restrict them, it can stop me from standing on a prime corner corner at any time to denounce city government.

I’m surprised that any lawyer worth his salt would advise the city that restrictions would meet federal court tests.

The old T-shirt battle was something else. Sidewalk merchants were selling shirts and making a patently bogus claim it was OK because some pittance of a remittance went to a nonprofit cause.

There’s a palpable difference between that and making a statement through speech, singing, dancing or just standing. We’d have never dared to restrict the Hare Krishnas had they not crossed the line by demanding donations from passers-by.

We can’t restrict street performers because we cannot order citizens to take their free speech into an alley at midnight. The lawyer advising the city knows that.

It’s true, as Mayor Hannemann says, that sometimes people should compromise to avoid expensive rock-and-hard-place confrontations.

Sooner rather than later the expansion of street performances in Waikiki will impede sidewalk flow and create a safety hazard and justify restrictions.

If I were making the city decision, I’d let this one sit status quo for the time being. There are many more urgent matters to address.

No one is truly aggrieved. We’re mainly seeing politicians playing toady to the Waikiki Improvement Association and its merchant members.

I think if you surveyed the tourists, most would say they love the performances.

It wouldn’t do any good to survey local residents. Who goes to Waikiki other than people who have to because they live or work there?

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