Column: Hawaii’s homeless crisis highlights liberal failure

Dennis Lennox
In this 2015 photo, a homeless man drinks water while sitting on the beach at Ala Moana Beach Park located near Waikiki in Honolulu.

Honolulu — Millions of tourists flock to Hawaii, including world famous Waikiki Beach, every year. Few, however, expect what they encounter.

Hawaii, in particular the state’s most populous island of Oahu, has been experiencing a homeless crisis for years.

Of course, the tourism campaigns don’t advertise it. Yet, being harassed by vagrants in Waikiki — not mai tai cocktails, aloha shirts and Don Ho music — is what many tourists experience.

Having just returned from my fifth visit to Hawaii in three years I can attest that the situation is a disgrace. Moreover, the homeless crisis is also a testament to the failure of Democrat policies, as the left has ruled the 50th state almost uninterrupted since it was admitted to the union in 1959.

Heavy taxes, big spending and near-absolute Democrat rule have done nothing to solve major social welfare issues.

A walk down Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki’s main strip, is a surreal experience despite efforts by political, business and tourism leaders to mask the problem in the areas frequented by tourists.

Vagrants can be found in-between oceanfront hotels with rooms selling for hundreds of dollars per night and the seemingly endless number of ABC stores, the offspring of party stores and grocery stores. Many occupy the same spot day in and day out.

Some are passed out on a park bench surrounded by alcohol-infused vomit or urine. Others panhandle as the steady flow of tourists walk past. Then there are the mentally ill, who can be heard getting in arguments with imaginary people. The smell of booze and marijuana permeates. Much of this is within a block or two of the Honolulu Police Department’s Waikiki precinct.

I couldn’t help but wonder what the Japanese tourists think, as Japan is, by far, Hawaii’s biggest market for tourists outside the mainland United States.

The situation is worse elsewhere, as state and local governments have struggled for years with homeless encampments in parks and under highway overpasses.

At the unique, late 1960s open-air state capitol, men were camped out only yards from the legislative chambers. At the nearby Iolani Palace, the seat of the former Hawaiian monarchy, I saw another vagrant shooting himself up with what appeared to be drugs.

It’s not a perfect comparison, but Honolulu is reminiscent of New York City in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Hawaii’s capital city suffers from the same malaise that afflicted New York until Rudy Giuliani was elected mayor and implemented a policing strategy called broken windows that focused on enforcing laws against minor offenses.

It also doesn’t help that the left sues to have vagrancy laws struck down as unconstitutional. Then there are those failed liberal Democrat policies.

A good example: Hawaii taxes food, which is already more expensive due to the high costs of shipping from the mainland. Also taxed are medical services and even prescriptions.

Against all this it’s perhaps no wonder that so many struggling to make end’s meet find themselves on the streets or in the parks.

Dennis Lennox is a political commentator and public affairs consultant.