Lawmaker ends shopping cart destruction campaign

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HONOLULU (AP) - A Hawaii legislator said he will no longer use a sledgehammer to smash stolen and abandoned shopping carts used by homeless people to carry belongings in Waikiki.

State Rep. Tom Brower, D-Ala Moana-Waikiki, said he has raised the issue of the public eyesores and will wait to see what happens, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser ( reported Wednesday.

"It's time to put down the sledgehammer. The point that I was trying to make has been made," Brower said. "Now that the issue of shopping carts is on our minds, the question is, Are we going to move forward and try to solve it or just let it become status quo?"

Brower estimated earlier in the week that he had smashed 30 shopping carts. He dropped them at metal recycling centers or left them for city cleanup crews. He returned other carts to stores if they were marked with store symbols.

Marya Grambs, director of Mental Health America of Hawaii, said Brower likely responded to a wave of criticism.

"We all came together to say that this kind of behavior is wrong, and really all we think that he succeeded in doing was to make Hawaii a laughingstock," Grambs said. "I'm relieved that Rep. Brower has ceased his divisive and destructive actions."

Homeless advocates sought legislative disciplinary action against Brower. House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said there was no basis to discipline Brower but added that he had safety concerns.

"His overzealousness was born by frustration with the homeless situation. I think my comment is that perhaps there may be a way for him to temper his overzealousness. There's room for that," Saiki said. "It's his decision if he continues."

Victor Geminiani, director of the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, a legal advocacy organization for low-income people, said Brower put himself and the state in legal jeopardy.

"We need him to make systemic change, not these sound bites. Is this a war on the people living on the parks and beaches? It's disgraceful," Geminiani said.

Jesse Broder Van Dyke, a spokesman for Mayor Kirk Caldwell, said the city does not support private citizens retrieving shopping carts. The city has removed more than 100 from parks and streets, he said.

Brower said his main purpose was to raise awareness of homeless issues. He regrets using a sledgehammer.

"If I had gone out with a wrench and a screwdriver, we wouldn't be having this conversation," he said. "The good thing that has come from this is that I don't think that people can go back to how it was after this much passion and feeling has come out on both sides."

His actions were not an attack on the homeless, he said.

"I'm trying to attack the issue of cleanliness, but some people interpreted it as an attack on the homeless," he said.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser,

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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