OMG! The 2012 election is 18 months away and already people are running for Congress!

4:27 p.m. Maui Follows the Sun

The Maui News reports Maui County‘s electric bill “runs about $25 million annually to light offices, keep office equipment humming, cool buildings, and pump water and wastewater through miles of underground pipelines”:

Now, the county is looking at tapping the power of the sun to reduce its power bill from Maui Electric Co., although so far the extent of potential savings is unclear. A request for proposals foresees contractors installing more than 1,000 photovoltaic panels on the rooftops of two dozen county facilities on Maui, Molokai and Lanai and then selling that power to the county at a significant cost savings, said Doug McLeod, the county’s energy commissioner.

“This is a fairly ambitious project,” he said Tuesday. “This project will save the county money.”

4:02 p.m. Mortgage Foreclosure Rules Posted

In accordance with Act 48, which became effective May 5, the Hawaii Supreme Court today issued temporary rules establishing a process “by which an owner-occupant of a residential property subject to a non-judicial foreclosure may convert the action into a judicial foreclosure,” according to a press release.

Act 48 came out of legislation this session, hailed by some as a model bill for other states dealing with the rise in mortgage foreclosures.

3:31 p.m. Big Island News

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that local lawmakers are “deeply divided” over the issue of tax reform:

Big Island landowners see Hawaii County’s property tax system as being unfair and inequitable, says Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann.

To address those periodic complaints, he wants Mayor Billy Kenoi to hire a private consultant to “conduct a comprehensive review” of the county’s main method of generating money.

West Hawaii Today reports that a deadlocked County Council “put the brakes” on a planned $1 bus fare, one of the moneymakers in Kenoi’s proposed budget:

With Puna Councilman Fred Blas absent, the council voted 4-4 on the measure. At least five votes are needed to approve legislation. Blas had voted for the bill at a May 4 first reading.

Council Chairman Dominic Yagong of Hamakua, along with North Kona Councilman Angel Pilago and Hilo Councilmen J Yoshimoto and Dennis Onishi, voted yes.

West Hawaii Today also reports that he Hawaii County Band, open space land fund, golf programs, legislative auditor and various county operations “are in the crosshairs” of County Council members:

“Some of these amendments that are proposed do not seem fiscally responsible,” Kenoi said Tuesday. “They seem reckless because they threaten the security of county government.”

The county bands, costing $285,256, and golf course programs, totaling $815,666, are a trifling part of the $367.3 million spending plan. But they tend to be hot-button issues with the public, and crowds are expected to come out to the Hilo council chambers to make their voices heard.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that Council majority is displeased with a $199,950 consultant contract comparing Hilo landfill expansion costs to trucking garbage to Puuanahulu:

Council members, sitting as the Environmental Management Committee, asked why the administration is spending money on another study plowing the same ground as previous studies, and why the council has no say in how money is spent on consultants’ contracts.

Especially when, said several council members, trucking the garbage to West Hawaii is simply not an option.

1:17 p.m. Ol’ Blue Eyes

No, not Frank Sinatra — we mean Neil Abercrombie!

Check out his official photo (posted on this page), which was released today by his office.

12:56 p.m. UPDATE: Akaka Hails Troubled Judicial Appointment

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote tomorrow on a motion to proceed to the nomination of Goodwin Liu to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

If confirmed, he would be the only Asian American among active judges on the 9th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Hawaii.

However, the appointment may be in trouble.

POLITICO reports that the Obama administration “is teetering toward losing a fierce battle with Senate Republicans over the long-stalled appointment … a nominee conservatives fear would drag the liberal-leaning court further to the left”:

Democrats need seven Republicans to join them in supporting Liu to overcome a filibuster, but several key Republicans said Wednesday they would not support the 39-year-old law professor from the University of California, Berkley. And if just one more Republican says no, Liu will fail to break the filibuster.

After meeting with Liu today, Dan Akaka released a statement saying, “Goodwin Liu is an exceptionally qualified nominee and a shining example of the American dream. … He has strong support in the Senate and he deserves an up-or-down vote.”

9:45 a.m. UPDATE: Don’t Feed the Homeless!

Neil Abercrombie addressed students at St. Francis school today, encouraging them to have “civic courage” and a “public conscience.”

Asked by a student about his policies on dealing with homeless people, the governor reiterated his argument against feeding homeless people:

“You may be giving them food in the sense of sustenance, but it does not change their circumstances,” he said. “You have to feed someone’s soul. If you just feed their body their soul remains barren because you have no sense of yourself as being a worthwhile person. … It is not doing them any favors. … People are not feral cats, they have consciences, they have thoughts about themselves. …”

Feeding the homeless may make people feel good about helping people in need, but “it works against them,” he added.

The governor also told students that his first night in Hawaii in 1959 was in a cottage near Oahu Avenue and Armstrong Street, not far from St. Francis.

“The rent was $50 a month, which I split with roommates,” he said. “I paid only $25. I bought a car for $50 — a 1939 Buick.”

8:38 a.m. DBEDT Forecast ‘Optimistic’

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism released its second quarter economic forecast today, and the consensus is that things look better than expected for the rest of 2011:

Despite the negative impact of the March 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami on Japanese travel to Hawaii, DBEDT projects that overall visitor arrivals will increase by 3.8 percent for 2011, a rate similar to its previous forecast conducted before the Japan earthquake.

“We note that visitor arrivals from rest of the world are still growing, especially visitors from Canada and that cruise visitor counts are growing at double digits during the first three months this year,” said DBEDT Director Richard C. Lim in a statement. “We are also pleased to see jobs are growing again in the areas outside of tourism such as information, professional and business services, and educational services.”

The statement continues: “The consensus forecast for the U.S. projects a 2.7 percent increase in Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2011. That is down from a 3.2 percent projection last quarter.”

Hawaii Senators Meet With 9th Circuit Nom

Dan Akaka and Dan Inouye will join Harry Reid and other senators today to meet Goodwin Liu, a judicial nominee for the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

If confirmed, Liu would be the only Asian American serving on the 9th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over an area (including Hawaii) that is home to more than 40 percent of our the nation’s Asian-American population.

The meeting will take place a 2 p.m.EST in the Robert C. Byrd Room in the U.S. Capitol.

Meeting: Big Isle Lawmakers

A double-header on the 2011 legislative session:

Malama Solomon, Mark Nakashima and Gil Kahele will attend the Rural South Hilo Community meeting at 6 p.m. at Kalanianaole School Cafeteria.

• Once pau, Solomon and Kahele will then go to the Keaukaha Community Association monthly meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m., at Keaukaha Elementary School Cafeteria.

Topics include the the Native Hawaiian Recognition Bill, the economy and more than $100 million for capital improvement projects on the Big Island.

Meeting: Climate Change

Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization this morning will present information gathered and outcomes from a Climate Change Transportation Adaptation Workshop, held as a part of a federal pilot grant.

The meeting, set for 5 p.m. at the Capitol Auditorium, will discuss “Transportation Asset Climate Change Risk Assessment.”

Where’s Neil?

Here’s Neil:

Saint Francis School, student assembly, 2707 Pamoa Road, Honolulu, 8:45 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.

National Oceanic Atmospheric Association, hurricane preparedness news conference, UH-Manoa Campus, 2444 Dole Street, 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Catch up on previous coverage:

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