By Doug Hissom Special to Published Jul 09, 2010 at 1:03 PM

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Several municipalities in the area are trying to get their arms around a perceived proliferation of pawn shops selling used jewelry and gold.

For some reason, the powers that be have decided that the stores have a relation to home burglaries, which in the city of Milwaukee, have actually decreased in recent years.

St. Francis passed new rules this week requiring the stores to keep detailed records on what it buys and give them to police. St. Francis moved on this issue after receiving a request from a business owner to open a gold selling store.

In Milwaukee, aldermen tightened up reporting rules for pawn shops and second-hand stores, requiring them to submit photos and records to police, too.

Ald. Jim Bohl, chairman of the Licenses Committee says he also wants the stores to be on par with taverns and other dealers that need city licenses and has asked for a state law change to do that.

Ald. Terry Witkowski had led an effort to place a moratorium on new licenses for cash-for-gold stores, but that didn't fly last month.

Witkowski says a problem situation started getting serious late year, when Milwaukee police seized about 1,200 pieces of jewelry valued at over $75,000 that four South Side stores bought without following proper procedures. The police issued 85 citations totaling more than $41,000 to the four stores.

All four stores surrendered their dealer licenses in January.

Smoking ban still foggy: Even though the law has been coming down the pike for more than a year, the Milwaukee Common Council tried this week to decide on how the city was going to enforce the state's new indoor smoking ban. But the indecision continues since the council couldn't make up its mind.

State law says any violation will be prosecuted through the district attorney's office, meaning the city would lose out on a chance at getting some of the fine money, which ranges from $100 to $250 for the smoker and the owner of the establishment where the smoking occurred.

The city wants violations prosecuted through the municipal court system, giving the city a piece of the smoking fine pie.

Aldermen could not agree on which departments from the city would be charged with enforcement and also couldn't get together on changing the city's existing ordinance that defines an "enclosed place."

A city attorney's office opinion told aldermen that the city's ordinance does not jibe with the state's definition of "enclosed space" but that other language in the law would allow the current rules to be enforced.

Aldermen wanted to tighten the definition of enclosed space, since many believe the state's smoking ban law would allow businesses with windows on at least two walls to permit smoking. But aldermen couldn't agree on how the change would be made.

The state's League of Wisconsin Municipalities has recommended city's tighten up their enclosed space rules because the state's law is "vague and confusing."

The city attorney's office said "we believe that we can in good faith defend (the current city ordinance)."

At its meeting this week, the Council also couldn't decide on how many city agencies should be involved in enforcing the new rule. The attorney's opinion says city fathers can allow more than just the Police Department to enforce the ban. Some aldermen wanted the health department and the building inspection department to get in the game, while others were satisfied the cops could do it on their own.

At least one alderman wanted the city to hear from tavern owners on how the ban is going to affect business before creating a tougher rule than state law.

The council will have a few weeks to mull over the changes until the July 27 full council meeting.

The city attorney's office reminded aldermen that "state law requires a warning notice be issued for the first violation by the person in change of an area where smoking is prohibited" and that the first ticket would be issued only to the smoker. It said that the Police Department was working on a system for developing warning notices.

Whiskey at Walgreen's: After heading back to its corporate offices to come up with a better plan to sell liquor and beer at its stores, a Walgreen's official heads back to City Hall next week asking for the city's blessing to start selling booze at three area Walgreen's.

After a hiatus of more than a decade, the Walgreen's chain wants to get back into the booze business, likely due to the fact that competitor CVS Pharmacies is offering spirits at its locations.

At a previous Walgreen's appearance in front of the council, representatives said they wanted to sell booze in all city locations but wanted to start small to see how the plan would work. It was offering a deal that the company would try booze sales for four years at a few spots and see how it goes. Some aldermen at that meeting questioned some locations due to a feeling that there was an over concentration of liquor outlets in some neighborhoods.

Walgreen's is pitching three sites to the city: 6292 S. 27th St., 6030 W. Oklahoma Ave. and 275 W. Wisconsin Ave. The council's Licenses Committee will consider the request next week.

County trying to get transparent: The Milwaukee County Board will consider a plan that would get its public information a bit closer to what the rest of governments are doing in the new millennium.

County Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic has proposed a resolution that would have the county Election Commission put together a plan so that County Board members would be able to file campaign finance reports online.

"The public has a right to view these reports easily and for free, but for too long this information has been hiding in the basement of the courthouse," said Supervisor Theo Lipscomb, a co-sponsor.

The City of Milwaukee has had online reporting available for years, however few aldermen bother to post the information, making interested parties head the City Hall to peruse the paperwork.

Hostage out of hiatus: Kevin Hermening gained fame as the sole hostage in Iran that was from Wisconsin. He came back from that experience with fleeting fame. He tried to parlay that into a political career, but failed to win anything.

He dropped out of sight for a while but emerged in Wausau as a financial adviser. He recently got a headline, however, for dropping out of a GOP bid to take on state Sen. Russ Decker (D-Weston), who sits as Senate Majority Leader. Two others are still in the race.

Hermening used his brief appearance in newsprint to say he was starting a nonprofit organization to advocate for financial and public policy literacy.

Coggs courts labor: Milwaukee state Sen. Spencer Coggs is picking up organized labor support for his relatively quiet bid for lieutenant governor. He announced recently that his campaign has picked up the endorsements of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state's public teachers' union.

That endorsement is added to his nods of approval from the Teamsters, Wisconsin Professional Firefighters, Retired Postal Workers, Operating Engineers, Wisconsin State Employees Union, and the American Federation of Teachers-Local 212.

Doug Hissom Special to
Doug Hissom has covered local and state politics for 20 years. Over the course of that time he was publisher, editor, news editor, managing editor and senior writer at the Shepherd Express weekly paper in Milwaukee. He also covered education and environmental issues extensively. He ran the UWM Post in the mid-1980s, winning a Society of Professional Journalists award as best non-daily college newspaper.

An avid outdoors person he regularly takes extended paddling trips in the wilderness, preferring the hinterlands of northern Canada and Alaska. After a bet with a bunch of sailors, he paddled across Lake Michigan in a canoe.

He lives in Bay View.