By Doug Hissom Special to Published Mar 05, 2010 at 1:05 PM

The opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, its advertisers or editorial staff.

The state of California may have "Moonbeam" as its attorney general in the form of former California Gov. Jerry Brown, who got the disparaging nickname when he was in Sacramento, but Milwaukee has what could be termed a "Sunbeam" in the form of Ald. Tony Zielinski.

The Bay View alderman has championed renewable energy projects, sustainable housing and other green policies that rarely rankle the feathers of anyone. The latest: A solar power revolving loan fund. Residents can borrow cash from the city to pay for solar panels and pay the money back over 15 years.

"The idea is that most of the money being paid back to the city will come from cost savings established through solar power," Zielinski said in a statement. "It is important to note that the money for the program comes from grant dollars which means it has no property tax levy impact. It is anticipated that additional funds to further expand the program will come from foundations and other non-tax levy areas."

The proposal passed the council this week. The money is ready, says Zielinski. Anyone wishing to take advantage of this program should contact Andrea Luecke at

Brown, incidentally, announced this week he was running again for the California governor's office.

Your government at work: Here's a new approach to governmental efficiency -- award contracts without regard to cost. Sure, it's a running joke that the reason infrastructure breaks down so fast is that the work always goes to the lowest bidder, but nonetheless, taxpayers probably like that idea.

But under the dome in Madison, state lawmakers feel the need to take that practice away from municipalities. Under bills in the Assembly and Senate, municipalities would have to consider a "qualifications-based selection process" for public works consulting projects and not cost. The bill is being opposed by City Hall in Milwaukee and the idea drew the ire of some aldermen.

"In essence, it's taking away local control," commented Ald. Joe Davis.

Ald. Jim Bohl was more acerbic, suggesting that given the state's financial mess -- being mired in massive deficits -- the city should pass its own legislation "directing them on how to run their government."

City specs weigh 25 percent of bids in terms of cost and 75 percent in terms of qualifications in considering proposals.

Even with such adamant opposition from city leaders, two Milwaukee legislators -- state Sens. Jeff Plale and Lena Taylor -- are listed as sponsors of the bill.

The bill already passed an Assembly committee and is scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate.

Much ado about Pewaukee: The village and city of Pewaukee have been duking out for years over merging and annexation issues, and the latest effort to bring the village into the city fold could end next week. At least one city alderman and a village trustee have decided that it's not worth spending any more money on the idea, which is billed as a way for both municipalities to save money.

The City of Pewaukee came to be in 1999, after being formerly known as the Town of Pewaukee. Residents wanted to be a city to fend off the village from further annexing town property. Towns have no protection from annexation, while cities do. It's a strange turf war that goes on when residents have identity issues, as opposed to economic interests, at heart.

The two communities have spent about $250,000 studying the merger and an argument that putting good money after bad will be made next week, even though the concept has been around for more than four decades.

A study committee is suggesting that the idea go to a referendum. Some estimates suggest that the two communities could save upwards of $8 million in water project costs over the next 15 years, while a conservative estimate suggests that it could be $3 million. It's also estimated that about $331,000 a year could be saved in government operating costs.

Bush league: Jeb Bush is coming to town to help raise money for County Exec Scott Walker's run for the statehouse. The former governor of Florida, once touted as White House material in the vein of his brother and father, will glad-hand for Walker at The Pfister March 8.

And there will be a few fans to meet him there, as well. A coalition of human rights groups and political activists will be on hand to snub Jeb -- and Walker -- for Bush's being here as a shill. Seems Jeb supported freeing a terrorist linked to bombing a Cuban airliner.

"Jeb Bush, as campaign manager of a Florida congresswoman, ran a cornerstone of the campaign, called 'Free Orlando Bosch.' Gov. Bush used his contacts with his father, then Vice President George W. Bush, to free the man that the FBI, Justice Department and others all linked to terrorism," according to a statement from Art Heitzer, of the NLG Cuba Subcommittee.

The action starts at 5 p.m. in front of The Pfister. The Green Party and the student chapter of SDS at UWM are getting in on the fun, too. If you want a ticket to the indoor event, it'll cost anywhere between $15,000 and $500.

Fire house still open: The Riverwest fire house is not closed, contrary to reports here earlier. The city removed a ladder truck from the house and there are trucks still there and the doors are open. But the lack of ladder still has a few aldermen continuing to rally around the notion that the area is underserved when it comes to fire protection.

Twin Cities tragedy: We're not sure of the politics behind this decision -- perhaps it's Norm Coleman's revenge at work -- but the new Minnesota Twins domeless stadium will no longer feature "Dome Dogs" made by Hormel. Twinkies fans have been gnoshing Dome Dogs at the Metrodome for the past nine years, but no more.

"After reviewing the change in cost for sponsorships at the new stadium, we decided to focus on different marketing initiatives in 2010," said Julie Craven, Hormel's vice president of corporate communications, said in a statement.

Hold the relish, too.

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.