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a.MKE THE List: Dem. John Lehman to be Sworn In Today & Better Buildings Challenge: Today’s Top Stories

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Just last week, state election officials certified that Democrat John Lehman defeated Republican Senator Van Wanggaard in the June 5th recall election in the Cacine area. That gave Democrats a 17-16 majority and today, Lehman is expected to be sworn in. This also means that tomorrow the state Senate will meet so Democrats who are taking the majority can elect a new Senate president. Democrats will need to replace Senate President Mike Ellis and so far the plan is to give that title to Democratic Senator Fred Risser.

Owners of buildings in Downtown Milwaukee are being encouraged to cut their energy use by 20% by 2020. This is under a new national initiative called “Better Buildings Challenge”. The challenge is a public-private partnership that aims to help drive out energy waste through energy-saving upgrades that bring down utility bills and help cut carbon emissions. Mayor Barrett said, “We know that this can be done because the City of Milwaukee has already done it. We will be offering grants and financing to businesses that make energy improvements between now and May 2013.”

The National Endowment for the Arts will award the Milwaukee Ballet with a $100,000 grant for its Harmony Initiative. The initiative is collaboration among the ballet, UWM’s Peck School of the Arts and the Medical College of Wisconsin. The goal is to develop a building near the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts and when the new facility opens – it will hold the ballet’s offices and school, performance space for UWM dance concerts and a full sports medicine clinic. The grant is part of a program designed to promote creative placemaking projects that help transform communities into lively, sustainable places.

The Milwaukee River Greenway Coalition and the River Revitalization Foundation are reclaiming a portion of an old landfill near the Milwaukee River’s West Bank. Executive Director of RRF, Kimberly Gleffe, said, “We’re reclaiming and making this a desirable place.” The goal is to try and maintain the visible connection to the Milwaukee River as much as they can. The trail will likely be a compact dirt surface that’s 3-4 feet wide with 10-foot buffers of native plants on each side. The long-term goal is to have 13 miles of a shared trail.

Helios Solar Works recently received a $652,000 loan to support its $11 million investment to purchase equipment and add a third shift of workers at its Menomonee Valley solar panel factory. The Northwest Side Community Development Corporation provided the loan. The funds will help meet demand from new orders from Helios customers in the U.S, Asia and Europe. The project will also support employment for low-income residents in an area of the city that has seen major factory closings over the years.

Today GE Healthcare and MSOE kick off a special learning program for middle school girls. It’s called “GE Girls at MSOE” and it’s a week long program that looks to foster learning and interest in science, technology, engineering and math – also known as ‘STEM’. Studies show that many girls have an interest in STEM, but don’t think about STEM fields within their future careers. So girls will take part in hands-on activities and will be matched with a female mentor working in the STEM field within GE Healthcare. This is the first year the program will take place in Milwaukee.