It’s been another great year here at Brick City Blog. Readership continues to grow, up 2.5x over 2011 and we tripled the number of e-mail subscribers. As we prepare to flip the calendar to 2013, let’s look back at some of the best posts on the blog this year.
This year, the blog received a lot of traffic reading about the travails of State Representative Ernie Leidiger.
In February, we broke the story about Leidiger paying for a speeding ticket using campaign donations. This was the most-read post on the site all year, was picked up by the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press, and spawned complaints that led to $800 in fines from the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board and the Office of Administrative Hearings. Read it here:
Did Ernie Leidiger use campaign funds to pay off his speeding ticket?
But that wasn’t the only rough patch that Rep. Leidiger hit during the year. Leidiger’s business activities came under significant scrutiny, first for a series of lawsuits his companies had lost and failed to pay the settlements for.
Meanwhile, Brothers Office Furniture lost a lawsuit and was ordered to pay $7,500 in damages in April 2011 and still hasn’t paid up (Case 27-CV-11-11245). Per state law, such judgments are supposed to paid within 30 days. The plaintiff in this case has had to go to court to get a writ of execution in an attempt to collect from Leidiger’s company — as of yet, unsuccessfully, as the judgment is still listed as active in the state court system.
And, that’s not the only lawsuit the Leidiger businesses have endured recently. Judgments against Brothers Recycling & Liquidation ($32,389,90 from May 2011, also resulting in a writ of execution, Case 73-CV-11-4601) and Brothers Office Furniture & Liquidation ($1,415.28 from November 2011, Case 27-CV-12-3581) are also unpaid at this time. Total it up and you’ve got over $40,000 in unpaid legal judgments against the Brothers family of businesses.
From: Hypocrisy, eviction, lawsuits and porn: what does the business career of Rep. Ernie Leidiger mean?
Later, it was discovered that Leidiger had $144,000 in unpaid taxes here in Minnesota and a long history of unpaid taxes when he was a California resident. Finally, we were able to confirm that Leidiger had defaulted on his government-backed Small Business Administration loan.
Under the terms of the Patriot Express loan program that Leidiger took advantage of, the federal government guaranteed up to $450,000 of the loan. The final amount that the government ended up paying related to this default was redacted by the SBA.
What is surprising is how quickly Jelco Parts went into default after receiving the loan. SBA documents show that Jelco Parts, Inc. was considered in default by its lender, Crow River Bank, by July 25, 2010. That’s only 11 months after the loan was finalized (August 26, 2009). Typically, loan payments have to be delinquent for at least nine months in order for a loan to be considered in default (closing the business can also trigger a default, and documents from the lender in March 2011 requesting that the SBA pay off the remaining loan amount indicate the business was considered closed at that time.
From: Leidiger defaults on SBA loan; taxpayers left holding the bill
And that still wasn’t all. In August, Leidiger made headlines for “getting loud” at a League of Women Voters voter ID forum at a senior living facility in Waconia. Leidiger’s conflict with the LWV was the catalyst for another significant controversy in the County this election cycle — the refusal of many Republican candidates to appear at LWV forums. This was a move we did not endorse.
What these four candidates are doing is demonstrating yet again that they’re not ready for the offices they seek. Apparently, the forces in power at the Carver County GOP are immune to the lessons of history. Just two years ago, they formally endorsed two challengers (and had a third refuse endorsement) to incumbent commissioners, saying that the Board wasn’t conservative enough. Those three challengers all lost, by an average of 10 points.
Just last month, the same group of folks that spawned these four Commissioner candidates backed one of 2010′s losers, Bruce Schwichtenberg, in a primary challenge against the Senate Deputy Majority Leader and Tax Committee Chair, Sen. Julianne Ortman. When the votes were tallied, Schwichtenberg lost by nearly 17 points.
The lesson to be learned here is that running further and further to the right — even in a conservative area like Carver County — is self-defeating. It’s hard to get elected and it’s even harder to govern if you’re only willing to preach to a smaller and smaller choir of true believers.
From: Carver County GOP Commissioner candidates: talking to themselves
And we tested the claims of those GOP candidates — that the LWV forums were biased — and proved them to be utterly without merit. Fortunately, the good folks of Carver County largely saw through these charades.
Here are the six questions that were asked (not including the opening and closing statements):
- Considering the decrease in aid from the State, what are your priorities for Carver County?
- Carver has been a rural county. How do we maintain the rural/urban balance?
- The Carver County Community Development Agency (CDA) is responsible for community and economic development in the County. Please assess the CDA’s record and suggest ways that it could change its operations.
- Do you feel that the decision to underwrite $10.8 million in bonds for the Oak Grove City Center project in Norwood-Young America was the correct one given the current economic conditions and the significant opposition of residents?
- Are you in favor of keeping the Public Health, Land, and Water Services Department in Chaska or moving them outside of Chaska and why?
- The 2011 County budget includes a 1.5% pay raise for county employees. How do you justify this given the current economic environment?
These questions don’t seem “decidedly leftist” to me, nor do they assume a leftist world view. In fact, two of the questions directly challenge spending decisions made by the then-current County Board. All six questions allowed Republican candidates to talk about their vision of government and to advocate for the spending cuts they desired.
So what we’re seeing here from Messrs. Workman, Long, Beaudette, and Walter isn’t a legitimate gripe about the League putting its thumb on the scale. It’s an attempt to duck real debate and to only have to talk to those within the conservative bubble.
From: Feckless and gutless
The two constitutional amendments that appeared on the November ballot were a hot topic of discussion. We looked at Voter ID in September, and found it wanting.
A quick review of the numbers is in order. Since 2008, there have been about 150 convictions for illegal voting in Minnesota. That’s less than 0.01% of all votes cast in that time. Practically all of these convictions have been felons voting before their rights have been restored. Both the amendment and S.F. 509 are silent on this issue. As one’s criminal record status is not any of the valid ID cards, passing this amendment would do nothing to address these problems. …
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office estimates that as many as 215,000 registered voters don’t have ID that would qualify under the requirements of the amendment and proposed enabling legislation. That’s over 10% of the number of voters in 2010, over 7% of the voters in 2008.
We should not risk disenfranchising tens of thousands of citizens to prevent fraud that is almost non-existent.
From: How the Voter ID amendment could change voting in this state
In October we ran a guest post from Leanne Pouliot Kunze discussing her faith as a Catholic woman and why she felt it was imperative from that perspective to Vote No.
When I hear our young adults talk about this marriage amendment, it gives me hope. Many compare it to historical accounts of various civil rights movements such as slavery and voting rights. I truly hope its our generation of faithful Christians who courageously vote no and defeat this hurtful and discriminatory amendment, but if not, I trust it will not be long for the next generation to correct it and be on the right side of history.
It took courageous white men and women to extend human rights to blacks.
It took courageous Catholics to extend the Sacrament of Matrimony to inter-faith couples.
It took courageous Catholics to extend the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony to inter-racial couples.
It took courageous men to extend human rights to women.
And it continues to take courageous citizens, straight or otherwise, to stand up for the civil rights of everyone!
It is time for courageous Catholics and others to stand up and fight for the rights and freedom for ALL citizens to enter into a civil contract regardless of their sexual orientation. Our religious belief regarding homosexual acts should not interfere with our religious belief of justice, dignity of human life and Free Will of every individual.
From: Guest Post: Another Catholic Voting No
Another important topic was the protracted process of approving state funding for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium. Our most-read post from that debate tossed the yellow flag in the direction of a half-baked, last-minute funding plan by the legislative Republican leadership.
The press conference where the outlines of this new proposal were sketched out was not confidence-inspiring, either. At times, the legislators contradicted themselves, and to say the details of what could or could not be counted as “infrastructure” as part of the deal were fuzzy would be an understatement. Team officials have been working for a decade to get a new stadium, and it’s only now — one day after legislative leaders State Sen. David Senjem and State Rep. Kurt Zellers said the session would be adjourned — that the “silver bullet” legislation comes out of the woodwork?
Zellers, in particular, continues to be a profile in political timidity on the stadium issue. After saying that he would let the legislative process play out and demanding that DFLers deliver one-half of the required votes — 34 votes — in the House, he’s gone back on his word. The bill moved through House committees as Zellers demanded, and Minority Leader State Rep. Paul Thissen indicated he had the required 34 votes in his caucus for the bill, meaning that Zellers only needed to provide 34 of his party’s 72 members to get the bill passed. Yet, he won’t move the bill to the floor.
From: Killing it softly: Republicans and the Vikings stadium
Finally, another of our most popular posts of the year touched on the intersection of popular culture and politics.
The constant theme of the Nolan Batman trilogy, in fact, is about how all people need to act nobly, look beyond themselves, and take their society back. Wayne has an unfailing belief in the people of Gotham City and Batman is a symbol meant to inspire Gothamites to do the right thing.
In Batman Begins, Wayne as Batman — along with policeman James Gordon and assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes — challenge the corrupt Gotham City establishment. In The Dark Knight, Wayne/Batman hopes that newly elected District Attorney Harvey Dent can be the symbol that helps push Gotham into a new era, by putting honest and worthy people into the existing social structures and positions of power. We also see in TDK that the two boatloads of Gotham citizens don’t succumb to their fear and blow each other up as the Joker intended. Finally, in TDKR, we see this notion brought forward again as the entire GCPD — once racked by corruption — comes together to try and stop Bane. Multiple characters, most notably Selina Kyle and Deputy Police Commissioner Foley, turn away from their narrow self-interest and instead fight for all of Gotham.
From: The politics of The Dark Knight Rises: more complex and less ideological than you might think
Thanks to all of my readers, and the growing cadre of regular commentators who have made this a lively little corner of the internet. I look forward to continuing the work here in 2013 and beyond!