Tag Archives: Leanne Kunze

More Than Just Ernie: The Best of Brick City Blog in 2012

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):

  1. Considering the decrease in aid from the State, what are your priorities for Carver County?
  2. Carver has been a rural county.  How do we maintain the rural/urban balance?
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. Are you in favor of keeping the Public Health, Land, and Water Services Department in Chaska or moving them outside of Chaska and why?
  6. 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!

Guest Post: Another Catholic Voting No

by Leanne Pouliot Kunze

I am a faithful Catholic.  I graduated from a Catholic high school and a Catholic college.   I have served on the school board of St. Joseph Catholic School and I am an active parishioner at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Waconia.

I believe my sacramental marriage is so much more than civil marriage, but both are called “marriage.” To me, the sacrament of Holy Matrimony is much more than civic marriage, so let’s keep our focus on our sacramental bond and leave the civic definition alone.

Our faith teaches us to form a conscience based in morality. Our faith teaches us to fight for dignity of all human life, regardless of sin.  We are all sinners in God’s eyes.  I am not confused or duped by those who oppose this dangerous constitutional amendment, as suggested by my priest’s recent homily.

I am disappointed that our Mother Church has entered the fray that interferes with the religious freedom of others.  It has been extremely disheartening to see Archbishop Nienstedt abuse his position of authority within our Church to pedal influence on a civil matter that impacts the constitutional rights of all citizens.  Ask yourself what precedent this would set. What if a Mormon or Islamic belief were being proposed for adoption into our civic constitution? What about other Christian churches who recognize and support same-sex couples? Our religious freedom is only protected if we also allow the religious freedom of others.

Our state Constitution is a civic document that is intended to protect rights and should never be used to deny liberty, freedom or equality to another based on a religious belief.   Our country is based on liberty, justice and freedom for all human beings.  Dignity, respect, equality, justice, liberty and freedom are indeed human rights!

It’s amazing to envision a society that values all of its people, a true Christian value. The old saying, ‘What Would Jesus Do’ is so simple, yet such a powerful reminder of our humanity and constant struggle to choose Jesus’s message of love, forgiveness and selfless service to others. He doesn’t call us to play God and judge others.  In my experience investigating child abuse and neglect, and working with families to provide safety and stability to children, I have met loving same-sex couples who took in and raised children and I’ve seen these children flourish. I have also been discouraged by so many households of married moms and dads who do not show love, commitment, dignity and respect for each other, let alone their children. It’s not the definition of marriage that needs fixing or protecting; it’s our thoughts and our actions that need fixing!

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.

We are not God. We are all God’s children. We are all called to show His great love in all we do. We must meet people where they are at in their spiritual life. The best way to “protect marriage and family” is to live it in our own actions, not by denying others the right to civil marriage.   Please join me in courageously voting NO!

May God bless ALL families!

Leanne Pouliot Kunze is a Waconia resident and a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church.  In 2010, she was the DFL-endorsed candidate for State House in District 34A.  Follow her on Twitter at @LeActionMN.

Election Recap

I know it’s nearly a week late, but some family medical issues have kept me from posting over recent days. 

Let’s review the results of the election:

State Senate District 34:  Julianne Ortman (63.5%) defeats Laura Helmer (30.3%) and Tim Biros (6.2%)

State House District 34A:  Ernie Leidiger (65.1%) defeats Leanne Pouliot Kunze (34.9%)

The DFL candidates were facing a stiff tide.  Helmer and Kunze ran probably the best races the DFL has put up in this area in a while, but achieved similar results to previous cycles.

Chaska Mayor:  Mark Windschitl (96.0%) unopposed

Hopefully, we’ll have a race in 2012.  Contested elections are a good thing.

Chaska City Council Ward 1:  Scott Millard (57.9%) defeats Gino Businaro (41.6%)

For the first time since 2002, a Chaska City Council incumbent goes down to defeat.  Interesting that Businaro is the one to pay for the Council’s perceived unwillingness to listen to the people, as Businaro has been the closest thing to a “voice of dissent” on the current Council.   It will be interesting to see what Millard brings to the Council, as his candidate forum appearance gave little insight.

Chaska City Council Ward 3:  Chris Schulz (71.7%) defeats Charles Stech (27.9%)

Stech seemed to have ideas, but for some reason got very little traction in his campaign.  Schulz has grown quite a bit in the last year.  He was confident and in command at the candidate forum.  It will be interesting to see if that command carries over the council meetings over the next term.

Carver County Commissioner District 3:  Randy Maluchnik (52.7%) defeats Jay Swenson (47.1%)

A close race that came down to the last precinct.    Strong performance by Swenson in Victoria was not enough to overcome Maluchnik’s advantages in the Chaska portion of the district.

34A House race named “one to watch”

MN Progressive Project has named the State House District 34A race as “one to watch” tonight.

Brick City Blog Endorsements

State House District 34A:  Leanne Pouliot Kunze

Frequent readers of this blog know that I’m a big fan of Leanne’s.  The two posts linked below give you key reasons to understand why I am so enthusiastic about her campaign for the State House.

I’m Voting for Leanne Pouliot Kunze

Do You Know Leanne Pouliot Kunze?

State Senate District 34:  Laura Helmer

Laura Helmer would be a terrific addition to the State Senate.  A moderate, pro-business Democrat, Helmer intends to start a bi-partisan small business caucus in the Senate — putting actions to her words.  The election of Helmer (and Kunze) would give this area responsible, solutions-focused representation in the Legisalture — a welcome change from the partisan games we’ve seen from Julianne Ortman.

Carver County Commissioner District 3:  Randy Maluchnik

There are certainly some valid critiques one could make of the current incumbents on the Carver County Board.  The septic system situation at the Waconia Ballroom has certainly been handled poorly.  Depending on which property tax metrics you use, you could make the argument that Carver County is somewhat overtaxed.

That said, Jay Swenson (and the challengers in the other districts) have been light on specific changes they would make.  It’s easy to point out things that may have gone wrong in the past, but it’s far more difficult to indicate specifically how you would accomplish what you say you’re going to do.

Randy Maluchnik has been a solid Commissioner.  He has good relations across the County.  He (and the rest of the board) have seemed to get the message on keeping a closer eye on the tax levy, as the county has reduced the levy for 2011.  Importantly, Maluchnik has also rejected the call to make the board a partisan body.  We don’t need partisan politics infecting our county and local affairs.  He deserves re-election.

Chaska City Council:  No Endorsements

As I don’t live in Ward 1 or Ward 3, I’m not going to give a formal endorsement.  However, a few thoughts on the races here.  As I noted about a month ago, the challengers in these races have the burden of proof.  There are decisions made and actions taken by this Council that could provide a platform for making such a case.  Based on what I’ve seen, though, the challengers have not made their case (and granted, not living in the Wards in question, I may not be aware of all the campaign activity). 

I’m particularly hopeful that Gino Businaro will push for increased financial discipline on the city’s part should he be re-elected next week.  His “no” vote on the city budget last year was appropriate, and he should not be afraid to vote “no” again.

Money matters revisited

A few months ago, I looked at the campaign finance reports filed by the candidates for State Senate District 34 and State House District 34A.  The last pre-election reports are now in — let’s check out how things have changed.

State Senate District 34:  Incumbent Republican State Senator Julianne Ortman has raised $22,823, while DFL challenger Laura Helmer has raised $16,896.  Ortman received a larger state campaign finance subsidy — $13,603 versus $11,026 for Helmer.  As of October 25, however, the two are essentially equal in cash on hand.  Helmer has a slight advantage here, with $10,883 to Ortman’s $10,663.

State House District 34A:  The battle for this open seat continues to be tightly contested on all fronts.  DFL-endorsed Leanne Pouliot Kunze has raised $12,320, while Republican-endorsed Ernie Leidiger has raised $12,901 (which includes a $3,000 loan from Leidiger to his campaign).  Kunze maintains a signficant cash on hand advantage, with $5,935 versus Leidiger’s $1,306.

In summary, both races continue to be more competitive than in past cycles.  In particular, Kunze is on equal footing in her race, which stands in stark contrast to the 2:1 financial advantage Republicans have traditionally held in the district.

I’m voting for Leanne Pouliot Kunze

We’re about two weeks before Election Day, and it’s time to review the critical local races on the ballot.

The race for State Representative in District 34A has been one I’ve spent a lot of time with this past year.  It’s really a critical race, and unlike most cycles, it figures to be a truly competitive race.

I’m voting for Leanne Pouliot Kunze.  Let me tell you why.

Leanne is an exceptional candidate.  She has lived in this area for her entire life.  She has raised her family here.  She knows the needs of our community inside and out.  She is a moderate, responsible voice who will bring fair-minded people together to find solutions.

Continue reading

Let’s get off the sidelines, 34A

For the last eight years, State House District 34A has been represented by Republican Rep. Paul Kohls.  Since Republicans went into the minority in the State House in 2007, Kohls has precisely zero significant legislative accomplishments. 

Kohls chose to grind the partisan ax and engage in pointless antics designed to position himself for his short-lived campaign for governor.  Continue reading

Do you know Leanne Pouliot Kunze?

Frank Long is the chair of the Carver County Republican Party.  I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting him, but I can tell you two things I already know about him.  First, he’s a highly partisan guy.  Second, he doesn’t know Leanne Pouliot Kunze.

Continue reading

Money matters in the House District 34A race

DFL-endorsed candidate Leanne Kunze reported strong fundraising results through July 19, with a total of $5,456 raised.  Kunze’s cash-on-hand was a solid $3,173.14. 

Both figures represent significant improvements in fundraising over previous DFL challengers in the district, and show that Kunze is doing a better job of fundraising than other non-incumbent DFL House candidates in the area. 

Ernie Leidiger, the Republican-endorsed candidate has not yet filed his report with the State Campaign Finance Board.  Per statute, Leidiger is incurring fines of $50 per day for each day late (the report was due on July 26).

As with the State Senate race, the DFL candidate is placing themselves in position to be very competitive in November.  With 34A being an open seat, and Kunze’s long background in the area (compared to Leidiger’s relatively recent move into the area from California), this figures to be a hard-fought race to the end.

[UPDATE]:  Leidiger has filed his campaign report.  He reported raising $7,158 — which includes $2,000 in loans and $1,100 in cash contributions directly from the candidate.  Leidiger reproted a cash on hand position of $3,640.60 with unpaid bills of over $3,800.   After the filing period, Leidiger lent his campaign an additional $1,000.

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