I think the soul of West St. Paul is on the ballot in the ward 3 city council election. I’ve written extensively about the inappropriate behavior of candidate David Meisinger. As if that isn’t disqualifying on its own, in the rare public comments he’s made during the campaign, he’s outright lied and distorted facts.
Meisinger tries to present himself as the experienced, professional leader. But his behavior and his own statements show the opposite.
As I’ve written before, Meisinger has bullied, intimidated, and shamed local residents:
- He bullied a woman in the City Pages comment section by calling her the c-word.
- His own account of an interaction with another woman at Cub Foods, as told to the Pioneer Press, is simple intimidation.
- He shamed a local family by posting pictures of their property to his Facebook page, calling them lazy and disrespectful and urging people to report them to the city.
This article should end right there. That should be enough to convince anyone not to vote for Meisinger. However, for whatever reason, some 450 people voted for Meisinger in the primary, enough to advance to the general election.
Fact Checking Meisinger
So if for some reason bullying behavior isn’t enough to dissuade people from voting for Meisinger, let’s look at his statements on the issues.
Property Tax Increases
During the Town Square TV candidate forum, Meisinger bragged about his efforts to keep taxes low, claiming he kept the city to a 3.5% levy increase during his last year as mayor. He also said last year the increase was 12% and this year almost 11%.
Here are the recent property tax levy increases with the mayor at the time of the increase noted:
- 2019: 9.96% (Halverson; proposed maximum, these usually come down)
- 2018: 10.9% (Halverson)
- 2017: 6.33% (Meisinger)
So he boasts only a 3.5% increase during his last year in office, when it was actually 6.33%. He also exaggerated both of the increases under Halverson (and one of them isn’t even final yet; that 6.33% in 2017 started as an 8.46% increase; they do come down).
Meisinger has kept tax increases lower than Halverson did, but not nearly at the rates he’s claiming.
The newly constructed Robert Street was supposed to bring in new business, and Meisinger claimed during the Town Square TV candidate forum that it hasn’t: “The new road didn’t attract any new businesses in the last 18 months.”
Later in the forum he defended cuts to the Robert Street project saying, “Obviously it didn’t ruin the project. We’re still attracting businesses here.”
So which is it? His overall message seems to be not enough economic development, so I guess we’ll stick with his first statement.
Based on info from the city, I count at least 17 new businesses on Robert Street, either open or planning to, since the end of major construction on Robert Street. And at least seven existing businesses on Robert Street that have chosen to remodel and reinvest here in West St. Paul.
Back in 2014, Meisinger claimed the mayor’s office by stoking discontent over the Robert Street project. But he didn’t offer another solution. When pushed to do so, he finally admitted, “I support the rebuild of Robert St less the center median and less the trees every 50 feet.”
So Meisinger’s plan to save money on Robert Street:
- Cut the trees.
- Cut the medians.
The medians were a requirement of an $8 million federal grant. The medians themselves cost about $1.8 million, so the medians actually saved West St. Paul $6.2 million.
When I asked the city for a ballpark cost on the trees, they said $550,000 (and that wasn’t just the trees, it was all plants, tree grates, soil, etc.—but good enough).
Meisinger’s plan would have saved $550,000 on trees (and lose all the economic benefits of trees) and saved $1.8 million on the medians, but that would have resulted in a net $5.65 increase for West St. Paul
During the same forum, Meisinger also tried to smear Mayor Halverson’s record, claiming that economic development has been hampered because the mayor missed so many Economic Development Authority (EDA) meetings.
Halverson missed three EDA meetings and/or work sessions during her term (Aug. 20, 2018 special EDA, Feb. 26, 2018 EDA & work session).
That’s the same number Meisinger missed during his most recent term as mayor (Feb. 8, 2016 EDA & work session, March 24, 2015 work session).
Speaking of missed meetings, Meisinger skipped out on both ward 3 forums and the Optimist’s Club forum—basically all the opportunities to take questions from the public in front of a crowd.
This is the response he gave for missing the Oct. 15 Women of West St. Paul Ward 3 forum:
“Please ensure to inform the crowd that you could not accommodate my schedule conflict nor that you could take me up on my invite to relocate the debate to my residence to make it happen on the scheduled date and time.”
Update (Oct. 23, 2018): Meisinger’s Response
The South West Review reported that Meisinger took issue with the statement as read at the forum:
“In order to accommodate the original scheduled debate date I offered to have it at my house. Since it was just being taped for Facebook, I presumed that it could be done anywhere outside City Hall, but that offer was declined. I did ask to have it rescheduled to a different date, but that was declined as well. Which I found interesting since the mayor candidate forum was rescheduled to accommodate Dave Napier’s conflict from the original schedule date.”
The South West Review notes that the mayoral forum was held by a different organization, the League of Women Voters Dakota County. That event was rescheduled because Town Square TV would not broadcast a forum with a single candidate. They rescheduled to ensure it would be televised. The WoW forum was not being broadcast by Town Square TV, and WoW has previously held a forum with only one candidate and didn’t reschedule.
No to Meisinger
Meisinger bullies, he lies, he distorts. Is this the kind of “professional, experienced leadership” we want for West St. Paul?
I can’t say this enough. This is not the kind of person who should ever serve in public office. Vote on November 6 (or early). Talk to your neighbors. Make sure people know who Meisinger really is. And vote for Wendy Berry.
The West St. Paul city website has details on where and how to vote.
For more answers from the Ward 3 candidates (by which I mean Berry), check out these Q&As and forums:
- Town Square TV forum
- Women of West St. Paul Ward 3 forum
- Optimists’ Club forum
- Robert Street debt
- Pride flags
- Medians and roundabouts
- Making better headlines
- Meisinger’s inappropriate behavior
- River-to-River Greenway trail
- And read that post about Meisinger’s behavior one more time
(Full disclosure: I have donated to the campaign of Wendy Berry.)