Last week I had some questions I wanted to ask Auckland mayoral candidate Wayne Brown. Today, my questions are for members of the business community and others who support him.
Do you want the infrastructure pipeline to close?
When Labour came to power in 2017, the infrastructure industry had one overarching demand: That a reliable pipeline of major projects be maintained. That pipeline has been established.
But Brown says no new construction projects should begin until the existing ones are finished. That's probably 10 years away, so this policy will sever the pipeline.
At a mayoral forum organised by the Auckland Ratepayers Alliance last week, I asked him about this. He said he meant only the major projects.
It still makes no sense. Why stop the process?
If the pipeline closes, expertise will be lost overseas, financing mechanisms will fall apart and industries like pipe manufacturing will struggle to survive. And the infrastructure deficit we're trying to overcome now will grow larger again, loading a new crisis on to whoever's in charge when Brown has gone.
And you know what else? Congestion on the roads will get worse.
Wayne Brown's entire campaign is based on the idea that he knows how to "fix" Auckland. But with this policy he will make worse the very thing he wants to fix.
It's his own industry. How much does he know about it?
The infrastructure groups, the Business Chamber and Business NZ, among others, should have called out this nonsense months ago.
Anyone worried about governance rules?
Why haven't the Ratepayers Association and its partner organisation the Taxpayers' Union criticised Brown for sometimes combining his personal and public roles when he was mayor of the Far North?
In 2012 the Auditor-General called him "unwise" for episodes when he used his official status to manage his own financial interests.
But just a year later, he was in trouble again. The council objected when he attended a mining conference in Canada, using his mayoral credit card to pay some of his expenses. Brown was a shareholder in Tai Tokerau Minerals.
As the Northern Advocate reported at the time, the council had voted against funding the trip. Among other things, they discovered Brown had a mayoral business card that gave his private contact details instead of his council contacts.
Brown repaid the money but has never said he did anything wrong.
What will happen when he sacks all the boards?
Brown said last week that he would "quickly replace all the members of all the boards" of the council-controlled organisations.
Perhaps "quickly" is just hyperbole. Replacing board members can be done, as present mayor Phil Goff demonstrated last year when he moved carefully but decisively to replace the Ports of Auckland chair.
But there's no quick way to do it without triggering expensive legal action, risking the work programmes of the organisations grinding to a halt and undermining the confidence of everyone who remains. Executives will leave too – especially the good ones.
And what calibre of people will put their names forward in a chaotic environment like that?
What about the staff?
When former colleagues and staff of Brown's say he reduced them to tears, why don't business leaders speak up to say that's not okay?
Who's going to tell him we need the CRL?
National's transport spokesman, Simeon Brown, was on TVNZ's Q&A on Sunday, straight after the mayoral candidates, saying the City Rail Link "is going to make a huge difference to our city".
He gets it. He's also "keen to see a start" on other transit projects like the proposed busway from Botany to the airport.
But Wayne Brown says he isn't sure of the value of the CRL and his plan to stop all new projects would include the Botany busway.
When Simeon Brown is being as clear as that, Wayne Brown's failure to understand the importance of transit projects makes him a complete outlier.
Who's going to tell him about Covid?
Asked on Sunday if he accepts the Covid-19 pandemic has caused delays on the CRL build, he said that was a "bit lame" because other projects "seem to have managed fine". What business leader would say that? It suggests he hasn't been actively engaged in the economy in the past three years.
Has Wayne Brown retired?
Brown hasn't held public office since 2013, when he lost heavily in his bid for re-election as mayor of the Far North.
He's 76 now, and not a sprightly 76, either. Asked about transport strategy in that Q&A interview, he complained about trees sometimes making it hard to see street signs.
Instead of strategy, he keeps talking about putting GPS transponders on buses, so they trigger traffic lights to turn green and let the buses through.
But he seems to have done no homework on the idea. He doesn't know what it will cost, how it fits with the signal-monitoring tech AT runs at Smales Farm in Takapuna or if it's already part of AT's new-tech workstreams.
And he hasn't grasped that transponders will only work well if buses have priority lanes, so they don't get trapped behind cars. He doesn't really seem to know much about his own idea.
What about everything else?
I haven't traversed most of the issues I raised last week, but they should also be of concern to business. There's Brown's apparent lack of respect for business confidentiality, his lack of any plan or big idea for the city, his alienating approach to Government ministers and his curious habit of telling us "it's all about the numbers" and then making mistakes with them.
What would happen to Brown in business today?
If you were running a large company and you had an executive on your team who was always complaining but didn't seem to understand what he was complaining about, who upset staff and angered business partners with his aggressive behaviour, who had a loose grasp of company rules and wanted to stop projects the company was committed to, what would you do with him?
Move him up, or ease him out?
One last question: Why not Efeso Collins?
What exactly is the problem with Efeso Collins? He's Pasifika in the world's largest Polynesian city and the second most ethnically diverse city in the world, and he offers generational change.
There might be a good reason not to vote for someone like that, but what is it?
Collins has been in civic leadership roles since he was at university. As a councillor and local board chair he's had nine years' experience of how council works, including the budgets, the power plays of officials and the relationship with CCOs.
He's not an operations manager. His strength is outward facing: He's an orator who knows how to articulate a vision for the city and he stands up for what he believes is right, often when it's not the easy thing to do.
He knows the council, especially Auckland Transport, isn't delivering well enough and he has proposals for dealing with that. He knows, like most business leaders know, that climate action has to frame the city's programmes.
He's been on a "journey", as he says, from socially conservative church beliefs to a broadly welcoming inclusiveness and he's worked hard to bring his communities with him.
He's a conciliator, one of a very small number of councillors who has built a good relationship with all his peers, including the Goff antagonists and leading National Party figures like finance committee chair Desley Simpson.
He knows how to sit round a table and talk things through to a good end. Now he says he wants to apply those skills and that experience to the city.
He's not perfect, but he shouldn't have to be. He is, in Wayne Brown's words, "a nice guy", but that shouldn't be faint praise. It should be an invaluable leadership skill.
Would he make a good mayor? We don't know. But he could make us proud of ourselves.