I’ve been speaking with several of the candidates that would be Dunedin City Mayor as part of my #BHNDunedin series looking at issues in an around Dunedin for people living in Dunedin.
I wanted to do this so people could see the candidates in a long form and conversational setting and get to not just the issues of the day, but to speak to the candidates to learn more about them as people. I also wanted to speak with them selfishly as I wanted to know who to vote for. So as a ratepayer and voter I was using the conversations as a way to inform myself about these candidates.
The weekend just gone I got the chance to spend 90 minutes with Lee Vandervis.
Personally I make my voting decisions both on what policies a would be Mayor supports, but also on who they are as people, how that would run a team, how they would lead a group of councillors and how they would handle situations in the future that we currently don’t know about.
I don’t have a decision on who I am going to vote for, but I do know who I am not going to vote for and that’s Lee Vandervis.
It’s not based on why he is against three waters, it’s not based on his weird and fringe views on COVID, it’s not based on the accusations in the media of his bullying, or the numerous complaints made about him by his colleagues, or his behaviour in general that even the councillors who “regularly agreed with” him state is inappropriate. It’s not about him chucking his toys and whinging when things don’t go his way whether it’s complaining to Nania Mahuta about losing the Mayoralty in 2019, complaining about the ODT to the Media Council about a photo they use of him or complaining that a local journalist was a “lying fiction-writing creep”…although this repeated behaviour does speak to his character.
It’s because, in my opinion, he’s an arsehole.
From my short experience with Lee Vandervis, what I saw was a man who constantly blamed everyone else for his own shortcomings. He projects a lot, as demonstrated when he was suggested that the “the first defence of a bully is to claim that other people are bullying” straight after claiming other people were bullying. He demonstrates the classic ‘pseudo tough guy’ persona that when challenged, or coming up against someone they can’t bully or intimidate then goes into victim mode where the world is against them and everyone is out to get them. (You might get to see that should Lee ever see this post…freedom of speech Lee, the democratic process 😉 )
The kids have a term for this today, it’s called being “butthurt” society has a name for it as well, being a “Karen”. There is no question in my mind that Lee Vandervis demonstrates the entitled and demanding attributes and the ‘let me speak to the manager’ style that many in society today associate with the ‘Karen’ personality.
And the only thing worse than a ‘Karen…is an ‘Arsehole Karen’
Arseholes sometimes can be very effective in what they do. I’m thinking of a stock broker whose sole purpose it to make money for a client, who doesn’t work in a team, whose “I don’t give a fuck about your feelings” attitude might serve him or her well on the stock floor…but as a team leader, which is effectively what the Mayor is, this is the worst kind of person to get an effective outcome, an outcome to serve the people who put you in that position.
We’ve all had arsehole bosses or team leaders before, they don’t get the best out of their colleagues or staff and usually come up against opposition and pushback as they tend to be unreasonable and demanding.
As a voter, a ratepayer and resident of Dunedin I want my council to be as effective as possible. Lee Vandervis as Mayor, in my opinion, would make the Council Chamber an unworkable place to be which in turn would be terrible for Dunedin.
Vandervis thinks that bullying is an active part of the democratic process when he told me that the process of getting policy through required a “great amount of bullying to make sure there’s enough voters there in the council to rubber stamp it” and that “teamwork in politics is a myth”. Vandervis portrays a style of leadership that would seem to be rule-with-an-iron-fist a style to be well known for its ineffectiveness.
Vandervis also thinks of the people who find his style to be problematic that “they are hypersensitive, they are woke, and they shouldn’t be in the kitchen if they can’t stand the heat of politics” because “to get cut thought you need to be able to put things in a forceful and provocative way”
He’s actively acknowledging he’s an arsehole, who could care less about how his behaviour effects the people around him, the people that he would need to be able to lead would he be Mayor.
As a media commentator should Lee Vandervis be elected Mayor it would make for a fantastic news cycle as he would turn the DCC into a farcical, authoritarian, disfunctional space where nothing would ever get done, and if you already think nothing ever gets done…think “worse than it is now”…however for Dunedin, it would be terrible and make the city overall worse, not better.
I know Lee has a constituency in Dunedin, he will get onto Council, he may well win the Mayoralty…but I would also implore those people who are thinking about voting for him to actively think about how that style of leadership would help the city. I know you might be frustrated with how things are now, but spend some time critically analysing how the DCC could best operate and consider your vote wisely thinking that the Mayor needs to also be able to work with 13 other Councillors and if he or she cannot, how would that be good for the city.
Maya Angelou once famously said “when people tell you who they are, believe them the first time” and Lee Vandervis told me who he was in our 90 minute conversation…and I believe him.