Campaign targets city bosses

21:02, May 07 2012
CONTROVERSY: One of Ray Stark's billboards, which, along with a website slamming city leaders, has infuriated some local body politicians.
CONTROVERSY: One of Ray Stark's billboards, which, along with a website slamming city leaders, has infuriated some local body politicians.

A Hamilton businessman is bankrolling a campaign to bring down the city council.

Ray Stark, executive chairman and sole shareholder of interactive messaging company Talkingtech, which has operations in London, New York, Los Angeles and around the world, has confirmed he is "Concerned Citizen".

And the appearance of his billboards and a website slamming city leaders and their senior staff has infuriated some local body politicians.

Mr Stark says he is not interested in standing for office, but the campaign is a way to air his own views.

He intends to expand his campaign to other cities in which he has interests.

City councillors were yesterday venting their fury over his efforts. Early yesterday, Dave Macpherson dismissed the campaign as "nameless, faceless cowards with heaps of cash".

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In his blog yesterday, he said the campaign organisers lacked the guts to stand up for their views. Mayor Julie Hardaker said she had been aware of the website since the weekend.

"If you have a view you should front up and share it with people. That's democracy, but it's important people have all the different sides of their story."

Mr Macpherson challenged those behind the campaign to "have the courage of your convictions; come clean, 'fess up – be prepared to debate the issues with me and others in public."

Mr Stark said he never expected to remain anonymous indefinitely, and although a successful businessman he was not rich.

"I don't even know what that means."

He said he did not even know how much he had spent on the campaign.

"There's a number of people who share my views, but I instigated this on my own.

"I'm not interested in a political gain," he told the Waikato Times last night. "I'm just an individual who is doing something I want to do. I'm not sure where this is going to lead but it's time for me to put my thoughts together, and that's what I'm doing.

"This nation has serious problems. I brought my children up in this city, and frankly, I can't let things lie any more. If we keep continually spending money we don't have, my grandchildren will be the ones picking up the pieces, if they can."

Mr Stark's Talkingtech Foundation has built schools in India and Uganda, and a library in Mozambique. He was associated with the City Vision group during the 1998 council elections, on a platform of business growth, family amenities and reduced debt.

"If you look at the things that have happened in the last nine months, if [councillors] have any moral backbone, they should resign. That's frankly it," Mr Stark said. "I don't think what I'm doing is unusual; I'm just speaking my mind. If this can get like-minded people to stand up and be counted, this council needs to be challenged."

The website's content describes it as a forum for the citizens of Hamilton to gain information and express views. It claims to not be aligned to any political party, but its stance is critical of the city council's rates increases, debt levels, and Maori seats.

Among its features are a poll asking the public which of the city's 13 elected members "should go" for their part in the ill-fated hosting of the V8 street races.

Waikato