Time to boot the Council says critic
A Hamilton-based technology entrepreneur and council critic has confirmed plans to mobilise voters to cull city council politicians he says have failed to show they can adequately guide the city's economic fortunes.
Ray Stark - who last year publicly attacked the council with billboards demanding accountability for its V8s losses - will bankroll the campaign and commit his companies' sophisticated phone poll technology to the cause.
The party will not endorse or support candidates and as a result will not be subject to electoral campaign finance laws.
But his plans have already raised the ire of one city councillor who says wealth should not be wielded to influence local election results.
Veteran councillor Dave Macpherson suggested Mr Stark would quickly draw the attention of election officials.
"All he has to do is mention a candidate and he'll be running across the law," Mr Macpherson said.
"We know he has those right wing links with Garry Mallett, who intends to stand for council, and it's going to be hard for him to make a distinction between himself and Mr Mallett when it comes to the campaign period.
"I don't think Hamilton is interested in backing money and he's someone who thinks money talks."
Behind the scenes he has allied himself with firebrand former city councillor, Wel Energy Trust chairman and ACT national president Garry Mallett.
The pair stood on the right-leaning City Vision ticket in 1998, with Mr Stark's then-fledgling company's phone polling technology credited by some pundits for the successful campaigns of four of its candidates, including Mr Mallett.
"We're certainly hoping to have some influence," said Mr Mallett, who said he had not ruled out standing again, independently, as a candidate in October.
"I have thought about it, and sometimes I'm really keen and other times I've had a gutsful, hot and cold. I've considered it but haven't made a decision."
Mr Stark told the Times that he had no intention of standing, and nor would his independent campaign field or endorse election candidates.
He said he was spending "some significant money" because he wanted to test how much influence a concerted campaign could have on the city's elections.
"I've got to be responsible financially, I can't be reckless about the money, and I'm definitely going to be putting the money where it works best. But I don't have to account for it, that's a good thing about being outside," he said.
While coy about the exact budget, his armoury includes the technological capability to simultaneously cold-call every registered voter in the city.
"We can call people by their first name, we know their details, we can do all that. I can call every registered voter inside one minute. It's pretty cool stuff, most people won't even realise they've been talking to a computer," he said.
Billboard space has been booked from March through to the October poll.
"I think what I'm doing from the outside is more effective than being on the inside. I'm not going to stand. A lot of people get into council thinking that they're about to change the world, and they become useless," said Mr Stark.
"I'm not going to get everything I want. But the issue fundamentally is council thinks the ratepayer is an ATM machine. This council think they can just put up rates, they've been doing it for years, and they haven't changed," he said.
"The ones that have had a good shot at it, and messed it up, need to go.
"Unless you get rid of people that have been on the council for a long time, you're never going to get anywhere. The best thing that could happen would be if they didn't stand, and allowed the city council to refresh itself," he said.
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