Tara Calishain is the co-author of Official Netscape Guide to Internet Research, 2nd Edition, and author or co-author of four other books. She is the owner of CopperSky Writing & Research.
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Hello again! It’s time for week two of the state capitals tour! Fly with me now as we go from Georgia to Massachusetts.
GA — Georgia — Atlanta
This site looks a wee bit odd in Opera 6.x, but looks perfect in IE, including the scrolling news items on the right (new yard trimming policy! Turnaround plan!)
There’s more to this first page than is immediately apparent to the eye. A drop-down menu at the bottom right of the screen gives you access to a variety of departments from the Mayor’s Office to the Water Office. A couple of the menu
items across the top part of the page — resident services and business services — have subcategories that you can see when you pass your mouse over them.
I recommend you check out the “How Do I” menu item, which fills you in on doing everything from reporting a housing code violation to getting frequently-asked questions from the department of water. On the left side of the front page, you’ve got several more options, including checking news releases and getting information on the Dirty Dozen (“blighted” buildings slated for rehabilitation). You can also report pot holes, pay traffic tickets, or download one of a couple-dozen forms.
HI — Hawaii — Honolulu
So I figured, if Alaska has a Web cam, surely Hawaii has a cam? And they did, but it wasn’t on the front page. In fact they have live cams with streaming video showing a couple of beaches. I didn’t watch for long lest I become incredibly depressed at the weather outside my own window.
The front page of Honolulu is rather spare, containing only one menu on the left that includes Kama’aina (local information and services), information for kids, and information for visitors. Hold your mouse over the menu items to get more information about them in the center of the screen.
All the sub-pages are nicely done. The visitor’s information page provides a subject index about what to see (that’s where I found the links to the Web cams.) The City Government and Kama’aina also provide subject indexes, as
does the business page. The Online Services page isn’t huge but you can pay your traffic tickets, submit your Vehicle Registration Renewal, or fill out one of many forms at the online city hall.
IA — Iowa — Des Moines
Ah, back to the headlines on the right side of the page. But Iowa’s a little different. In addition to headlines, you’ll also find hot topics (including links to pay parking tickets and property taxes) as well as a city meeting calendar and
archived video from previous city council meetings.
If you check out the menu on the left side of the page you’ll find several popup menus, including one for residents, one for visitors, and one for business. Though they’re not annotated they’re handy pages of resources.
Also check out the links at the top of the page. The forms center provides information on both interactive and PDF forms. The mapping center has several different maps, including city zip codes, neighborhoods, and street maps.
And the transaction center lets you pay your parking tickets and property tax online, among other things. Nicely done!.
ID — Idaho — Boise
I wanted to cover Boise, I really did, but I couldn’t access the page! Any Idahoans out there? Am I using the wrong URL? Help help! (Editor’s Note: No luck on my end either!)
IL — Illinois — Springfield
That’s a very pretty capital in the background but unfortunately it makes the page text a bit hard to read. I think I’ll turn off the style sheet and see if that helps. Ah, much better! Unfortunately the picture of Lincoln disappeared too and now the menu items are oddly-spaced. But I can read the page and that’s important.
The middle part of the page includes a variety of headlines, including the dedication of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, the City of Springfield’s 2002 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, and changing of the city’s ten wards. To get more into the site, you need to check the menu items on
the left. Menu items include Elected Officials (pictures and links for city officials — page title, please!) The “Action Center” takes you to a framed page with information and forms for several different online departments.
The Employment button lists available job (with application forms) while the city departments lists phone numbers and links for many different city departments, while “What To Do” has a community calendar and schedule of events. I found this site to have a lot of information, but it wasn’t friendly to my copy of Opera 6.x .
IN — Indiana — Indianapolis
You gotta love a city site that headlines with “Mayor to take job as food vendor at Sunday’s sold-out Colts’ game.” News is in the middle of the page. Features are on the left of the page and include a Media Violence Resource Center,
the 2002 Election Results and a collection of available e-newsletters.
While these are interesting they’re not what you’d usually expect from a city site. Those kinds of links are available from the bottom middle of the page. The eGov link is excellent and offers access to many online services, including online surveys, online traffic ticket payment, online tax payments, and volunteer opportunities.
The Community Center will take your address and tell you who your elected officials are, as well as give information about city council meetings. The Business section gives information about city permits and purchasing, as well as RFQs. The Visitors page is more external links than direct information, but the Kids page has some nice information (e-mail the mayor!) Cleanly designed and nicely done.
KS — Kansas — Topeka
Topeka. What a great simple Web page — two columns of information, no waiting. The right side has only four items, while the left has a more traditional menu.
The four items on the right are Business & Community Information (a link list from animal control to weather), City Government Information (another link list, from Accounting / Finance to Zoning, only Zoning is not hyperlinked. The last linked item is “Streets / Water / Sewer / Refuse.”), Fun Stuff (events and sites to see, looks a bit like a visitors information site), and Talk to Us, which offers a city department phonebook in PDF format. There are some unexpected items here — if you’re a citizen of Topeka you can request a mayoral proclamation via the Web site.
Over on the left you’ll find more focused items, including a search links, an updates section (for, among other things, homeland security, street closings, current projects, and employment) a resources section (including emergency phone numbers – nice idea – city council meetings and agenda, maps, and recent ordinances) and a link to local weather forecast.
KY — Kentucky — Frankfort
This is one of the sparest front pages I’ve seen so far, but what a beautiful couple of photographs on the front page. I always thought Kentucky was a pretty state.
There are only four links on the left menu, which are repeated at the top part of subsequent pages. An interesting way to do a menu but it seems to work, I think mostly because there are only four links.
The City Government page starts with a message from the Mayor and contains city contacts, meeting minutes (2002) and meeting agenda (there’s also a 2003 city meeting calendar.) There’s a place for FAQs and city ordinances, but they’re not online yet. The City Services page includes several mouseover menus and includes forms, police and emergency services, employment, and planning and building codes. The Community page offers a very brief link list, a city map (PDF), and a PDF of important phone numbers (it says it’s for new citizens but it really looks like anybody could get use out of it.) And of course, the Home link goes back to the home page.
LA — Louisiana — Baton Rouge
This site was hardly readable in Opera 6.x, but looks okay in Internet Explorer. I normally don’t think of public ice skating when I think of Louisiana, but it’s listed under the public news items on the right of the screen, along with
other tidbits including firefighting jobs and a link to the Baton Rouge Coroner.
On the left side of the page are two dropdown menus and a services menu. The first dropdown menu provides information and links from Adjudicated Properties to the The Baton Rouge Workforce Investment Board. The second menu, departments, offers links from the airport to traffic engineering.
The menus underneath the dropdown menu provides a grab bag of links, including traffic bulletins, the library, employment, and a brief list of Baton Rouge links.
MA — Massachusetts — Boston
Congratulations, Boston! On your front page are two colors I can’t describe. They look very nice together, I just don’t know what they’re called. I’ll call them purplish-blue and kind-of-mustardy-but-better-than-that-sounds.
The right side of the page has featured items. Ice skating in Boston I can relate to. Boston has its own store! You can also check out the event listings for the 2002 holiday season. On the left side of the page are three tiny, almost unnoticeable links; information for residences, visitors, and businesses.
Across the top of the page is another menu. The mayor page provides a lot of information about the city’s mayor, including speeches, biography, and press releases. The city council page has minutes for the 2002 meetings and other
city council information. The calendar is the most extensive one I’ve seen this far and provides information on events through June 2003! The e-services page is listed by transaction type and includes health inspection information, a search of historic headstones, and a form for reporting graffiti problems. Finally, the contact page provides information on contacting many departments and people in Boston’s government. Well done, Boston, even if I can’t decide what those colors are.