In This Issue:
The Latest on Legal Research
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.
December 30, 2002
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Greetings, sports fans! Today we travel from Maine’s capital to Nebraska’s with eight stops in between.
ME — Maine — Augusta
Yowch. Pretty colors, but teeny text on the menu icons — but never mind, I shall squint and persevere. There are three menus on this front page: the top and bottom of the screen and the left. The middle of the screen has a place
for announcements; right now the announcement is about Christmas rubbish pickup.
The top of the page provides information about employment and a Contact Us page that allows you to e-mail the site. The bottom of the page also links to the contact form, as well as a public documents page which provides information and public documents for many different departments (not all
the departments had documents available, but this is a nice idea and hopefully will populate over time.) The bottom of the page also links to archived City Council agendas and minutes, and an application to volunteer for various
departments. (Nice idea!)
The left side of the page contains most of the menu items. From there you can learn about the history of Augusta, get contact information for local government officials and copies of some government documents (budget, code of
ordinances, etc.) get a quick list of city departments, get several different city calendars including city meetings and library events, browse and download a collection of city forms, and e-mail the Webmaster.
** MD — Maryland — Annapolis
The first thing that you might notice about this page is the picture of mayor Ellen O. Moyer. Many mayoral pictures are solemn affairs, but Ms. Moyer has a big smile. She looks like a mayor — and I mean this in the nicest possible way – – who might yell “woo hoo!”
But there’s plenty of other things to see on this page; this is one of the busiest city sites I’ve visited so far. In the middle of the page are both announcements (leaf collection schedule!) and access to citizen services (both a drop-down
menu and a featured list (First Night information!) On the right side of the page are several different categories of information, including news from city hall (budgets, annual drinking water report, etc.) links to local media, and event
information. On the left site of the page are a selection of links in several categories, including the interestingly- named “Annapolis Means”, transportation information, and maps.
At the bottom of the page there’s a link to a site map, which I found a bit more useful than the front page (I like a lot of information on the front page, but there was just so much going on.) The site map quickly points you toward
citizen services, city departments, and visitor information. Woo-hoo!.
** MI — Michigan — Lansing
This might be the first site I’ve seen with a city slogan in English (“We’re Making It Happen”). And possibly the first one with the address and phone number of city hall on the front page.
Unlike many sites, city news is in the middle of the page and currently includes notes on the Mayor’s IT Initiative and Christmas Through the Years at Turner-Dodge. On the right side is a drop-down menu that includes topics of
interest (including online bike registration), and extremely teeny picture of the mayor, and a few graphic menu items including for press releases and the Art in Public Places Web site.
The left side of the page is Lansing-O-Rama. You can get information about doing business in Lansing and get information on a variety of sites around Lansing including the Michigan Library, MI Historical Center, and the Lansing
Lugnuts (they’re a ball team.) If you want city services, they’re on a menu across the top of the page. You’ll find another drop-down menu with city services, a search page, and links to departments including the mayor, employment, and city clerk. There’s also a pretty good, albeit brief, link list.
** MN — Minnesota — St. Paul
Often I complain that text size is not large enough on the sites I visit. St. Paul’s, however, is excellent. It’s hard to describe this site. It’s not particularly pretty but there seems to be a lot of useful stuff right up front.
You can calculate your estimated property taxes (with a comparison against the property taxes of 2002) get put on the snow emergency e-mail list, and get some city news. On the left side of the page, you can sign up to get e-mailed
updates on 160 St. Paul documents, as well as get a page of visitor information and links to employment sites.
Though the last new things were added in September, be sure to check out the What’s New page, as it’ll direct you to, among other things, a Housing Information for Consumers page, St. Paul’s Legislative and Administrative Codes, and a PDF chart showing organization of city government.
** MO — Missouri — Jefferson City
I know now a lot more about Jefferson City than I did before, as a history of the city is right there on the front page. Toward the bottom of the front page you can learn a lot about major changes and improvements to the city, including
R.t 179 improvements and business district improvements.
Connections to city services are on the left side of the page in vaguely alphabetical order. The ordinance database goes back to 1929, and the Council minutes records go back to October 1997. Unfortunately, at least one menu link — Business License — took me to a 404 error.
Toward the top of the page you’ll find links for employment, the police, the Jefferson City animal shelter, street closings, parks and recreation, purchasing department bid information, and a link to a city meeting calendar. Be sure
to pay attention to the right menus as you browse through the site, because they change depending on what you’re visiting. The animal shelter one is pretty extensive.
** MS — Mississippi — Jackson
My copy of Opera doesn’t have Java, so this front page was pretty bare. I could see a picture of Harvey Johnson Jr, and some menu items in a squinty font.
The top and the left side of the page have the same menus: visitors, services, business, city hall, city jobs, and news. There were submenus but they were so small I couldn’t read them. The visitor’s page shows a variety of different
places in the area, including ballet, libraries, and museums. City Hall had several different places for department contacts as well as information about “Action Line”, which takes citizen complaints.
The city jobs takes you to a list of recent job offerings while news has a variety of news and press releases, all in PDF format. I don’t know if it’s because I couldn’t see the Java, but it just didn’t seem like there was a lot going on
on this site. If you’re vision-impaired, you might have some trouble with this site — none of the nav images I saw were alt-tagged. Turn off images and look at the front page. Ouch.
** MT — Montana — Helena
As I was leaving the Jackson site to go to the Helena site, I left images turned off by accident, but it didn’t matter. Due to a judicious application of ALT tags, text menus, and lots of content on the front page, it was easy to tell what
was going on. Turning on the images just made it a little prettier.
This might be the lowest-graphic site I’ve viewed so far, with a PDF button, a graphic menu, and a city logo, and that’s it. The top of the page provides links that can only be described as diverse, including animal control, employment, landfill information, and “dial a ride”. The left side of the page provides more expected links, including city government, city attorney (hmm.. don’t see
that one often), public works, and a short link list. These menus had submenus that showed up on mouse-over, but they were difficult to read in Opera.
** NC — North Carolina — Raleigh
Ah, Raleigh, where Mayberry’s Andy Taylor and Barney Fife went to let their hair down. You wouldn’t know Raleigh was that wild by its Web site, but there’s a lot going on here.
Announcements are on the left side of the page in a big box, so you don’t miss anything. The most recent announcement is about the aftermath of the ice storm. There’s a search box and a few menu items on the left side of the page — What’s New, Jobs, Departments, Guestbook (essentially a feedback
form; you can’t read the comments that have been left) and a spot to pay parking tickets, but most of the menu items are in the right two columns.
In fact, most of the page is menu. Main categories (Arts, Entertainment & Parks, City Government, Citizen Information, etc.) are broken up by subcategories including business license information, city meetings calendar, minutes and agendas (in some cases archived back to 1997) and a neighborhood association registry. It’s nice to see so many links to information instantly available on the front page, but perhaps since there is so little actual content the titles in the “What’s New” box could be dated to make it easy to see if there’s new information at a glance.
** ND — North Dakota — Bismarck
Bismarck’s site is almost the opposite of Raleigh’s; instead of a menu, most of the right two-thirds of the screen is taken up by a graphic. The left side of the screen contains calendar announcements (dated) and news items (also dated.)
That’s not to say there aren’t menu elements here, however. A drop-down menu at the top of the screen provides a list of links from administration to public works, while to the right of that there’s another small menu. There you’ll find other links including one for city departments (the police department has a very active Web site, with weekly reports on crime in the area and tips for reducing crime.)
There’s also a calendar (not a calendar per se, but a listing of events with descriptions and contact information) job opportunities, and a brief but useful link list.
** NE — Nebraska — Lincoln
The last capital site we’re looking at this week looks more like the regular capital sites. Smack in the middle of the page you’ll find what I guess are featured links, including a link to pay property taxes online and find a child care provider (nice! How come I don’t see more of this kind of searches on a city level?)
There’s also a live feed of the city television channel (Real format) in addition to video-on-demand (public meetings and public service announcements, also Real format.) Text menu items at the bottom of the page lets you report a pothole, use a street finder, or look up marriage licenses.
A menu to the left offers a bevy of links, including an impressive list of online services (including accident report lookup, animal by tag lookup, fire department daily run reports, parking ticket lookup, etc.) government links, and a jobs page. Some really nice services here.