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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GREE-TINGS! This is the next-to-the-last tour of the state capitals. Next week we’ll finish up the tour and get to the two cities we weren’t able to cover so far– Harrisburg and Boise! (Thanks to all the people who suggested Harrisburg
links; apparently the Harrisburg site didn’t launch until December 18.)
** SC — South Carolina — Columbia
The city of Columbia must take its city council meetings very seriously, because its upcoming meeting dates are on its front page. Actually that’s pretty cool, since that makes it very easy for a citizen to get that information.
As to the rest of the site: it’s mostly text-based, with menus at the top and side of the page. The top of the page provides links to things like city search, city jobs, and an interesting thing called “online city requests.” Using a
city request you can send a request or comment to the city. That’s just a suggestion box, but with this system you can log in to track the status of your requests.
The menu on the left of the front page includes a quick phone list, city government (including a list of city agendas, of course, and a link to apply for building permits online) city parks, a council of neighborhoods, links (which
is a more thorough list of city departments and also includes phone numbers), and a brief list of city reports. I almost wish I had a request for South Carolina so I could check out that online city request system.
** SD — South Dakota — Pierre
Most of the city pages I’ve seen have been left to right, with multiple columns, but the city of Pierre is top to bottom, with featured items on the top and a general index on the bottom.
The top of the page includes the Pierre City Ordinances, a variety of city maps (in PDF format), and a directory of city employee addresses. Some of the pages appear to be out of date — for example, the airport information page
provides a schedule that is listed as “As of 8/6/01” and “Good till 9/28/01.”
At the bottom of the page is a general index of city topics including city agendas, police department information, employment, taxi fare information, and “city clips,” which is kinda like a FAQ of city services.
** TN — Tennessee — Nashville
As you can probably tell from the URL, this is a page with some Flash in it. Not a whole lot, though; it appears to be just the title at the top of the page and the menu on the left. There does appear to be a non-Flash version, but since
the site automatically forwards to the right place I can’t be sure.
Nashville.gov has lots of photographs; the middle column contains news, site update information, and a variety of photographs about said updates and improvements. The right column contains site features; I’m not surprised to see a digital photograph gallery there. There’s also a Flash movie about Nashville, a variety of video on demand, and a couple of online services (report graffiti, pay property taxes, etc.)
On the left side of the page is the main site index. There you can check out business information, find employment opportunities, a pretty good link list (including metro-area links of interest) and a good local links section (greenway maps! Public golf courses! A zoo! Chip’s Nashville Links!) Beneath that is a drop-down list of links from the ag extension service to water services. I’m normally not a big Flash fan but this is a good usage.
** TX — Texas — Austin
Mostly black and white, and very slick, Austin’s Web site is the standard three-column layout, but a lot of space makes it very easy to read.
The middle column’s for news. Save on buying a rain barrel! Sign up for the Citizens Police Academy! And learn about the Austin Police Department (and the financial crimes unit.) On the right side of the page you’ll see several calendars (including for city council meetings, parks and rec, and
city music) while on the left of the page you’ll find general link information (for the airport, city jobs, a nice city news page, etc.)
Need something more specific? Check the top of the page. There you’ll find a search box, a list of city services (from the Austin Housing Finance Corporation to Zoning (wow, Austin has a nice solid waste services page)) and a dizzying array of maps (area maps and bike maps, sure. But you’ll also find, among other things, airport maps, fire stations, Free-Net locations, and a map of sister cities.)
** UT — Utah — Salt Lake City
Funny. The first thing that came to mind when I thought about Utah used to be genealogy and The Great Brain series. Now I think about images that need ALT text and navigation graphics with really small fonts. (There is a text-only version at http://www.ci.slc.ut.us/textonly/.)
It’s 32 degrees and foggy in Utah as I write this. I know that because it’s on the front page of the site in the middle of the page. In the middle of that are news items, one dated and the others not. At the top of the page you’ll find a search box and a link to an info center. The info center is a series of drop-down menus that address a series of topics, including general interest, newsletters (city
council, etc.), ordinances and codes, and “Where Do I Go To…” (pay a parking ticket, get tax forms, vote, etc.)
The menu links on the left are a series of guides. There’s a guide to city government (mayor’s office, rules and ordinances, etc.), guide to visitors (a nice set of external links to other sites with skiing and other visiting information) resident information (neighborhoods, parks, garbage pickup information, libraries, etc.) and a guide to government (with an overview document, “How to do Business with Salt Lake City”, and including bid notices, permits, licenses, and zoning information.)
** VA — Virginia — Richmond
There’s a Java applet going on here but my install of Opera doesn’t have Java, so instead I see a Java-less page. Much like South Dakota, Virginia is using a “top to bottom” approach. The top of the page has a series of links in four
categories: Citizen, Business, eCitizen, and Visitors. The eCitizen section allows visitors to download several online forms, send an e-postcard, make some online payments (Parking Violations, Personal Property Taxes, Real Estate Taxes, and Utility Bills)
Further down the page you’ll find other items of interest, separated into news, features, and hot links. News includes a page of downtown parking information, an online guide to citizen’s services (nice, but a heavy download. You can also
order a free print copy) while the feature mentions a new supermarket in downtown Richmond. The Hot Links menu repeats some of the links found at the top of the page and includes schools, libraries, and the very interesting-sounding City Speakers Bureau.
Don’t miss the FAQ link at the bottom of the screen or the site map. I don’t think I missed a lot by not having Java..
** VT — Vermont — Montpelier
Montpelier has a population of about 8,000, making it the smallest state capital in the country. But you wouldn’t know it by this Web site, which would be a great testimonial for a much larger city.
There’s contact information in the right column, but the vast majority of information is on the left side of the page. Here you’ll find information about Montpelier, doing business (including a substantial permit section and a link
to available business properties in Montpelier) getting to Montpelier and getting around (I’m jealous of their free downtown shuttle system) calendar (viewable by month or by category), a one-screen document library, and a site map.
Nicely designed; not too fancy, but pleasant to look at.
** WA — Washington — Olympia
Olympia’s a somewhat minimalist blue-and-white design, and feels retro, but I can’t figure out what it’s retro to.
Anyway, Olympia’s site has minimal graphics and two columns. The middle column has featured sites and city council information, as well as genealogy and earthquake (!) information.
On the left side is the main menu, featuring city information (forms, contact information, earthquake archives, etc.) background information and links for Olympia itself, city jobs, how to get involved (a variety of city-related
volunteer opportunities, nice list) maps, a link to state government information, and a link list of local attractions and media.
You might miss it under the picture of the Fourth Avenue Bridge, but there are also links to the Olympia Municipal Code, Olympia Comprehensive Plan, and Olympia Development Guidelines.