Hoboken: Information hard to get!
Lo behold, the city seems to be almost done with their new and improved website!
A Hoboken411 reader sent me the link, and guess what? Like Hoboken411, it’s a fully functioning WordPress website! Yep, they’re using blog software! Except I highly doubt the City of Hoboken would allow comments the way 411 does.
Browse around, take a look. Do you think any NEW information was added? Is it easier to find? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
SEE PREVIOUS RANTS AFTER THE JUMP…
We all know the city website is crap. I’m bumping this article today, to mention two things.
Apparently, the city is in the process of re-doing their site, and have been telling residents “…we are currently working on improving our website and appreciate your patience.” I asked the IT guy Patrick Riccardi what that meant exactly, and what improvements are in store. As well as offered my advice and input if they wanted it. A good will gesture, so to say.
I haven’t received a response. So I guess they have it all figured out. [update: Patrick responded and put me in touch with the new web guy. “The saga of the website continues in this un-parallel universe we call normality. The site is once again under the control of the Mayor’s office and Public Relations”]
With that being said, I thought I might point out a FANTASTIC example of how a city website should be run. Take a look at Scottsdale, Arizona’s city website. The way our website should be modeled after.
City Council Followers please note: Peruse their website and see how they have interactive council agendas. It’s amazing compared to our out-dated and archaic method of spewing information. You can even add “notes” to the agenda! This would be a dream come true for residents of Hoboken, and quite possibly could lead to even more people getting involved with local government. A simple phone call to the Scottsdale Mayor would provide you with a treasure chest of information, and a perfect blue-print on how to make a winner out of our site.
Mayor Roberts, City Council… are you listening?
See the rest of the flaws of the city website after the jump.
Would you pay $1 to have a brand new Hoboken City Website? That is functional?
I’m sure some of you are overwhelmed at the frequent news of “lawsuits” that are being filed against the city because of their failure to comply with OPRA requests (you know, public information that isn’t properly being released.)
But this is indicative of the problems the city has on many levels, especially on their website. City ordinances are missing or outdated, you can’t easily get in touch with council members, and city website seems to focus more on “good news” and fluffy press releases, which are useless to everyone but them and their egos.
For a little background, take a look at this article about the Jersey City Website. It’s a much more advanced site, even with “trouble tickets” that residents can submit and track for items such as potholes or broken lights and more. And if issues don’t get solved, they get escalated until they do. JC paid $30,000 for this site, and would cost each resident less than a buck to have this great resource. For the frustration many of us have suffered through, it’d be worth it to skip the Starbuck’s just one day.
Here are a few things that I can think of…
#1: Agendas and Resolutions are a mess!
In Hoboken, we have regular city council meetings (along with others, such as Zoning, Planning, ABC, BoE, etc.) There’s an agenda, which summarizes the meeting, and a resolution pack, that has new/updated ordinances that the council votes whether to make law or not. Grouped by meeting, there’s no way to search by keyword, or to easily find a particular document. For instance, the latest version of the Taxi Ordinance is NOT on the website, only an outdated one from December 2007. If it is, I certainly can’t find it.
Oh, but what about that Coded Systems website? Isn’t the city code on there? There’s a link on the city’s homepage, right?
Sure, but there’s no way to know when it was last updated. The latest Taxi ordinance on there is three and a half years old! I emailed coded systems to see what the update frequency is, and when it was last done.
No response yet. (They responded just now, saying there is a date – June 30, 2007, and that there is a “supplement” in the works to bring code up to date) They should have a disclaimer on the front page indicating how current the entire document is.
If the city isn’t going to keep their online city code updated, then the Hoboken site needs to have a SEPARATE SECTION just for “NEW or UPDATED city ordinances.” How are local residents supposed to stay current with new laws? Or how about a “resolution/ordinance SCOREBOARD,” where you can quickly see what is being discussed, and whether it was APPROVED or not, and what changed exactly? We can’t get 40,000 people into the council chambers, and need some new options NOW.
#2: Site is poorly updated / missing info
Several folks emailed me frustrated about not being able to get in touch with their local council person. The “lineup” of current members either has a link to their “bio” or nothing at all. No email address, no phone number, nothing. What are they? Just pictures?
The “news” section hasn’t been updated since 2006 either!
As far as the rest of the site, it seems 10 years old, is difficult to navigate, and useless for the most part. But the weather link works! Wow!
Perhaps it’s time to STOP the double and triple job titles in Hoboken. Patrick Riccardi seems to be a good enough guy who’s pretty smart, but perhaps he’s “spread thin” a bit? You can’t do 21 hours worth of work in 7.
What else is wrong with our information access?
Oh, and here’s a list of how you can contact council members (if I’m missing any, please send to me):
- Peter Cammarano: email@example.com
- Theresa Castellano: Theresa@CastellanoForHoboken.com
- Peter Cunningham: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Nino Giacchi: email@example.com
- Terry LaBruno: Couldn’t find it…
- Beth Mason: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ruben Ramos: email@example.com
- Michael Russo: (seems to have many – email them all if you have to): firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
- Dawn Zimmer: firstname.lastname@example.org