City adds new features to website

City of Fort Wayne Seal

Webmaster’s note: I usually don’t do this, however, I think some constructive feedback is in order.  My comments follow the press release.

Press release from the City of Fort Wayne:

City Adds New Features to Website

The City of Fort Wayne is announcing new online features today to increase residents’ awareness of city activities and programs.

Changes include streaming monthly audio announcements from the Mayor’s office, SmartGov initiatives toward increasing government transparency and voting capabilities for the new Recycling program’s most commonly asked questions and answers.

Monthly announcements: The announcements that play when a caller is on hold with the City are now streaming online. These relevant and important announcements include briefs from the Mayor’s Office, Animal Care and Control, Department of Parks and Recreation, City Utilities and Fire and Police departments.

SmartGov : Here you will find a comprehensive database of City and County contracts, budget books and presentations, City financial reports and a City check register. As part of the SmartGov initiative, City Council meetings are now easier for online viewers to access through an index of meeting highlights. The index includes links to video of the public’s and Council members’ comments, ordinances for introduction and passage and voting outcome. City Council meeting will continue to be broadcast live and replayed on the City’s Government Access Channel (ch. 58 on Comcast and Ch. 48 on Verizon FIOS).

Recycling Questions and Answers: Commonly asked questions regarding the City’s new recycling program can be found on this website. Viewers are able to give the City feedback on the usefulness of the answers by giving an up or down vote. Answers that receive the lowest ratings will be reworked to better meet the citizens’ needs.

“Increasing our online capabilities to reach citizens will not decrease any in-person efforts we make to maintain dialogue with residents and provide services,” said Mayor Tom Henry. “By expanding the methods we use to communicate, we are can increase awareness about City services and help provide reliable, timely and valuable information to local citizens.”

The City continues to encourage residents to attend meetings throughout the City such as neighborhood association, Area Partnership or special project meetings. Residents are also encouraged to use 311 to communicate with the City.

Webmaster’s comments:

Monthly Announcments:  One of the problems with the format it is currently in is that there are no controls available – outside of a stop/start button and volume control.  If you don’t quite hear something, you can’t go back to the place in question, you have to start over.  Frankly, I’m disappointed with what is up there currently.  There is very little information here that will ensure citizens will frequently check this feature.  It’s a wasted opportunity to provide usable information to citizens.

SmartGov: Perhaps the best and I’m betting most often visited section of the website.  Great job on this, although a word of caution to the City.  Just because something will eventually be posted to this section does not necessarily mean you’re open about a matter.  (The latest rowe over the social media contract is proof of what I’m saying.)  If you really want to be open, be more proactive instead of reactive and get out in front of those pesky consultant issues that come up when things are ‘discovered’.  This is a huge sticking point with many in the Administration who don’t seem to get it.  Just because it may be public knowledge, doesn’t necessarily mean the public knows about it.  The average citizen doesn’t have time to follow every single contract, payment, etc…  Get out in front of it – unless you like to have your work and ideas misrepresented and constantly blown out of proportion which also means your message is lost in the ensuing damage control.

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