City Websites Compare and Contrast

I was asked for input on something DC related and to attempt to be fair in my expectations I looked at other cities’ and towns’ websites addressing similar issues. Looking at different cities sites on other urban topics of interests there are different things that pop out. Whether a city is good at communicating or addressing one or another thing through their web presence could be related to a whole host of things. Regardless, lets take a look.

I use DC.GOV for a lot of things, mainly looking up tax assessments. I tend to ignore most of the top and scroll down to “Popular Online Services” and “Online Services”. Why these aren’t closer to the top beats me. It seems the most popular things relate to cars, as in finding the DMV, paying parking tickets and locating a towed car. Those are the things the people want. The only thing near the top that I have any mild interest in is a reminder that the Mayor’s call center number is 311 and the location of free Wi-Fi hotspots.
What is at the top that is useful when I’m not looking at assessments are the tabs “DC Guide”, “Residents”, “Visitors” and such. This s where I go to take the long way to the DC Council, MPD, and other agencies I don’t visit often. There are sections under the umbrella of DC.GOV that I really like, others that have lots of room for improvement, and others that seem pointless. Instead of getting into those I want to move on to other city’s sites.

I have to admire the entrepreneurial spirit of the right hand frame of this site, labeled “Make a Payment”. This is a city that knows it can make money providing its citizens services. You can pay and view police reports and deeds. You can pay your water bill, gas bill, parking tickets, and pay your taxes by clicking a link on their homepage.
Also on the home page on the left hand side is “Help Me” which looks like “Help Us Help You.” Its links let you report a pothole, illegal activity, fraud, etc.

I had high expectations but this site has a whole lot of room for improvement, starting with the URL. What it lacks in sophistication it makes up for in simplicity.
Moving on.

Who knew the S.I. Ferry Schedule was in such demand? But it is, along with getting birth certificates, and paying your property taxes. Though not at the top, the most popular items don’t require scrolling to get to. Because I’ve been looking at individual NYC departments’ and agencies’ sites, the home page for the city government doesn’t even hint at how great those sites are. Like Chicago, the home page is a little bit of a let down.

Boston CityofBoston.Gov
Here students get their own friggin tab. The Student tab links you to city information you need to know if you’re a student moving to Boston. You can find out about housing, pets, what to do with your car, etc. In some ways the Boston site is simple and requires a good amount of scrolling, but the feeling I get from the site is, “Hi, I’m Bahstan and I’m here to help.”

Taxes don’t seem to be popular as I can’t find on the home page anything about tax assessments or property taxes. But you know what’s popular? The Live 911 Dispatch.

Lastly or this will be too long
Los Angeles
Hate it. Slow loading, and once it did load the characters were too small and the home page was too busy. Oh and look at that URL.

So far my favorite is Philly. Something about “Block Party Permit” on the home site that makes me think the city can be fun, and encourages the citizenry to organize a good time.

Mt. Sinai Baptist Church, good neighbor

Shaw has a lot of churches. Many range from the ones housed in rowhouses to storefronts and churches that look like churches. Some churches, as they act in their own interest (nothing wrong with that) have been deaf to the concerns of the residents who they share the neighborhood with, and others have been a bit better at listening. Mt. Sinai has been one of those better churches.
Back when portions of the TC was in the 3rd Police District, Mt. Sinai allowed for PSA (police service area) meetings. This is in addition to the Bates Area Civic Association meetings that are usually held on the 1st Monday of every month, unless it falls near a holiday or there is inclement weather. Provided that you can make arrangements, the church has so far been very willing to provide free meeting space to community groups.
Though the church owns a number of homes along 3rd Street, and unlike some churches I can think of, Mt. Sinai has maintained these properties#, paid their taxes*, and keeps them in use for various ministries and functions. Except for the two properties bookending the 1600 block of 3rd St, the others don’t particularly stick out. One of the reasons I prefer the bus stop at 3rd and Q is that their place on that corner is somewhat populated, not as cut off and isolated as 3rd and R. Yes, the education center at 3rd and R does stick out. But after a while you get used to it.
They also, as do other Shaw churches, engage in community or local charity. Be it with their benevolence fund or the offer of free clothing. I can’t remember if they have a small food bank or not. They might not need to as the Fourth Street 7th Day Adventists, on the other side of the block has a soup kitchen on Sundays.
As they have grown from a storefront** to a full sized church with auxillary buildings, they have not turned themselves into a fortress. They have not fought neighborhood efforts to better itself, nor has it forgotten those left behind. Mt. Sinai, seems to know where it is in the community.

# 1630 3rd is listed as a vacant property and is taxed as such. From pictures of the house, it doesn’t strike me as looking vacant.
*Yes, despite being owned by the church, taxes are paid on almost all the 3rd Street properties, save but one.
** A 1950s NW area church survey classified Mt. Sinai on the 1600 blk of 3rd as a ‘storefront’ chruch.