Is Gadfly the only one who didn’t know we have a City hotline?

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Gadfly was startled when President Waldron called attention to a City hotline during the Council meeting last week.

A hotline?!

See the Controller page of the City web site.

Never knew.

Sounds like it may be a recent addition, for the text reads, “Our office is pleased to announce the activation of a hotline for the City of Bethlehem.”

It’s purpose: “This hotline will be for all tips from employees and residents of the city, as well as any other interested parties concerned with the efficiency and effectiveness of the city government.”

Now this hotline is not for our day-to-day problems — potholes and the like.

We have the Service Center for that kind of stuff. Gadfly hasn’t used the Service Center yet but will gradually get to it as he familiarizes himself with the new web site.

Given the function of a Controller, Gadfly figures this hotline — on which you can be anonymous if you want — is the place to report matters like waste, improper behavior by City personnel, and illegality in fiscal matters.

But President Waldron spoke if it as useful for a variety of matters like the employee disgruntlement about permit issuance we have been following lately.

In any event, Gadfly didn’t know about this hotline and figured if he didn’t, you might not know either.

Sounds like a good thing, an important thing to be aware of.

Gadfly will put a link to it on the right-hand sidebar.

Just one thing. Isn’t the hotline kind of buried there on the Controller page? If you had something to report and were looking for a place to do it, would you look there?

Gadfly wonders if the hotline presence and existence shouldn’t be more prominently displayed up front on the web site.

He can think of a reason why not to make it more visible in that way but for now thinks the positive effect would outweigh the potentially negative.

Power of the City website is being under-utilized

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I’ve visited the website to re-enlist under esign-up. Not sure if you were registered on the past website whether you need to do that again.

Now, they need to use that feature to disseminate all city news and information to the public. I get information from only 3 areas: recycling, streets, and economic development.

Flu shots? Why not an email blast to residents that alerts them to the schedule and locations of clinics? Why not a link in that email to the schedule/locations?

Availability of CDBG/HOME funds? Why not an email to participants that has a link to documents?

Zoning hearing board meeting scheduled? Why not an announcement emailed with a link to the agenda, supporting documentation, and prior meeting minutes.

Snow emergency? Why not an email blast to announce it?

I can go on and on, but until this website is used the way it can be to keep all lines of communication open to the public who opt in, its power is being under-utilized.

Dana Grubb

Which leads Gadfly to wonder again about the whereabouts of a report on the City Communication Survey done earlier in the year.

Taking a look at the Council section of the new City web site

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Posting about tonight’s Council meetings took Gadfly last night to the Council section of the new City web site.

Remember that he has encouraged you to visit the new site and make constructive comments.

And he has also hoped for volunteers to take an individual section of the new site and “go deep,” pointing out its value and perhaps shortcomings.

Well, last night Gadfly went deep on the City Council section.

You wouldn’t expect much if any difference to the content on this portion of the web site from the old site.

And, indeed, the same basic information as before is there and easy to find.

One thing Gadfly likes to point out is that you can find Council members’ financial statements here — you ought to look at them every once in a while just for the helluva it. And, after all, with the current election now heading in to the past, “war chests” for the next round will be of interest. Gadfly was always curious about what it takes financially to run for office in our small town. Here you can find out. And there was a question about the “ethics” of a candidate financial transaction at the very tail end of the May primary, you might remember.

A happy surprise, though, is a literal calendar of Council meetings, with direct links to the agenda and background documents. And it is on this page that you will find the link to the live streaming and archiving of the Council meetings.

Now Gadfly thinks it was just in his last post on the new web site that he whined about not having a calendar for all City events. He still would like that. (Maybe one has quietly appeared, for this Council calendar wasn’t there last time he looked.)

But here’s a calendar for the specific Council section. Good.

Gadfly is old style, he guesses, for he likes the visual ease and familiarity of taking in the whole month at a glance this way.

Of course, there aren’t really a whole lot of Council meetings, so some times this calendar will look pretty empty.

But November will soon fill up with budget meetings, so the calendar view will come in handy as far as Gadfly is concerned, planning how to fill all that “free” retirement time he has.

There is one further technological step that Gadfly would like to see in proper course.

The agenda and background documents for agenda items are separated, and eventually direct links from agenda items to background documents would save time and distraction and improve usability.

A time-consuming step, Gadfly knows, but a helpful one.

And, by the way again, Gadfly is still wondering if there was any kind of report on the Communication Survey that was done by the City some months back now. He will try to remember to ask about this at Council tonight.

Please do send your constructive comments about your experience with the new web site.

How ’bout that new City web site?

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City web

Been two weeks since Gadfly posted that the new City web site went “live.”

Gadfly can imagine that there were “bugs” no matter how much the tech wizards pre-tested and that it will take a little time for things to run completely smoothly.

Been there, done that.

So he has refrained asking for immediate follower commentary.

But it is getting about that time.

Gadfly wishes he had a volunteer crew to divvy up the site and go deep on individual sections, compiling helpful commentary for us as users of the site and also helpful commentary for the behind-the-scenes guys — what’s good, what needs work.

So he does herewith and now invite you to go deep on a section or sections, take notes, and report to Gadfly.

What is there to like and that we all should know about? And what are the places where there’s work to be done?

Gadfly will compile worthy material, organize it, and forward to City Hall.

Constructive comments, please.

But Gadfly will say immediately that he is disappointed about one big thing.

Almost the first problem that Gadfly noticed at the beginning of his novitiate year was the difficulty for the public in finding out about meetings.

His very first public comments at Council meetings had to do with the desirability of a master “calendar” of all meetings (City Council, the ABC’s, etc.).

Gadfly imagined an online calendar, month by month, that would contain meetings for each day (time, location) with a link to an agenda if one were available.

He believes he remembers being told that one was in the works.

Apparently not.

Now perhaps that’s a “huger” technical project than the ol’ professor who was known as “Edward Scholarhands” for his technical and mechanical ineptitude imagines.

And it would need a good detail person to stay on top of it to make it effective, maybe an additional personnel slot. Can you see the ad for a “Calendar-Keeper”!

Two strikes.

But Gadfly wonders if there isn’t something commercially available. Follower Holland had (has?) a prototype using Google calendar.

Such a master calendar need not be restricted to “business” — it could be a master list, a one-stop resource for all different kinds of City-sponsored events.

It would be “the” place to go to see what’s going on in the City on a day or a future period of time.

Gadfly just feels that a core, unified tool like that would be a tremendous practical as well as symbolic resource for people who want to participate in city government.

And, by the way, was there ever any kind of report on the Communication Survey that was done by the City some months back now?

Gadfly was looking for that.