Local government websites have become one of the most important tools for leaders to connect with both the community and the world. City websites can promote the benefits of living and working in a community to outsiders while also providing a helpful resource for residents to find official information about local services, events, important contacts. More and more jurisdictions have been using their websites in new ways to address specific community issues such as transparency, citizen engagement, and sustainability.
In light of the current economic crisis, for example, transparency of government funds and taxpayer dollars has become an increasingly important issue for residents in many communities. The city of Palm Bay, Fla. responded to requests for such openness in their community by creating Open.Palmbay, a site dedicated wholly to tracking city finances and making them available to the public. The city of Mesa, Ariz. similarly developed a Recovery Act Information Website, where residents could see where recovery money was being spent. To see if your local government makes the grade on transparency, read the Sunshine Review’s transparency checklist.
Other communities have used their websites as a new tool for civic engagement. These one-stop resources make it easy for residents to stay informed on local issues and share their opinions with local leaders. A recent study completed by the University of Illinois at Chicago rated 95 government websites for their ability to promote civic engagement, and concluded that Seattle, Phoenix, and Louisville have city websites that best share information and offer opportunities for participation. Websites can also offer new engagement opportunities for individuals with disabilities. A report from the US Department of Justice examines the ways that government websites can be made accessible to all users.
Local leaders have also used website campaigns to promote community sustainability projects. An Albuquerque website has been helpful in moving the city towards the sustainable alternatives outlined in its AlbuquerqueGreen sustainability plan. Denver has developed a website that allows users to locate their properties and examine the benefits of solar power installation. Similarly, Frederick County, Md. developed a website centered on supporting sustainable living.
For more on making the most of a local government webpage see these Knowledge Network questions.
The Knowledge Network can also help you create or enhance your community’s website with articles and documents like the ones below:
Sample requests for proposals for website creation and enhancement:.