It is common for newspapers and other media to point out, often with delight, when politicians don’t keep their campaign promises.I want to tell you about one locally that city leaders in Corbin appear poised to deliver on.
In advance of the 2008 General Election, the News Journal sent out questionnaires to each of the eight candidates for Corbin City Commission. One of the questions we asked was whether the candidates would commit to improving the city’s sad and woefully insufficient Internet website. All of them, including the four that were elected, felt it was an important issue. Point your Internet browser of choice to www.corbin-ky.gov and click around for a while and judge things for yourself.
OK, you’re back. You probably have a million questions rolling around in your mind like:
• Why are their only minutes for one City Commission meeting in March 2008 and one in August of 2007 and that’s it? Don’t they meet once a month?
• Why are so many categories empty like the space on the site for "financial documents," "Press Releases," "ABC information" or "Applications/Forms?"
• Why do completely different sites with entirely different styles exist for the fire department and police department?
• The Parks and Recreation portion of the site has an event calendar, but there are no events listed?
• Why does the "City Commission" portion of the site fail to even name our elected city commissioners? Where are their contact phone numbers or a way to get in contact with them by email?
I don’t point these things out to be mean or really to down the city’s current website. It’s just that I think it could be so much more – a real way to connect and interact with the community. A way to provide everyone with useful information about the city, or give the public access to all of our laws, financial documents, meeting minutes, agendas, when sign ups for tee ball are taking place … whatever?
I’m glad to see that, true to their word, the city leaders have started working toward overhauling the city of Corbin website. And I like what Mayor Willard McBurney told me last week when I interviewed him about the issue. He said the city wants to try to work with other local agencies like the Chamber of Commerce, the Corbin Economic Development Agency, The Tourism Commission, City Utilities and others to try to create more of a all-encompassing experience for anyone surfing the Internet to learn more about our town. That’s great. Things are too fractured right now when it comes to Corbin’s online presence.
Funneling people to one site where they then branch out to whatever may interest them is a great idea. I mean, Amazon.com doesn’t have totally separate websites for the different kinds of books it sells – go to one for science fiction, to another for contemporary women’s literature and yet another for social sciences. That would be silly and too difficult for the customer.
So why then totally separate sites for tourism, economic development or the chamber?
I don’t want to be critical of the city’s website. I know it has been a shoestring affair for years. And believe me, the News Journal has had it’s own growing pains in an attempt to update our own online presence. It is a very difficult and often infuriating thing when things just don’t work quite the way they should or don’t meet expectations.
I don’t think the city of Corbin’s website should just be as good as other towns with good websites. It should be better. Our city leaders should strive to provide information and content above and beyond what other cities our size do.
If there is a way to allow people to pay property tax bills online, then let’s do it!
Let’s set the bar high when it comes to full disclosure of documents that allow citizens to glean what is going on with their government. All audits, monthly bills paid, budgets, ordinances, meeting minutes, construction plans, the Main Street Program’s streetscape plan … anything at all that a reasonable person might want to see should be free and open for the viewing. We all believe open government is a good thing. Why not really prove our commitment to it by making this site the paragon of transparency?
There are so many possibilities here. The future is exciting. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!