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There's no place like homepage.

More and more cities, counties, and states are providing government information and services on-line via "homepages" on the World Wide Web (the Web). A homepage usually serves as an introduction to the jurisdiction or agency, presenting an overview of the information accessible through hypertext links. By using the mouse to click on a hypertext link, the user is transferred automatically to the server containing the data of interest. Such a system allows various government agencies to be linked together in one place and enables users to transfer easily from one department to another without having to leave their computer. This article gives readers without Internet access an idea of how some governments are reaching out to their citizens electronically.

Bond Rating Updates in Oklahoma

Operated by the office of state finance, the Oklahoma state government homepage starts with a section on current events. Its topics include state budget and revenue information; arts, tourism, and recreation; transportation and public safety; science and technology; regulatory agencies, particularly the Oklahoma Securities Commission; and statistical information about the state. The budget and revenue section enables users to peruse the state's comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR) and access other offices and agencies.

Office of State Finance. By clicking on the OSF link, users can read the monthly revenue media release, which announces the preliminary general revenue fund collections for the prior month with a brief commentary by the director of state finance, as well as other publications. Two schedules of data are accessible on the OSF homepage: one representing annual receipts from all sources of revenue, including federal receipts, and one representing annual expenditures, including all appropriated and federal expenditures and direct apportionments of state taxes.

One of the more unusual offerings on the OSF homepage is the state's bond rating presentation to the New York rating agencies, providing a comprehensive annual update on economic and fiscal conditions in the state. The rating agency briefing document features sections on outstanding debt and debt management practices, financial management and controls, financial results, and economic performance. The OSF also provides a FAQ file - answers to Frequently Asked Questions - including data on state tax rates and expenditures compared with other U.S. states.

State Treasurer's Office. Referred to as the "Open Window: An On-line Look at the State Treasury," the STO homepage is divided into eight key sections (as presented in Exhibit 1). By clicking on the investing for Oklahoma link, users have access to the treasurer's investment policy and the certificates of deposit policy. Monthly investment reports also are available and include information on the portfolio composition, transactions by broker and by security type, and earnings by security type, as well as a performance comparison.

Access. To access the Oklahoma state government information server, set the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) to http://www.oklaosf.state.ok.us in the Web browser software (e.g., Mosaic or Netscape). The office of state finance and the state treasurer's office are accessible via hypertext links on the state homepage.

Budgets and Business in West Hollywood

The California city of West Hollywood's Virtual City Hall welcomed 20,000 visitors in November 1995, which is impressive for a city with a population of 36,000. Like most other local government homepages, West Hollywood's homepage offers information about the city council and its meeting agendas, a calendar of events, and a listing of services provided by the community. Recent additions to the homepage include an economic development section called West Hollywood Business Works and the city's FY95-96 budget, including the capital improvement plan, the general operating budget, the CAFR, and the basis of accounting.

The West Hollywood Business Works serves as a guide for fledgling or relocating businesses, detailing the ins and outs of doing business in West Hollywood. Beginning with a community and economic profile and 1990 census data, the Works provides links for users to review the city's business-incentive fact sheet, business programs and services, and technical and financial assistance for small businesses. A doing-business section connects users with information helpful in opening a business, restaurant, bar, or nightclub in the city, including building, fire, and health codes and planning, zoning, and signage regulations.

Response to the West Hollywood homepage has been favorable. Toward the end of 1995, the site conducted a "Virtual City Hall Survey," which offered an easy way for users to submit their comments about the homepage. Citizens responding to the survey indicated that they are finding useful information at the site, noting city council meeting agendas, planning department documents, and budget information as items of particular interest. Users of the homepage go beyond simply obtaining information: the city clerk reports that several citizens have registered for the city's domestic partnership program with forms obtained from the Web pages, and the city is planning to allow on-line registration for the program in the future. Users also are looking forward to conducting city business on-line in the future, such as on-line alarm and parking permit renewals.

Access. Setting the URL to http://www.deltanet.com/cityhall connects users with West Hollywood's Virtual City Hall. A report - available at http://www.deltanet.com/users/kirkb/tech/wehoweb.html - provides information on how West Hollywood developed its homepage and suggestions on how to create low-cost Web pages, including the basic requirements for creating a Web page (see accompanying sidebar).

City of Madison Community Access

The homepage for Madison, Wisconsin, gives citizens access to a host of detailed city information. The city services listing provides users with low-rent and Section 8 housing information, including eligibility and how to apply; community services, including a listing of certified daycare centers; streets department information, such as yard waste collection and used oil recycling; and information on the city's senior center information and its newsletter. Users can obtain planning department information, data on the 1995 property tax base, and 1990 census information. A street directory allows users to find a street's nearest intersection. Other sections provide information on the city's libraries and schools, public safety, recreation, and transportation.

An employment section provides a listing of available city jobs, including salary, general responsibilities, examples of duties and responsibilities, minimum qualifications, and where to apply. Job opportunities may be in any city department. For example, at the end of 1995, job postings included openings for an hourly concessions attendant at a city park, a librarian, crossing guards, a police officer, and city comptroller.

Access. The Madison Community Access homepage can be reached by setting the URL to http://www.ci.madison.wi.us and provides links to Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau, Dane County, and State of Wisconsin homepages.

Strategic Planning in Grande Prairie, Alberta

Located just east of the border with British Columbia, the City of Grande Prairie, Alberta, offers a homepage with information of interest to finance officials from other jurisdictions, as well as its own citizens. In addition to the traditional offerings of city department contact information, calendar of events, and demographics, the Grande Prairie homepage provides users with access to a number of documents on management-related topics of interest to public officials:

* the CyberCity initiative - a discussion paper to ensure that Grande Prairie is neither left behind nor bypassed by the electronic telecommunications revolution that is reshaping the developed world;

* strategic and business planning - principles, framework, examples, and links to the strategic and business plans of other cities, states, provinces, universities and national governments;

* computer network study - strategic direction for an enterprisewide network infrastructure;

* the Information Management Advisory Committee - setting policy on information management and telecommunications planning;

* policies - tables of contents for city policies, financial policies, and by-laws;

* teamwork - management teams and self-managed teams;

* debt - debt reduction and financial management policy.

City projects that also have documentation on the homepage include performance measurement in government, the downtown strategic action plan, strategic planning for information technology and telecommunications, self-pay local purchase orders, quality focus and continuous improvement, geographic information systems planning and status. Grande Prairie also provides assistance to users who are new to the Web and electronic mail.

Access. Set the URL to http://www.ccinet.ab.ca/city-of-gp/homepage.html to reach Grande Prairie's homepage.

Seattle's Public Access Network

The homepage of the Public Access Network (PAN) of the City of Seattle, Washington, links users with sections on the community, education, employment and business, the environment, transportation, arts and entertainment, and government. Within the government section, users can locate information on elected officials and agencies focusing on finance, planning, and development; technology; health and human services; licenses and permits; utilities and transportation; ethics and elections; and other city services and programs, such as how to do business with the city and requests for proposals issued by the city.

Under the finance, planning, and development section, Seattle has made its proposed 1995-96 budget available and has provided links to the department of neighborhoods, the office of management and planning (OMP), the office of economic development, and the city hearing examiner. By clicking on the OMP link, users can obtain complete information about proposed programs and plans. For example, at the end of 1995, four items were listed under the OMP link: the proposed off-leash pilot program, human development strategic planning, the South Lake Union plan, and the Seattle comprehensive plan. Using these links, citizens can obtain electronic copies of the plan documents instantly.

Access. To connect with Seattle's PAN, set the URL to http://www.pan.ci.seattle.wa.us.

Other Resources for Reaching Governments

Two Web sites provide a means for users to locate city and state homepages easily. USA CityLink contains a comprehensive list of state and municipal government sites in the United States (http://www.neosoft.com/citylink/) while CityNet Express (http://www.city.net) provides links to cities all over the world. Finally, GFOA's homepage (http://www.financenet.gov/gfoa.htm) contains important public financial management and audit reports and other "happenings in financial management."

RELATED ARTICLE: BASIC REQUIREMENTS FOR CREATING WEB PAGES

* A functional knowledge of basic Internet principles, such as the World Wide Web, file transfer protocol (FTP), etc.

* A full-service dial-up Internet connection via a high speed modem (14.4kbs or 28.8kbs). Full-service means some form of serial line Internet protocol/point-to-point protocol (SLIP/PPP) connection allowing the user to run a graphical Web browser.

* A basic knowledge of Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML).

* A Web browser.

* HTML authoring tools.

* Room on a Web (HTTP) server maintained by an Internet service provider.

Source: "The Making of West Hollywood's Virtual City Hall" (http://www.deltanet.com/users/kirkb/tech/wehoweb.html), West Hollywood, California.

NANCY GLEASON is an associate editor of GFOA's Government Finance Review.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Government Finance Officers Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Electronic Communication and Networks
Author:Gleason, Nancy
Publication:Government Finance Review
Date:Feb 1, 1996
Words:1768
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