Thursday, December 15, 2016
Time To Scrap NorCo's "New" Website
My first visit to this page - the day it went live - was actually prompted by a reader who noticed that the header on the home page was advertising Lehigh County businesses. I wrote about that and the complete lack of direct links to online services.
Then, in response to numerous complaints about the online list of properties up for Sheriff's Sale, I told you the list was completely mangled and remained that way until the evening before the sale.
I have since begun a more systematic inspection of the new webpage, which was supposed to include all the data that existed on the old webpage.
I started with the elections office.The link to that office is buried under "County Administration," even though neither the Home Rule Charter nor Administrative Code makes the elections office a part of the Department of Administration. Even more troubling, no ordinary Joe would think to look for the elections office under "County Administration." There was no direct link to election results, something that is common in other counties.
Election results are now linked on the homepage But they still only go back for four years.
After looking at elections, I went to County Council. That is the only office that includes pics of elected officials. But there's nothing else.No bio.No indication how long a Council member has served. No listing of the committees on which he or she serves.No contact information.
In another step backwards, only six years of Council minutes exist on the new webpage. Though these minutes exist on a server somewhere, the public has been deprived access. This makes government less transparent. This makes it more difficult to check on the numerous claims made by council members at meetings.For the controversial swaption, it was easy to go back and determine who said what and when.Now it is impossible. This only serves a government who wants to keep you in the dark.
"Who cares?" someone like Seth Vaughn might say. That's what he said when he missed an important budget hearing, and he went on to say you'll re-elect him next year, too. I'm sure he'll just love a website that keeps you in the dark.
Yesterday, I began looking at the County Guide feature of the website.
Under Health Care, it lists Easton Hospital , a for profit hospital in the Lehigh Valley, in addition to the nonprofit hospitals. It identifies and touts several businesses to the exclusion of others. It identifies and promotes some hotels and restaurants, while ignoring others. So public resources are being used, even on a county webpage, to create an uneven playing field.
The County Guide also goes into "Worship," talks about "religious tolerance," and then lists nothing but Christian Houses of worship within the Lehigh Valley. Not one synagogue, Muslim worship center or Hindu temple is mentioned, even though all exist within the County. So public resources are being used to promote Christianity to the exclusion of other religions.
So much for religious tolerance.
And so much for this "new" webpage. It needs to be scrapped and fixed. I am not interested in pointing fingers about who is at fault. I am interested in a functional website that is user friendly and promotes transparency.
Let's fix it.