LWVGB
Sunshine on Government 2012
Government Website Review

Government Web Site Review Results



Two people reviewed each site. The results given are listed as by A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H.
:
: Does the site have?


Jefferson County

Shelby County
Birmingham
Hoover



A

B
C
D
E
F
G
H
Contact information: Are the following provided








Central phone number

3

3
2
3
3
3
3
3

Location and mailing address

3

3
3
3
3
3
3
3

Address for emailing capability or capability from the web site

3

3
0
3
3
3
3
3

Department listings with contact names, phone numbers, emailing capability

3

3
2
3
2
3
2
3

Elected officials: Is information about elected officials available?







name

3

3
3
3
3
3
3
3

phone number

3

3
3
3
3
3
3
0

Email address

3

3
2
0
3
3
3
3

term of office/next election date

1

3
0
0
2
0
2
0

committee appointments/area of responsibility

3

3
2
2
2
3
2
0

Appointments: If the government has Committees, does it list the following?






Membership of the Committees

3

0
2
2
0
0
0
0

How members are chosen and the length of tenure to the committee

1

0
0
0
0
0
0
0

Meetings: Are meetings available to the citizens through?







Notices for meetings of Council/Commission with date, time, location and if public input allowed.

0

3
3
3
3
3
3
3

Notices for meetings of other to include date, time, location, if open or closed session, if public input allowed

0

3
0
2
2
0
3
2

Planning/Development and Zoning

0

?

?

3


0
3
3

Other boards

0

?

?

0


0
3
0

Agenda posted at least 5 days in advance of Council/ Commission meeting

0

3
2
2
3
3
0
2

Agenda posted at least 5 days in advance of Committee meeting

0

3
0
0
0
0
0
2

Minutes from past meetings posted within 1 month of Commission/Council meeting

3

3
3
3
3
0
0
3

Minutes from past meetings posted within 1 month of Committee meeting

3

3
0
0
0
0
0
3

Public Records









Is there description of how to seek information that is part of the public records (Freedom of Information Act) and the name of a contact person?

3

0
0
0
0
0
2
2

Transactions on-line:









Does the government offer on-line transactions for citizens?

3

3
2
3
3
3
3
2

Does the government offer on-line transactions for business?

3

3
2
3
3
3
3
3

Is there a statement regarding use of a secure server for transactions?

0

3
0
2
0

?

0

3

Budget Information: Is there financial information with the following?







Current fiscal year budget

3

3
0
0
3
3
3
3

Previous fiscal year financial statement (audit) available?

3

3
0
0
3
3
3
3

Business Licenses, Building permits and zoning: Is this information readily available with?





Process and information required for starting a business or seeking permits for business

3

3
3
3
2
3
3
2

Information about requirements/zoning/building codes and submission process

3

3
3
3
3
3
3
2

application to download

3

3
3
3
3
3
0
3

on-line submission and tracking

?

3

0
2
3
0
2
0

Web Site









Name of web site manager and contact information

3

2
3
3
0
0
0
0

Date page/site updated

3

3
0
0
0
0
1
2

Downloadable files for items such as taxes, building permits, etc.

3

3
3
0
3
3
3
2

No false or dated information detected

2

0
3
0
3
2
3
3









COMMENTS BY EVALUATORS
Jefferson County


A

Elected Officials
The date of their current election, 2010 election, is present but not term of office and next election date


Appointments

Commissioners serve on the committees. The committee members are revealed when committee is selected. Selection process and term of service is not available


Meetings

Calendar for upcoming meetings unavailable. Difficult to assess agenda posting. The zoning committee meeting preceded the last commission meeting. Could not find any announcement of that prior to the February 14 meeting minutes.


Public Records

Found information on how to seek Public by placing freedom of information/public records in search component). Referred to the County Attorney.


Transactions on Line

Can’t be certain about statement regarding secure server for transactions. I believe that I’d have to actually need to use the service before seeing secure server statement. Maybe that statement should appear preceding the actual transaction.


Business Licenses

I believe that I’d have to actually use some of the features to fully assess them.


Web Site

County Commission and Jeffco Calendar information is absent/sketchy


General

Most of the information is well presented. The County could be more educational in presenting term limits, how committees are selected, and citizen participation. The districts map is a great feature.
B


no comments




Shelby County


C

Contact Information
No central phone number, location, or mailing address are found on homepage, but if you know where to click, it’s just one click to contact information for Co. commission , Co. Mgr. , and many, many more. Contact information - names, physical location, mailing addresses and voice and fax phone numbers of departments - are easily found. Overall, contact information is excellent except that there are no email addresses except for County Manager Alex Dudchock and his Administrative Assistant Kim Reynolds and even to find these, a Shelby Co. organizational chart (pdf document) must be downloaded. No email form was found on the website. Link labeled “Citizen Access Portal” a bit misleading. One would think this is where to go for most or all public records, but it links only to Shelby Co. Tax Commissioner’s office.


Elected Officials

Email addresses virtually nonexistent. Found for only one Commissioner (Jon Parker, District 3) and for that, one must click through to his specific district information. Nothing posted regarding each commissioner’s term of office, election date, committee appointments or responsibilities. A general description of the physical area covered by each district would be helpful along with each Commissioner’s area of responsibility. If all Commissioners have total oversight with no department/area focus, this should also be noted on the website. Email addresses were found for members of the Shelby Co. Board of Education.


Appointments

Commissioners are not listed as being on committees. However, in reviewing a recent commission meeting agenda (a downloadable PDF document), special interest areas are noted with what seem to be committee titles, and the commissioners who serve on those committees are listed. How members are chosen and length of tenure was not found. A form was found (linked from Co. Mgr’s page) for citizens to apply for “Board/Committee Interest Form.” Applicant is asked to note in which board s/he is interested, but no board/committee titles are listed on the form.


Meetings

Comment: According to Kim Reynolds (Administrative Assistant to Co. Mgr.), agendas are submitted to IT Dept. usually by Thurs. a.m. (sometimes a little later) before Mon. noon Commission meeting. IT usually posts same day. KR says no agendas for committee meetings. No committee meeting minutes posted. Commission meeting minutes posted usually within 3 weeks. Commission approval signatures must first be obtained. Very long listing of Boards, but KR says that Shelby Co. does not have oversight of these boards and therefore further information about them not posted on site. KR says Shelby Co. is in compliance with Open Meetings Act.


Public Records

Not sure how to score this. Kim Reynold’s contact information available and she is forthcoming with information, but FIA not mentioned directly.


Transactions on line

For citizens: Can pay property taxes online. Can file homestead exemption. Link to property tax protest form but not working. Can renew tags (and state link to make reservation for personalized tag) and boat registration. Many forms and information available.



For businesses: Offer business returns and many business tax payment options online.



Probate: Excellent listing of probate information such as filing requirements, forms, fees, contact info. and good search modules, but can’t transact online.



Overall: An excellent offering of information and forms, but short on online transaction options.


Budget Information

Could not find any financial information online. Only accountant contact information available. (Given the great amount of information in other areas, this is surprising. Did I overlook? Would love another opinion.)





Business Licenses, etc.

All downloadable forms and information that could possibly be needed but no online submissions.


Web site

Whether information is false or dated is hard to determine, but found no obviously out-of-date information noticed.


General:

Shelby Co. should be commended for the availability of a great amount of online information for both citizens and businesses. Also, much needed disaster information assistance is readily available online.



Some areas needing improvement: Citizen feedback capabilities such as email addresses and/or web email forms and more online submission/transaction options; fix some broken links; provide budget/financial information, provide committee agendas and minutes.



Kim Reynolds said (2/24/12) that the website is undergoing a “makeover”, so this very informative website should get even better soon.

D
Contact
Not all the information is on one page nor on the Welcome page but it is listed throughout the various departments and the left side labeled tabs is a quick way to obtain the information.


Elected Officials

Information about the Commission terms of office and email are missing. They used to have emails for the Commissioners. The Committee assignments of the Commissioners may be found in the agendas but no other Committee information is found. The contact through email is available for Probate Judge, Juvenile Court judges who are elected.


Appointments

Only those committees with the Commissioners are listed. There is no contact for the Planning Commissioners.


Meetings

Commission meeting minutes are posted but sometimes late. There is excellent advance information for the Planning Commission meetings.


Transactions on line

Taxes, business taxes and fees, development documents may all be submitted via the Internet. Bidding information is available and forms for making bids are available. Who is awarded the bid is listed. It is difficult to see if there is a disclaimer for security but the site is HTTPs meaning it is secure. I suspect once you log in there is a statement as there are other disclaimers on the site.


Budget

This is probably this site’s weakness. There is no budget information


Business

This site is business oriented and has done a nice job


Web Site

The IT department is listed as the site manager but no dates are given. Items do seem fairly current as many have dates on the downloadable items or on the minutes.


General

This is a huge website that covers a lot of information. In spite of the fact that the Council minutes were so out-of-date, I thought that the archived videos of all council meetings, along with agendas, going back three years were impressive. Also, the budget information, showing the two previous years’ actual figures alongside the current budget and then showing several years’ very detailed Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports was very informative.




Birmingham


E

Contact Information
Had to search for City Hall to get telephone # No single listing of departments, grouped by "live, work, play" categories


Elected Officials

Have to read narrative for info about term and next election date. Narrative is thorough but tends to be self-promoting


Appointments

Membership info available on individual Councilors' pages. Could not locate method of appointment and tenure


Meetings

The Committee/agency notices varied; some give the regular meeting date and others announce specific dates (perhaps they do not meet regularly). No indication which meetings are open to public input Excellent feature is video archived meetings gong back several years.


Public Records

Could not locate and tried searching site for FOIA


Transactions on line

Not everything is on-line, but there are good descriptions of the process for transactions that are not


Budget

Very thorough


Business etc

Not a central spot for new business info


Web Site

Could not locate anything about the manager. Only date was copyright from 2010. However, most info that had an identifiable date was quite current


General

Overall - an attractive site The videos of Council meetings provide full information - more than most people would want. The links to different agencies and departments were good. There is an interesting series of video clips on the Welcome page about recent events One negative: the site indicates there is a Spanish translation, but it would not display
F
Contact Information
Phone, mailing and contact info and email available for mayor’s office, city council and departments


Elected Officials

Committee chairmanships were listed. An expansive city council portion of the website does not give any information about election though


Appointments

Only chairpersons and no complete committee listing were given. There was almost no info on committees.


Meetings

The last weekly meeting notice was over two weeks old and link did not work. There was no info on open/closed status or if public input is allowed. The last minutes for the Commission were 13 months ago. It does not appear that any effort is made to post anything other than Council meeting minutes and, as stated, those are over a year old; streaming video and archived video are immediately available on the web site for all Council meetings.


Public Records

Cannot find anything other than a staff listing which lists the council administrator and the public information officer but it doesn’t say, which, if either you should apply to for public records or any process for that.


Transactions on line

On-line transactions include tax and parking tickets for citizens and taxes for businesses. You have to have your ID and password to get anywhere on the taxes site, but it looks pretty secure, so I would be surprised if they didn’t once you got in there – lots of disclaimers everywhere


Budget

The current budget is displayed with two previous years’ actual figures for comparison



Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports with auditors findings and pretty much anything else you want to know for 2004-2011


Business etc

Very detailed information for starting a business and seeking permits. Count not find on linked tracking for building permit applications or for bid submissions. There was detailed info about bid submission process for city projects.


Web site

Multitudes of downloadable files for taxes, building permits etc. Except for meeting notices and council minutes, the site looks accurate and up-to-date


General

This is a huge website that covers a lot of information. In spite of the fact that the Council minutes were so out-of-date, I thought that the archived videos of all council meetings, along with agendas, going back three years were impressive. Also, the budget information, showing the two previous years’ actual figures alongside the current budget and then showing several years’ very detailed Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports was very informative.




Hoover



G

Contact Information
Department listings do not provide direct access to names.


Elected officials

Term of office is identified, but election dates are not specified. Only Council Place #’s are provided for Councilors.


Appointments

A webpage has been created for committee information but is presently blank.


Meetings

An online calendar is presented on the website with no information. No, meeting agendas or minutes are present for 2012. Links to a few public notices from 2012 were posted. There are agendas, meeting notices, reports, etc. available for viewing/download in the 2011 archives but no way to tell if agendas were posted in advance. Was not able to find evidence of meeting minutes in 2011. Did not look in other archives.


Public Records

Existence of Public Information Office but does not specifically mention ability to request public records in general.


Transactions on-line

Could not find a statement about use of secure server for online transactions, but URL of website is https.


Budget

Budgets are present for viewing/download but were not easily found. 2012 budget is posted in the 2011 archives; 2011 budget posted in 2010 archives.


Business, etc

Budgets are present for viewing/download but were not easily found. 2012 budget is posted in the 2011 archives; 2011 budget posted in 2010 archives.


General

Web pages show a copyright date of 2006.
H
Contact Information
The major departments (fire, police, finance) contact names are present but contact names are not present for all the departments although there is very easy information for contact. With this large of a city, it may be that there is more than one to contact or the turnover makes it easier to just have it generic. I am not sure that it is important to have the name of the urban forester, animal control officer but would be nice to have the rest


Appointments

Committee exist and are named but membership and contact information is missing


Meetings

Some boards do post the meeting times and some do not. Seems to be mainly posted if regularly scheduled. Agendas and minutes are posted for Council, Planning/Zoning but not necessarily as soon as 5 days in advance. Minutes are posted for those who list a meeting and agendas


Public Records

You may request information but there is nothing indicating that a citizen has access to any documents, if requested


Transactions on line

There is not a statement but it is obvious they have one as it is an HTTPS



The offer limited citizen transaction, mainly of a reporting of a problem such as trash on the road way or fallen tree etc. There is no way to order something or pay a ticket etc. There are routes for businesses though to do e-business


Budget information

and in great detail with highlighted items to pull attention to unusual or one time expenditures


Business, etc.

The process for building or working with zoning issues are not easily spelled out nor easy to find. Additionally the process mainly is to call the department. There is an application for business and for a variety of business taxes.


Web Site

No web site manager but contact for issues related to the web site, some files downloadable but not all. Items do seem to be fairly current.