Monday, November 7, 2011

The new

The Council of the District of Columbia has, as promised, updated their website.   The new and improved site is cleaner and easier to navigate, offers useful tools to streamline communication between the legislature and the public, and easier access to legislative archives.

The new site launched November 3.

Perhaps the best part of the new site is the functionality. boasts:

  • Online registration form to sign up to testify at a public hearing or roundtable
  • Email updates
  • Online form to contact the council (though there is no indication where the email will go)
  • RSS feeds for news, legislation, and hearing notices)
  • Watching archived events from directly
  • A new calendar now lists all meetings, hearings, roundtables, and other legislative events.   The main page presents the basic information—committee, date, time, subject, and room number.   The hyperlink for each record links to the hearing (roundtable) notice.   It's expected that witness lists will be added.
  • Recent votes of CMs is listed on the overview page of each Councilmember
  • The DC Council is now on Facebook
  • The DC Council's on Twitter

Another important improvement is the availability of more than 600,000 records previously available in print only.   The new digital legislative documents go back to 1989.   Not only are the records available but they are searchable by keywords.

You may recall that some of the improvements were suggested by the community some time ago.   Only the pushing content recommendation was adopted.   Community members recommended the DC Council push content via RSS feed, Facebook, and Twitter and while the tools are now in place, it's too early to tell how they will be used.

The majority of the recommendations not adopted by the council relate to the behavior and performance of individual CMs.   The categories of outstanding ideas to improve DC Council communications are: using social media to listen to residents and answer questions, making improvements related to legislation and Council actions, CM newsletters, prompt response from staff and elected, and miscellaneous ideas.

The IT office doesn't consider the new site done.   Soon to come is an update of LIMS (Legislative Information Management System), fixing bad links, tweaking, and making other changes as necessary.   If you find an error on the site or a tool not functioning properly, email the IT office.   Also send an email with suggestions for other improvements.