Baltimore's mayor hopes new Web site clicks with residents

O'Malley seeks to open access to government

March 31, 2000|By Ivan Penn and Peter Hermann | Ivan Penn and Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

First, the sun flashes across a black background. Then, the black screen opens like a new dawn to unveil a logo of buildings and the saying, "Baltimore, The Greatest City in America."

Mayor Martin O'Malley launched the Web page yesterday at his cable and communications office at the Brokerage, 34 Market Place, downtown. He said the Web site, which is at www.baltimorecity.gov, is part of his effort to open and improve access to city government.

"It makes you proud of this city," O'Malley said as the site, framed by the city's black and gold colors, was projected on a screen during his weekly news conference. "This is Baltimore's Web site. Let us know what you think."

The scrolling slogan on the site's home page cost $150.

The City Council also has a Web site -- baltimorecitycouncil.com -- but it is being worked on; the site shut down between administrations.

For weeks after council President Sheila Dixon took office in December, residents could not access the site, which was supposed to provide such information as agendas and legislation.

Aides to former council President Lawrence A. Bell III and Dixon blame each other for the failure of the site, which Bell designated $150,000 to design, set up and operate. Bell's system, which included state-of-the-art video cameras, was shut down temporarily during his administration because the logo was illegally copied.

O'Malley and Dixon said they want the Web sites to improve communication with constituents.

The mayor's site, designed by city employee Frank Purrelli, has lots of features, from listings of attractions with links to arts sites to an organizational chart that has a box with "the people" -- or Baltimoreans -- listed first. Web site visitors can e-mail department heads, and businesses can use it to register for project bids.

Soon, people will be able to conduct other business online, including paying fines and filling out forms.

Some sites, such as public works, are fairly advanced, with updates on trash collection. The police and fire departments have only their mission statements posted.

O'Malley urged people to read through his campaign promises, his updates on his first 100 days in office and 10 biggest accomplishments, which include his two-day cleanup and money for the criminal justice system, so they can monitor whether his government is doing its job.

"You will be able to hold us accountable," O'Malley said. "We're working very hard on following through on what we promised during the campaign."

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