An open letter to the residents, virtual citizens and officials of
The first Lincoln namesake city deserves an
official Web site worthy of its name.
The growing power of the Internet greatly increases the
importance of official city Web sites as tools of public service.
These sites can provide key information to local citizens about
government policies and procedures as well as community events and
resources. Additionally, these sites can make positive first
impressions on potential tourists and newcomers -- including
prospective businesses -- expressing civic pride and providing
useful directories, links, etc. As someone who has studied Web site
principles and marketing, taught them to master's-degree students
and created the well-received community history Web site of Lincoln,
Ill., I urge the city of Lincoln to replace its current official Web
site -- a disaster.
A new Web site could present a much more inviting visual
appearance and broader scope of information. The current site's
weaknesses include a lack of substance on the home page, many blank
and incomplete pages, superimposed and unreadable text in places,
and distorted photos. Even the quality of the mayor's photo is as
poor as the whole site, which has been online for several years
without significant improvements. That site glaringly contradicts
the home page's claim that Lincoln is progressive. Use the link to
the city's Web site at the bottom of this message and see for
In July of 2008, according to the Pantagraph, "Mayor Beth Davis-Kavelman
agreed the city's Web site needs an upgrade. 'We had a group of high
school students work on a project to redesign the site, and I
thought some good ideas came out of that,' Davis-Kavelman said.
'Maybe we could take some of those ideas and tweak them a little.'"
In all due respect, the current site is an embarrassment seen by the
entire world, but mere tweaking is not the solution. The site needs
to be taken down and replaced -- ASAP. Also, creating a respectable
Web site is not a project for amateurs of any age, but the cost can
be reasonable -- a sound investment.
Now, the city of Lincoln has a great opportunity to replace its
present Web site with a far superior one through the virtual public
service and expertise of Debra Seaman. She is an experienced graphic
artist who runs her own small business, Seaman Graphics, and who
works full time as Web designer for a community college in Leesburg,
Fla. Her husband, Mark, is an IT/networking technician at one of the
main banks in a prominent retirement community in Florida. Debra and
Mark are former Lincoln residents who remain Lincolnites at heart.
For several months, Debra has tried to get some dialogue going
with the mayor and other city officials about this matter without
much success. I hope this apparent lack of response does not reflect
the bias of "not invented here -- forgetta-bout-it." Today Lincoln,
Ill., has some resourceful virtual citizens. I volunteered to write
this plea in support of Debra's offer; and at my request, she
describes it in her own words:
and prospective visitors have been given a gift from my husband me.
The gift is an unauthorized [but proposed official] city of Lincoln
Website. Its URL is
http://www.lincolnil.org/. Initially the new design and Website
were offered to the city officials Pro Bono. My intention was to
work with the city redesigning and making an aesthetic and
functioning website for the residents and potential visitors. In
today's world a municipal Website is not only the first virtual look
into a community, but it is a place where the residents can do a
finite number of tasks without ever leaving their homes. They keep
current with crucial safety alerts, city calendars, and other news.
[to top of second column in this letter]
Along the way in
trying to get the city official's approval for the site, I met new
allies, Leigh Henson and Jan Youngquist, as well as dear friends and
family like Shelly Conley, my sister Sandy Vinyard, and many others
who tried to do what they could to persuade the city to move on this
free offer. After months of running into brick walls I was just
going to take the revised site and discard it, when my husband
offered to purchase a domain name and set up one of his old servers
in our spare bedroom. Thus the city's unauthorized site was born.
I welcome better
photos of the city municipal workers, events or links. I do my best
from my home in Silver Springs, Florida, and know things will
improve as the residents start using the site. Businesses, too, are
welcome to contact me for listings to be added to the business
section. I track the site daily. The site has been online to the
public two weeks, and to date has had over 300 visitors throughout
the nation, even one from Belgium. It is still my hope that the city
will realize the significance of the site and will want to make it
the 'official' Website for Lincoln.
Let me emphasize that I have found Debra very business-oriented,
cooperative and talented: Previously she had asked for my critique
of her site, and she promptly, skillfully applied my few suggestions
to refine her original, grade-A design. Clearly, Debra and her
husband have mastered the computer tools of the Web far better than
I have. Now -- not later -- the city claiming to be the first to
live the Lincoln legacy deserves an official Web site worthy of the
Great Man who excelled in public service. And the Seamans can
deliver it. Contact Debra at email@example.com.
If insufficient funds have been budgeted, why not immediately
seek donations from Lincoln's service clubs and businesses whose
information could be included in the new site? I guess it would take
only $2,000 or $3,000. Just how hard would it be to raise that
amount for this vital cause? Today I have mailed city treasurer Les
Plotner a check for a modest amount designated for this cause.
If you agree with the need for a new city of Lincoln Web site
ASAP, please let the mayor and city council members know. You will
find contact information for them in both the current and proposed
Web sites. And consider writing a one-sentence letter -- or send a
postcard -- if e-mails and phone calls don't get through. Forward,
publish or otherwise distribute this message as you wish. Let all
Lincolnites at heart pull together to get an official namesake city
Web site that will fulfill our beloved song's promise: "If dear old
Abe would return, I know what he would do. He'd say, 'Lincoln, we're
proud of you.'" And remember, Abe is returning this Oct. 16!
Leigh Henson, Ph.D., LCHS Class of 1960
Professor Emeritus of English
Missouri State University, Springfield
City of Lincoln's current Web site:
Debra Seaman's Lincoln Web site:
City of Springfield:
City of Bloomington:
(The link is valid; try later if site is unavailable.)
September 09, 2008]
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