Sunday, July 29, 2007

Internet Revolution Passes by A-B City Council Race

It's been two-and-a-half months since Councilor Jerry McDermott announced that he would not seek re-election to the Allston-Brighton District seat on the City Council. Six candidates have since entered the race, assembled campaign staff, researched the issues, raised money, knocked on doors, and setup websites.

That seems like enough time for us to step back and ask the question:
How well have the candidates established a presence on the internet?
The answer: functional to lousy.

You would think that these days, in the internet age, the candidates would consider an effective website as a key element of a campaign.

In last Monday's candidates forum, Tim Schofield even berated the transparency of the current City Council for failing to provide on the internet the text of resolutions and ordinances currently under consideration. He said, if the City Council won't post the documents on their website, then, as a City Councilor he would put it up on his own. Let's not pray for a shadow government on the internet, but rather ask how adept our candidates seem to be with the web.


Three candidates had websites up in short order: Alex Selvig, James Jenner, and Tim Schofield. All three have modest amounts of content on them, and have had the occasional update to add content (like media links). Schofield had his website presumably left over from his run for State Representative in 2005 (and continued to pay the bills in the interim), but has seamlessly linked that site to his newer one . Jenner needs to learn the how to use the "title" tag in HTML... his pages currently are labelled as "Untitled Document".

Two candidates have put up placeholder websites only very recently: Mark Ciommo and Greg Glennon. They have the famous phrases -- "Coming Soon" and "This site currently under construction" -- that used to be found on 95% of all websites. The email address listed on Ciommo's website bounces back to the sender, while Glennon's site doesn't list an email address at all.

One candidate, Rosie Hanlon, has a website but hasn't even parked a single page at it to tell you it will be coming soon. This all despite the fact that the web address is listed on her campaign literature, and has been that way for at least several weeks now.

Ciommo and Hanlon both know some clever teenagers who could probably help them put up websites in a few hours. Anything would be better than the current contents.

Ciommo's story is the most curious one: early campaign literature sent to me (with a very nice, hand-written note!) listed the website to be at , not his current "official" site of . Quick investigation on "whois" shows that the latter is owned by somebody probably working for him, while the former is owned by somebody else in Arizona (probably a third party disguising the real owner). That is a tough lesson for Ciommo to learn: you should always buy the web domain before sending out campaign literature. He committed a "rookie mistake" -- but, strangely enough, Ciommo has run for the seat before, while neither of the two "rookies" in this race (Jenner and Selvig) made this mistake. More likely it is a sign of a generational gap.

Web Donations

Tim Schofield and Alex Selvig have setup links for campaign contributions via PayPal, the obvious -- and simple -- way to accept money over the internet in the age of Ebay. None of the others has a way to donate online.


James Jenner and Tim Schofield have blogs, but both have had so few postings that they are sure to disappoint visitors. Jenner took the simple and free route of using Blogger for his hosting service (just like the cheapskate who owns Brighton Centered), while Schofield has had a more clever web guru integrate his blog onto his website.


All-in-all, I find the candidates' use of the internet to date to range from functional (Schofield and Selvig) to poor (Ciommo, Hanlon, and Glennon). I hope to see some improvements between now and the election. A lot.

This does not bode well for improving a City Government that has a mediocre website lacking in many key documents (e.g., City Council ordinances, BRA regulatory filings, etc.), having portions of it that don't work properly (e.g., ISD online complaints under at least some browsers and/or OSs), and missing key directories (e.g., of all city employees in a given department!). The best way to find out who works for the City of Boston? The Boston Herald's payroll database (despite its incomplete information). That should not to be the case. The next City Councilor should be someone who can lead the City into the electronic age of the 21st century.

Let's hope the candidates can fix up their websites to show us who among them is best suited to fix up the City of Boston's website.

NOTE (July 30, 2007; 1:30 pm): I have been notified that Rosie Hanlon's website is now up and running. There is no way to contribute online. It also contains a blog, although that blog (created "July 2007") has no entries yet. It's nice to see that a little prodding appears to have led to the website's launch!

NOTE (July 30, 2007; 6:00 pm): And now Rosie's blog has its first posting. Bravo!


David Schrag said...

This bit of information is rather meaningless, but for what it's worth: As the webmaster for Tim Schofield's run for State Representative, I can assure you that there is no connection between the old site and the new one. The old site was retired and the new one built from scratch. (I have no part in the new one.) There might be some common content such as photographs, links, and of course the color scheme, but the underlying bits and bytes are wholly original.

Michael Pahre said...

Interesting point of clarification.

The point I was intending to make is that the domain name was purchased in 2004 and he continued to pay for it through to the present campaign. (It's actually registered through 2009.) I wasn't claiming that the content itself necessarily carried over from the previous campaign.

Bob said...

I am Tim Schofield's campaign manager, Bob LaRocca.

With great sadness, I must add that our webmaster and friend recently passed away. The loss comes as a shock to us and we will miss him dearly.

As a result, our username and password for our site are nowhere to be found and we can not update our page. We would greatly welcome any input on how we can address this issue. It is important to our campaign that we have a site that is updated regularly and easily accessible to all visitors. Please notify us with any advice.

The campaign office can be reached at 617.787.7615 and my email address is

Thank You,

Bob LaRocca