By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer
Only slightly behind the curve, the city of Toledo has made the leap into cyberspace.
City hall has its own web site, allowing curious Internet surfers to find out anything from Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s middle initial (it’s S.) to the phone number for the tuberculosis control division.
“It’s a great way for city government to put lots of information out there for people to use,” said Frank Beier, the city’s commissioner of support services, who is in charge of the web site project.
Of Ohio’s seven largest cities, Toledo was the last to debut its own city web site. Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Akron, and Canton all have their own sites, of widely differing size and complexity.
The California-based Internet catalog Yahoo lists 20 cities in Ohio, 18 in Michigan, and eight in Indiana with government web sites.
Toledo’s site features information on eight city departments, ranging from city pool schedules to affirmative action policies. On one page, city development officials push the Autolite site on Champlain Street as a perfect spot for brownfield development. On another, they write about Toledo police bicycle patrols.
Users can even download city income-tax forms that, when printed, can be substituted for the city’s regular forms.
It’s a dizzying array of disparate information, mirroring the wide range of human affairs into which city government dips its hands from its downtown headquarters.
“You have this big tower downtown, this big white thing,” Tom Waniewski, vice president of Access Toledo, an Internet service provider, said. “Then you have the Internet, which lets people interact. We saw this as a natural match between the medium and government.”
Access Toledo designed the site. The firm proposed the site to city officials in 1996, and it debuted in its current form last month.
Citizens seem to be taking advantage. With only minimal publicity, some web pages on the site have gotten more than 4,000 hits a day, Mr. Beier said.
The city paid a $1,280 fee for the site’s design, Mr. Waniewski said. Access Toledo hosts the site for free but hopes to begin charging about $30 per department per month, he added.
Mr. Beier said the city is shopping around for hosting services in the Toledo area.
Access Toledo is partially owned by Blade Communications, Inc., which owns The Blade. BCI has two seats on Access Toledo’s five-member board of directors.
The city’s site adds to the number of local governmental agencies that have staked their claim on the web. The Lucas County commissioners have been on the web more than a year, and the state of Ohio has a large site.
The city council is looking into getting its own web site, members said, and Mr. Beier said a page for each member is not far off.
They could be given e-mail addresses to allow citizens to voice their complaints and positions electronically.
“I think it’s a great way for people on council to keep in touch with constituents,” Mr. Beier said.
Soon, the site will add a directory and information for at least five more departments. Mr. Beier said he hopes to allow citizens to send their credit card numbers over the Internet and order city reports electronically.
The city’s site can be reached at http://www.ci.toledo.oh.us