A realtor who read about the inability to leave a voicemail at the city's public access cable TV in yesterday's HITS suggested taking a stroll over to the city's website and looking around. Not as a longstanding resident, but with the eyes of a homebuyer who knows nothing about Plainfield and is looking to buy here.
Can you say 'down the rabbit hole?'
Let's start with the home page.
Disorganized, but there are links. (Click on any image to enlarge.) Let's go explore the site. But before we leave, notice that PCTV-74 "will introduce its new look ! and it program schedule for the spring season For more info call.... 908-753-3301"
There we go with that number again. Just to double-check, I call it as I write this. 20 rings and no voice mail. We have to move on. Before we go, note that the new look ! and it program schedule are promised for the spring season. Summer starts soon.
Let's click on "The Mayor's Welcome" and see where we go.
"Plainfield has a very diverse, rich history, and our future is excitingly boundless. . . Thank you for visiting this site, which we redesigned for ease of use. On the top, you will find appropriate links that will assist you in locating various city departments and services." -- from the Mayor's welcome message
The first thing we notice is that the page looks different. This is because the interior of the site still reflects the attractive color scheme and coherent organization of John DiPane, who was in charge of the website from its inception until his recent retirement.
Well, look at that! Say's here we can email him with comments and suggestions. Strange. . .he's gone. Isn't he?
Along the top of the page we note a series of drop-down menus with links to help us explore the city and its government, services and attractions.
Note the scrolling message window to the left of the Mayor's picture. It says the city's "Corporation Council" is looking for RFQ's. Council? My, my, my. While there, check out the list of services for which RFQ's are wanted. Hmmmmmmmm.
Just so you don't burn up your time waiting for pictures to download, I'll just give the links and comment for the rest of the tour.
If you're schizophrenic, you'll feel right at home as you can have two quite different experiences of the site depending on your starting point.
Let's check out some of the links under Visitors Info. The Red Cross, the Library, the Schools, the Drake House, Muhlenberg -- these links all take you where they say they will. But try the Rescue Squad and you draw a blank -- "404 Not Found."
Take a trip through the Economic Development section and you will discover Pat Ballard Fox is still the person in charge. Checking out the map link from here will whisk you away without warning to a new page where a tiny bit of map is displayed. It's something of a cross between a migraine and an out-of-body experience.
The Housing Authority of Plainfield is another interesting link. It doesn't really take you to a HAP website -- the Plainfield Housing Authority has no website, which you can see from the HUD directory of NJ housing authorities. Where exactly does it take you? It's a commercial site devoid of content but with plenty of links to businesses trolling the Web for prospects. How on earth did it come to be on the city site?
Now, go back to the home page, and get ready for a different experience altogether.
Along the right side of the page are a series of links. Some will take you places we have been before. Some will take you to a parallel universe. Trying these, you will find there is no link for the Department of Public Works and Urban Development (though we were able to get there from the Mayor's page).
Clicking on the Senior Center takes you to a page saying "this page is unavailable."
Mousing over the Public Affairs and Safety "link" reveals it is not a link at all, just plain text.
What would our homebuyer think of Plainfield after an experience like this?
Where is our famous Plainfield pride?
Who's watching the store?
Boys and girls, I can't make this stuff up.
Take an aspirin. Make that two. If it's not raining, go outside. The fresh air will do you good.
Check out the Library's book sale, or the Clinton School open house. March against violence.
Try to take your mind off the "face" we are putting forward to the world.
-- Dan Damon*