Monday, August 31, 2015

In Defense of the City Website

Ever since the City of Hudson website went online back in 2002, people have been complaining about it. The biggest criticism seems to be that it's not attractive; it doesn't present Hudson in the way we would like others to see us.

There's no argument there. The design is pretty frumpy. The defense is that Digital Towpath, which is the platform used for the City website, has only a limited number of templates to choose from. There are currently 130 municipalities--villages, towns, counties, and one city (Hudson)--that use Digital Towpath, and you can find the links to all of these websites here. Clicking on the links, you will see the similarities, but you will also see that it is possible, even given the limitations, to create a fairly appealing design. The websites for the Village of Canajoharie and Franklin County are evidence of the possibilities.

Another criticism of the website is that it's hard to find things, and admittedly there are challenges. Sometimes things aren't quite where you would expect them to be, but more often than not they're there. You just have to be persistent, and if you are, you can discover wonders! One of the advantages of Digital Towpath is that it has an enormous capacity, and for the past thirteen years, people in City Hall have been digitizing documents and uploading them to the website. 

Among the documents uploaded by the Department of Public Works is a report by Vince Wallace which lists all the Civil War veterans buried in the Grand Army of the Republic section of the cemetery and provides a map with the location of each grave.

Also among the DPW documents is the endlessly fascinating Water Tap Book, which will tell you not only when your house was hooked up to the municipal water supply, but also, if your house is located on an east-west street, what your house number was before the City switched to hundred blocks in 1888-1889.

If you click on "History" in the left column on the homepage, you will find all the previous versions of the city charter, from 1823 to 1949, and one hundred and fifty years of Common Council minutesfrom 1833 to 1983.

In addition, you can find on the website the 2002 Comprehensive Plan, the 2011 Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, the master concept plan for the North Bay Recreation and Natural Area, the tax rolls, and many other documents to help you satisfy your curiosity and while away the hours. 

The website is an extensive and valuable resource for Hudson residents, and all it needs is a facelift, some updating, and a little refinement. Perhaps it's possible with Digital Towpath, as it is with Google Blogger, to change the template and the look of the website without re-creating the whole thing.


  1. Can't agree more, Carole. First priority, I would think, is gather up the complaints and suggestions and see how many can be solved with the Digital Towpath. For instance, there should be a page for Common Council instead of (or, at least in addition to) "Officials." I'm sure that's possible using DT.... But I agree, there's tons of great info to be had at

  2. What the public needs most are searchable documents.

    When the waterfront program's Generic Environmental Impact Statement was posted as an unsearchable PDF, the Task Force went nuts. The document was quickly converted with OCR software, and then re-posted at the city website.

    When we agitated for the release of the city's "Long Term Control Plan for Combined Sewer Overflows" - which the city had wrongly and secretly told the DEC was available at the library - the public prevailed. But what got posted at the DPW's webpage was a single, unsearchable, 839-page PDF; a barely usable document dump with the tiniest scroll bar you've ever seen. Take that!

    Do people understand our form of government? Do we realize that we the public have paid for and OWN these materials?

    The technology to make the information more accessible exists, but not the will to use it.

    In comparison, the appearance of the city website is insignificant, a distraction. Let's get our priorities straight, then we can add all the colors we want.

  3. i find that the city of hudson website does not work at all for me on mac using chrome/safari/'s impossible to download pdfs...does anyone else have the same experience?