Add Waukegan, Ill., to the growing list of municipalities that are ditching paper in favor of electronic documents.
The city last month issued tablets to its aldermen in lieu of the traditional large paper packets they usually receive before city council meetings. In addition, Waukegan just finished a massive redesign of its website, with an eye on enhancing the amount of business it does electronically.
Waukegan spokesman David Motley said that by moving to tablets, aldermen receive their meeting materials in a more convenient format days ahead of time. Instead of hauling around paper, officials can now read and digest the issues with a handheld device, hopefully making the process more efficient.
In addition, Waukegan Mayor Wayne Motley felt the change would force his colleagues to come to city council meetings fully prepared. Motley explained that during his 12-year tenure as city clerk, he noticed many of the city’s leaders weren’t up-to-speed on the issues, with some claiming they never received meeting materials.
“Right after I took office, I made a decision that it would be in the best interests of all of us to go paperless because it was a more effective way of disseminating information that was necessary to a meeting,” said Mayor Motley, whose first day in office was Monday, May, 6.
The transition to paperless city council meetings has gone well so far. According to the mayor, aside from a couple of aldermen that are hesitant to use tablets, most of the city council is finding it easier to use the devices and access information.
On April 26, Waukegan unveiled its new website, which was fully re-imagined from a navigation perspective. Instead of focusing on city departments and tasks as understood by staff members, navigation focuses on how residents would conceptualize what they need and search for things.
Spokesman David Motley said that while the old website was functional, it was also archaic. The site was operating off the same core architecture he designed in 1995, and the city hadn’t invested any money in upgrading it until now.
This time around, Waukegan spent $67,000 and hired CivicPlus, a citizen-focused government website designer for the project. The city has a three-year contract with the company. In addition to the upgraded navigation, some of the new features on the site include subscription-based notification system and the ability to quickly access city council materials, including archived meeting broadcasts.
Updating the website will also be easier for Waukegan city staff. David Motley said the previous version required him to be the sole person to update and maintain it. So whenever departments wanted to push new information onto the Web, they had to give it to Motley, who would post it for them.
That’s no longer the case. Fifteen people from various city departments are trained on the new system. Those individuals will create their own Web content and manage their respective website pages.
The upgrades won’t stop there, however. David Motley revealed that Waukegan will launch its first mobile application later this month for both Android and iOS devices. The city is also planning to expand its digital services in the near future.
“Incorporating e-commerce is going to be our second priority,” he said. “This will allow the customer to go onto our website and …we can operate and function as a business independent of our 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. office hours at City Hall.”
Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.