Without clicking, what do you think is different between these two websites? What do you think is the same?
These are two separate websites, with two separate sets of billable hours and two separate monthly costs to host and maintain. They each tell half of the same story though - why?
The city of Camas has created two nearly identical websites for the same Lake and Everett Intersection project. The newest of the two doesn't include any of the back story, citizen comment or public records that lead to this point in the project. This new page, intended as an up to date progress report, also now buries the latest news updates ¾ of the way down the page. This issue was first brought to the attention of the WATCH Camas staff by a neighbor here nearly a month ago.
The city has demonstrated that it’s very capable of creatively displaying a lot of information on a single web page when it wants to. For example, the Public Works department, and Director Steve Wall, maintain this “project alerts” website currently at www.cityofcamas.us/projectsalerts. Notice at the top a very clear “tabbed” interface that allows you to visit different facets of the same story on one page. This would likely be a great approach to this intersection project.
Historically, the Camas pool bond website also used some tabbed elements as far as we recall - Unfortunately, nothing shows today when you navigate to that page at www.camascommunityaquaticscenter.com today? Why is that website no longer live by the way? We paid $70k as citizens for the marketing effort that went into that. Who made the decision to take down a website that we already built and owned and not preserve it in place for citizens to reference?
Luckily a watchful citizen archived a shot to help you recall which site we’re referring to.
Back to Lake/Everett, the first website for this effort, ending in “/lakeroad”, began the city’s online presence for the project to publicly disclose the progress of the “NE Lake Road and NE Everett Street Intersection Improvement” as it’s called on the site, back in August of 2019 (going by the site’s first update). That means that it started during the height of the pool bond conversation in Camas. A neighbor shouldn’t feel bad for having missed it, Camas citizens were busy then (and maybe a little distracted from other projects).
The site ending in /lakeroad has been the main website referenced in city updates and meetings until recently. It’s the website Camas was trained to go to for new information on this project, including when the press release announcing the city would proceed with the roundabout was quietly released there instead of on the city’s main front page. As you enter the /lakeroad site, you might glance at the “PROJECT UPDATE" section, which is readily visible “above the fold” or clearly in the picture as you first enter the site without scrolling. You’d see a date of Feb. 11, 2020 for the latest update announcing “tree planting schedules” and maybe you’d figure “no news is good news, they must be paused” and you might just go on with your day.
Look closer though and you may find a small note near the header of the website reading, “This page is no longer being updated. For the latest construction news, please visit www.cityofcamas.us/lakeroadconstruction.”
Now we enter that second website, ending in “/lakeroadconstruction”. The transition was never announced officially on the city’s homepage or through any official channel WATCH Camas has seen. You first notice that this website looks exactly the same as the first aesthetically, to the point that you wouldn’t be judged for thinking it actually WAS the same website. In fact, if you visit that page looking for past information that you “thought” you'd seen previously and it’s no longer available, you may just chalk it up to something you’d imagined?
As you enter this new site you see a rendering of a roundabout and you don’t see any recent news, that is until (or if) you scroll ¾ of the way down that page and only then see the newest project updates - including the latest April 1st update announcing that the roundabout project is now on hold.
On this newer /lakeroadconstruction site, you get an even less noticeable clue that there is information preceding this site, and you need to be paying close attention to catch it. It reads only, “To see the steps that led up to construction, please visit…”
There's no mention that the "steps" include an accounting of all of the detailed costs as they progressed from less than a million to over $8m, the local roundabout cost comparison or the hundreds of citizen comments expressing valid concerns about the process around things like traffic safety, pedestrian safety, costs/timeline and the efficacy of this specific roundabout design.
WATCH Camas didn’t feel this was the most transparent approach for neighbors, so we’re going to do what WATCH Camas can do and help our neighbors out. Please take a moment to visit and bookmark www.watchcamas.com/roundabout to stay up to date on Camas’ most recent intersection improvement project.
On this Roundabout page, we will combine any and all information the city presents through separated websites into one - so that you always have the whole story, start to finish, in one easy to access place.
We’ve combined these two websites into a new “WATCHED Website” for you, our neighbors. WATCHED Websites will archive and clarify city information when the need arises. We started this work for our neighbors by archiving all city news released on the city of Camas’ home page and highlighting issues with the “more news” page. That work resulted in a redesign of the city's “more news” page within about a week of our posted story. This is a small example of the real change we can achieve together when we all commit to #WATCHCamas for our neighbors.
If you come across an odd, separated or subtly changing Camas city website that you think we should consider as a new WATCHED Website, please submit your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.