Website Review:

I’ve lived in the same small South Carolina town for almost 30 years now. How a sophisticate like me ended up here is a long story. Still, Rock Hill is not a bad place to raise a family and have a happy life.

Its biggest advantage, even as described in its own self-promotional literature, is not what it is but what it’s near. It’s only a two-hour drive from the Blue Ridge Mountains and a three-hour drive from the beach. It’s 15 miles south of the big city of Charlotte, N.C., and about 30 miles beneath the shining city of Bible-Belt Heaven. It’s close in many ways to being a typical Southern hick town populated by Men with Necks of Red, and yet a population of over 60,000, the presence of Winthrop University, and the aforementioned proximity to a real city get it at least to the twentieth century if not the twenty-first.

This modernity is reflected in its website — – which I’ll mock in this week’s Website Review.

The home page includes a welcome from our doughy mayor, the honorable Doug Echols, who describes us as a place “where the excitement of progress and quality of life blend to form a unique city,” which probably just about any burg can claim. Featured pages nearby show how we’re looking to the future, both the nearby one where all homes will have the “YardCart” to collect shrub trimmings, or the more-distant one outlined in the 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan, when city trash trucks are powered by giant windmills on their hoods and the sanitation workers hover about in jet packs.

The “About Us” section gives a short history of the town and how that history has been preserved, sort of. The name is derived from a perhaps-apocryphal story of rail crews working on the Charlotte to Augusta line in 1852 and struggling with the excavation of a small, flinty area, which they dubbed “Rock Hill.” (I guess we could’ve just as easily ended up being “Stone Nob,” “Boulder Mount” or “Broke My Damn Shovel.”) The railroad brought business to the region, which incorporated as a village in 1892. The growth that has happened since is symbolized at the Gateway intersection with four statues holding circular emblems to signify Gears of Industry, Flame of Knowledge, Stars of Inspiration and Lightning Bolt of Energy, and a couple of stone columns salvaged from an old bank in Charlotte.

Once you get past these opening introductions, the site gives a good overview into the internal workings of a modern American town. There’s a list of the boards and commissions, including the cemetery committee, the gas and mechanical board and the always-popular plumbing and cross connection advisory board. There are minutes to these meetings – for example, you can find that the January 21 traffic commission session had everyone welcomed at 10:05 a.m., and that the panel was looking at strengthening a “no parking” sign on Ebenezer Avenue with the additional warning of “towing enforced.” No word yet on whether the February agenda might’ve included adding “seriously – we mean it” to the sign.

Elsewhere is a Frequently Asked Questions section that reads like it was harvested from a log of complaints by a group of particularly whiny citizens. “Why hasn’t my trash been picked up?” gives an opening to discuss how that depends on the type of trash – debris versus garbage versus junk versus refuse versus rubbish. “This carpet and padding has been on the street for two weeks” is answered with the address of the county convenience center, formerly known as the dump. “I have one driveway but want another one” is patiently addressed with a policy statement of how the city is only responsible for one entranceway per home. “I have four children at home and can’t afford another rollcart” brings a plug for recycling as one way to reduce waste output but stops short of suggesting how to cut back on the quantity of kids.

There’s also a nice link to a complete listing of municipal ordinances that help to keep a city and its people civilized. “The city council” – apparently doing public health research in its spare time – “has found that smoking poses a significant risk to the health of smokers” and so smoking or carrying a lighted cigarette is prohibited, except by performers in any theatrical production. I guess that explains the recent production of “Our Town” with an all-smoking cast and audience.

Section 6 is a little something for the town’s animal population, making it unlawful to maliciously cut, shoot, maim, wound or otherwise injure or destroy any animal, then goes on to cite a number of creative ways this might be done. Animals and “fowl other than cats” are not permitted to run at large or to fight within the city (I’m going to have to inform my own cats about this one, lest their pre-dinner tussles land me in jail). No person shall keep any live chickens, geese, ducks or turkeys inside any building where food is exposed for sale. It is unlawful for any cow, hog, goat, sheep, horse or mule to run at large within the city limits or to copulate on any public street. (The emu and llama, apparently, are given free range to do as they please.) The keeping of any hog or pig creates “noxious odors and atmospheric pollution or contamination offensive to the senses and obnoxious to the general welfare and comfort of the community” and so too is banned.

Back on the subject of humans, there are ordinances that forbid climbing on or damaging fences and shrubs in city cemeteries. Also, no unauthorized person shall open any closed cemetery gate. Eerily, there is no mention of illegality with regard to the toppling of gravestones or the disinterment of crypts, perhaps as a concession to our powerful local zombie lobby. It is unlawful to play or loiter on railroad tracks, nor can you attempt to board any railroad car in motion (hobo lobby not as powerful, I guess). Nuisance trees are defined and warned to behave themselves, as are “porta-pot” contractors, who are limited in the amount of effluent being they can dump into the sewer system.

Finally, I looked at the website’s list of core values for the city. These are usually the high-minded aspirations of how civic leaders see their communities rising to the challenges of a diverse and modern America. When I saw an “en Espanol” pulldown, I was hoping these values would also be shown in Spanish, which is close enough to Latin to make them sound even more honorable. Instead, that section was only one page that talked about something called “lucrativa que ofrece”, which if my high-school Spanish serves me has to do with bribing somebody’s mouth.

So instead, I’ll mention a few in plain English: the city should operate as a multimillion-dollar business, it cannot exist in isolation, its young people represent our future, its employees are its greatest asset, and it will conduct business in an atmosphere where all opinions are welcomed, even the crazy people who make it a practice to attend city council meetings.

All worthy goals befitting today’s civic website.


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One Response to “Website Review:”

  1. InActionMan IAM Says:

    Ah yes, where would we be without rules and regulations?
    I recently had to write some of my own for the school’s computer room, telling students that they must not:
    Steal any of the equipment
    Snap the heaphones in half
    Pour soft drinks into the computer
    Send e-mail to their freinds
    Blog, facebook or take part in other social networking activities
    And so on and so on. These are the computer room’s thirty commandments, and there are more of them every year.

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