Bakersfield's civic data hits Web at low cost

Bakersfield's civic data hits Web at low cost

Bakersfield, Calif., is offering a full-service electronic-government portal at a taxpayer cost of less than $30,000.

Using WebLink from LaserFiche of Torrance, Calif., the city's Web site, at www.ci.bakersfield.ca.us, went online a year ago, posting city records that date to 1917. Visitors can access the city's budget proposals, municipal code, and real estate and tax records'about 26,000 documents in all, said Bob Trammell, Bakersfield's management information systems director.

The site features live and archived video of council meetings and Bakersfield Condors minor-league hockey games. The images, which can be viewed in RealAudio format, run off an Apache Web server on a Linux server, Trammell said. The site's main Web server software is Microsoft Internet Information Server, and the front-end interface is Microsoft FrontPage 2000.

Because 25 percent of Bakersfield's 400,000 residents speak Spanish, the site uses iTranslator Web translation software from Lernout & Hauspie of Burlington, Mass.

The site attracts hundreds of visitors each month from foreign countries including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, Japan, the Netherlands and Sweden. Last May the site received 344 visits from Switzerland, Trammell said.

The reason for the site's international popularity is a TV show called 'Bakersfield P.D.,' Trammell said. A quirky comedy similar to 'Northern Exposure,' the show ran in 1993 on the Fox network. After the show's demise in the United States, it developed a cult following in Europe, where it is still running. Fans of the show search the Web for 'Bakersfield P.D.' and end up at the city's Web site.

'People used to drop off at the Denny's on the way to San Francisco and think that was Bakersfield,' Trammell said. 'But we're much more than that. We're the 13th-largest city in California. And I think our Web site shows what we can do with a little creativity and hard work.'

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