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Websites tell the tales of two cities

October 27, 2005|By S.J. CAHN

For months, if not years, Newport Beach has been way ahead of Costa Mesa when it comes to the quality and usefulness of its website.

And for the most part, it's still out in front.

Surf over to www.city.newport -beach.ca.us, and you'll be treated to a changing series of photos on the front page -- it might be of Little Corona, it might be of a surfer charging down a wave.

But the strength of the site isn't just cosmetic. Agendas for the City Council and all its commissions are just a few clicks away. (Yes, you can find out all you need to know about sea lions. Go to www.city.newportbeach.ca.us/hbr/Agenda sandminutes.htm and click below the cute photos of harbor enemy No. 1.) You can pay parking tickets. You can apply for a job.

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On the political side of things, there are campaign finance statements available. There is information on the civic center project and Marinapark. Someone with time to kill even could go through the city's general plan.

It also is highly interactive and mostly user-friendly. (The campaign finance statements at one point were a lot easier to find than they are now, for instance.) It's built for high-speed Internet action.

Costa Mesa, on the other hand, seems to not quite be into the broadband era. The drop-down menus at www.ci.costa-mesa.ca.us are a bit dated, and the site is fairly text-heavy.

On the plus side, like in Newport, council agendas are available online. However, the interactivity doesn't drop to the level of, say, the cultural arts committee. You can find out online who's a member of the group -- it's half vacant, according to the site -- but not what they are talking about.

But Costa Mesa finally has taken mammoth strides by streaming council and committee meetings online and keeping them in an archive. Check out www.ci.costa-mesa.ca.us/ news/cmesatv.htm, especially the "Video On-Demand" link. This new feature pulls Costa Mesa into a close second to Newport for best Internet for a Newport-Mesa city.

Of course, Newport has streaming video of its meetings on its website, too, at newportbeach.granicus.com /ViewPublisher.php?view_id=4. And the quality of the two programs are comparable.

So why is Costa Mesa's video earning it such bonuses?

Content.

Right now, Costa Mesa meetings can be terrific shows. The Oct. 11 council study session during which Councilman Eric Bever and Councilwoman Katrina Foley traded barbs over the "discretionary" funds is priceless, as far as city TV goes.

And now, thanks to the online video, we can all watch it over and over again.

That fact promises either to greatly raise the discourse at City Hall or prove the death knell for calm, logical discussion.

* S.J. CAHN is the managing editor. He may be reached at (714) 966-4607 or by e-mail at s.j.cahn@latimes.com.

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