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Cyber citizenship

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Music-producer-turned-neighborhood-activist Caleb Southern has an idea for encouraging more citizen-friendly government in Durham: Create a single city Web page where residents can register opinions and take action on issues ranging from streetlight repair to gang prevention to recycling. Right now, information about such issues is scattered across a number of official Internet sites in Durham. (The City/County Planning Department's online list of neighborhood associations is among the best consolidated resources available in cyberspace. Go to www.ci.durham.nc.us/departments/planning/neighborhood_org.cfm/. )

In an Aug. 8 letter to Durham City Manager Marcia Conner, Southern points out that Raleigh has a citizen-oriented Web page that gathers resources in one site ( www.raleigh.nc.org/pubaffairs/MUNSERBK.HTM). He suggests that Durham take that idea one step further by adding links to online forms that citizens need to fill out to get their concerns addressed. Durham already has an online site for some forms (www.ci.durham.nc.us/forms ), but Southern says it's mostly targeted to "special needs" (largely for the business community). "It would be great to have a separate page dedicated to online forms about the concerns of citizens and neighborhoods," he says.

A "one-stop shop" for citizens would "be an excellent resource and could greatly improve efficiency in governance by saving our city employees valuable time," Southern says in his letter. "I believe this simple step would allow us to best take advantage of the excellent services already available. Additionally this will allow citizens to more easily get involved in the improvement and upkeep of Durham."

He hasn't heard back yet from Conner. "I know she has a lot of other things on her mind at the moment," Southern says. At press time, she was out of town and unavailable for comment. Southern's asking Bull City residents who agree with his idea for a cybershop for neighborhood issues to send a "brief and positive e-mail" to: mcconner@ci.durham.nc.us.

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