Table of Contents

  1. Got a Question? Check the Web
  2. Michigan Campaign Finance Law Causes Problems
  3. Favorite Government Documents

(1) Got a Question? Check the Web
Local Government Offices Find Internet Useful in Serving the Public

Shirley Beckman of Mason says she looked at Ingham County’s Web site out of curiosity initially. What she found was a wealth of information.

Now she knows where to find county-related information when she needs it.

"I feel it is very user-friendly", Beckman added. "I don’t consider myself that sophisticated on the Internet, but I didn’t find it that difficult to find what I wanted."

State, county and local governments alike are finding the Internet useful in making information and even services available to the public.

What’s out there?

Well, anything from available government jobs; marriage licenses or passport application forms that you can print out and mail in; up-to-the-minute local election returns and even pictures of animals available for adoption at the county animal shelter or photos of Gov. John Engler’s triplet daughters.

All this and more is as close as your personal computer.

For example, the Eaton County prosecuting attorney’s Web page has a link that will show ou every step in the criminal proces from arrest through the appeal of a conviction. The Lansing city clerk’s office Web page tells residents where to go to vote and even provides absentee voter application forms they can print out.

And almost all provide e-mail addresses for elected officials and other key people in local government, making it easier for the public to voice concerns and opinions.

Ingham County controller Jerry Ambrose says there are three phases in the development of an Internet site:

Most governmental units are just starting to enter the second phase, although the Secretary of State’s office is now providing the change on-line to apply for license plates or register watercraft.

"We realize we are just on the beginning edge of technology in Ingham County,” said county Clerk Mike Bryanton, “but we’ve got to take little baby steps before we can crawl or run."

In addition to general information and some forms that can be printed out and mailed in, the county clerk’s Web page provides lists of marriage license applications, new business filings and candidates running for office in the August primary election.

Bryanton hopes the site will eventually give users the ability to search for specific information, such as finding out whether a business name is already in use.

Becky Bennett, the Ingham Board of Commissioners’ administrative aide, estimates she now spends about a quarter of her week on the Internet, inputting agendas and minutes of board and committee meetings, updating meeting schedules and generally keeping the board’s Web page up to date. Last week she added color photos of the 13 commissioners.

Bennett was one of the key people who got Ingham’s Web site up and running about a year and a half ago.

"The county bought the software and we basically taught ourselves how to use it to create a site," she said.

George Vernon, Ingham County’s applications programming management, says the Web site averages 40 to 50 hits daily and is steadily increasing. The most popular sites are job postings and the health department.

"We get a lot of hits from other states," he said, "and have had hits from as far away as Denmark."

At one point the county Health Department site got an abnormally large amount of hits from Virginia.

"They appeared to be firm just outside Washington, D.C., " Vernon said, "We don’t know if it was a federal agency looking at our health department or what."

Vernon has assumed the unoffical title of Web master of the county’s site. He makes sure the various Web pages are properly linked, e-mail addresses are up-to-dte and functional, and that links to other Web sites work.

"Now that it is up and running, I would estimate that it takes about 5 to 7 percent of my time," he said. "When were getting it set up, it took about 35 percent of my time."

Mid-Michigan Government Web Sites
Government URL
Clinton County:
Eaton County:
Ingham County:
East Lansing:
St. John's:

Additional Local Government Web Sites Can Be Located At:
Source: URL
Michigan Association of Counties County Directory:
Michigan Municipal League Directory of Cities and Villages
Michigan Townships Association Township Directory

Source: Hugh Leach, Lansing State Journal, June 28, 1998, 4B.

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(2) Michigan Campaign Finance Law Causes Problems;
And Creates An Opportunity for Michigan Government Depository Libraries?

Evelyn Quiroga, a disclosure division specialist with the state Bureau of Elections, said a 1976 campaign finance law requires her office to destroy most campaign-finance records after five years. For officeholders such as judges, whose terms exceed five years, the records are kept one year longer that the lengths of their terms.

Paper records are shredded, pulverized and recycled, Secretary of State spokeswoman Elizabeth Boyd said. Microfiche records are blacked out. Records are placed on computer disks only as requested, so there aren't any to destroy. The secretary of state is developing a policy on deleting records from its computer Web site.

According to Quiroga, space has never been an issue as to whether keep something or not. When they passed the law, state legislators "were trying to level the paying field" for incumbents who had a history that their opponents could go back and retrieve information from.

Since the Michigan State Archives, like the Elections Bureau, is part of the Secretary of State, it too has had to go back and destroy all campaign-finance records older than five years as well.

State archivists elsewhere keep election-finance records permanently. There is a great public demand to see them. Of the fifteen largest states, Michigan stands alone in regards to its limited retention policies. California, New York, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, and Missouri all send campaign-finance records to their state archives to be kept permanently, according to a survey by the Lansing State Journal.

Records of House and Senate debates from 1976, when the campiang finance law passed, shed no light on why the records were ordered destroyed. The bill started in the Senate but was later replaced by a bill put forward by the House Policy Committee. On the 11-member committee was a third term state representative by the name of John Engler.

Engler does not remember how the law came about, spokesman John Truscott said. But now that campaign finance records are available on the Internet, "they're free for anybody to download and keep as long as you want," he said. "Anybody can keep the archives". [Is this a new role for Michigan Government Documents Depositories?] For more information, see "Law Governing Campaign Finance Cuts History Short; Michigan Requires Record to be Culled After Five Years Pass", Paul Egan, Lansing State Journal, September 28, 1998, p.1A-2A.

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(3) Spotlight Feature: Favorite Government Documents

Here's a collection of favorite government documents suggested by Library of Michigan staff and compiled by Suzanne Schneiderman, who wrapped up her report with a single statement: the Statistical Abstract of the United States -- the king of statistical sources!

from Kyle Ripley:

The War of the Rebellion set [W45.5] has been useful for our patrons doing research on family members who served in the Civil War, especially those not from Michigan.

The Fire Insurance Maps In The Library of Congress [LC 5.2: F51] is useful in finding which towns and dates are included in the microfilmed maps. Patrons use these for Genealogy research and also for other general reference research inquiries.

Another useful tool published by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, is the title 200 Years of U.S. Census Taking: Population and Housing Questions, 1790-1990 [C3.2:T 93]. This publication gives the detailed instructions the census takers were given from the first time the U.S. took a census, 1790. It is useful in interpreting information found on the Federal Population Census Schedules used very heavily by Genealogy researchers.

from Charles Hagler

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
The United States Government Manual
Zip Code Directory
IRS Tax Form Web site & Federal Reproducible Forms book
Occupational Outlook Handbook
CPI Detailed Report
Michigan Manual
Final Status of All Legislation
Public and Local Acts
Michigan Information Center Web site
1870 Michigan Census Index
Michigan Cemetery Source Book and Atlas
Congressional Manual

from Janice Murphy:

Respectfully Quoted, good for more obscure quotations
Occupational Outlook Handbook, good collection of career discriptions & more user friendly than the cd version
Michigan Soldiers and Sailors, you know- the Civil War set
Michigan History Magazine
Michigan Natural Resources Magazine
Michigan Reproducible Tax Forms

from Kirsten Lietz:

The Michigan Manual is high on the list--has many useful facts, e.g., dates of former govs, basic state of Michigan facts/statistics, agency info, county level info, voting statistics, etc.;
Uniform Crime Report (Crime in Michigan) by the Michigan State Police;
Michigan Traffic Crash Facts;
House Fiscal Agency Update: Key Economic Indicators;
House Fiscal Agency: Michigan Economic Outlook and HFA Revenues Estimate;
State of Michigan Comprehensive Annual Financial Report;
Michigan Health Statistics.

from Rich Lucas::

A Sesquicentennial Look at the Michigan Legislature--a nice source of facts and figures;
Michigan Bibliography. A partial catalogue of books, maps & manuscripts...from earliest times to July 1, 1917...(also known as Streeter) --a reliable and very helpful source of very early Michigan government publications.

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