Tuesday, August 30, 2005

St. Louis CIN: 10 Years!

St. Louis CIN: 10 Years!

As August 2005 draws to a close, I thought it worth noting this milestone in the history of the St. Louis Community Information Network, the official web site of the city of St. Louis.

In August 1995, with technical assistance provided by students from the Washington University School of Engineering, the St. Louis CIN web site was first launched. Initially hosted by WashU, in summer 1996 hosting was taken over by MOREnet, a state agency, and by 1997 St. Louis CIN was funded under the auspices of Missouri Express, a grant program developed and advocated by Governor Mel Carnahan's administration, which provided start-up grants for dozens of community information networks across the state. For a while, they even had a statewide association called MACIN.

St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC) - or technically, the City of St. Louis Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) - was the grant recipient under Missouri Express and still is the MOREnet affiliate.

In 1997, the first St. Louis CIN neighborhood web fair was held, at which about 40 of the city neighborhoods developed their first web sites. Web Fair '98 and the Non-Profit Web Fair later in '98 were similarly popular. Likewise, over the years a number of city departments started maintaining their own web sites. This slowed, though, when the managers of the city network shut off FTP access.

Although St. Louis CIN served as the city's default web site, it was not funded by city general revenue until FY2004. Nor was it ever funded from Community Development Block Grant funds.

Instead, funding came from various external competitive grants, including Missouri Express Enhanced Services, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Civic Networking program, the EPA EMPACT program, the USDOJ Ounce of Prevention grant, the HUD Enterprise Community program, and a small grant from the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office. Numerous other grant applications were made as well.

By the end of 2001, with federal and state grants for technology declining, and St. Louis city government grant-seeking priorities shifting, no new grants were applied for or received. From 2001 through 2003, the only staff person for St. Louis CIN besides the manager, Sonya Pelli, was... me.

I worked full-time with no benefits for just under $10/hour, until I applied for and was offered a job at East-West Gateway Coordinating Council in June 2002. Then SLDC made me a full-time staffer - CIN Specialist, at $35k/year plus benefits. Not bad. I stayed in that position until going to grad school in August 2003.

Finally, the CIN staff moved from SLDC to city payroll in January 2004. CIN is now part of the city Information Technology Services Agency (ITSA) and funded through general revenue. Also in January 2004, two new full-time web site staff positions were created to assist the manager.

Although it was sometimes a grueling and stressful experience, working to build the St. Louis CIN has been both fun and rewarding for me. I hope it continues to serve St. Louis residents and other users well for many years to come.


Michael Allen said...

Neat story.

I wonder how CIN links to Ecology of Absence (14th Street Mall, Smith Academy & Manual Training School) got there...

Joe said...

I invoke my 5th amendment rights in response to this question :-)