AmCan joins the World Wide Web
By Dan Judge, Times-Herald staff writer
AMERICAN CANYON -- Issa Salameh sees himself as something of a virtual mayor for American Canyon.
The 20-year-old college student elected himself to the position a little more than two years ago when he created a Web site dedicated solely to the southern Napa County community.
The interactive nature of americancanyon.com -- which allows residents to post their opinions, discuss issues and request Internet features they would like to see on the site -- is what makes it special, Salameh said.
"It's the citizens who make the Web site so unique," he said. "They tell me what they want and I try to get it for them. I guess you could say I'm a virtual mayor in a way."
Oddly enough, "the mayor" doesn't even live in American Canyon anymore.
Salameh is pursuing a bachelor's degree in computer science at California State University, San Diego. Nevertheless, the Vintage High School graduate left his heart in American Canyon where his family still lives.
The Salamehs moved to American Canyon in 1992 -- the same year the city incorporated -- when Issa was 10. It was about the same time he developed an interest in computers.
As both Salameh and the city grew, he noticed there were several Internet sites dealing with Napa, but none dedicated to American Canyon.
"Two years ago when you would search for American Canyon nothing would show up," he said. "I wanted to create a place where eventually people could interact with each other. I wanted to create an online community for the city."
The Web site he developed contains a variety of features, including links to news stories from local publications dealing with American Canyon.
It also offers a host of links to other important organizations including the city's official site, Napa County, the Chamber of Commerce, American Canyon Transit and local schools.
Salameh donates free space on his site to nonprofit organizations as well as teachers and students who would like to do a project on the Internet.
Message boards and chat rooms were also created so residents can air their opinions. In many ways, it is the most important aspect of the site for Salameh.
"It's like talking to the entire city on a microphone," he said. "You're just telling everyone in the city what you feel and want to say."
Salameh said americancanyon.com has succeeded beyond his expectations.
In the first couple of months, he said only about 10 people visited the site. Now he's getting more than 500 visitors a month.
"There is a lot more community involvement than I expected," he said. "A lot of people are chipping in and they all help me create the Web site. It grows through everyone, not just myself."
Despite living in San Diego where he attends classes and works part-time for an Internet computer company called Praja Inc., Salameh said he keeps the Web site going as best he can with help from his brother Joseph.
Salameh said he may pass the reins to someone else in time but is protective of his creation.
"Eventually, I may decide to stay here (in San Diego) and pass it on to someone else," he said. "Even then, I want to stay involved and make sure it stays what I wanted and envisioned in the first place."
In the meantime, Salameh said he would be glad to hear from volunteers as he struggles to finish school and keep the Web site updated.
"If anyone wants to help me, I'd be happy to accept help," he said. "I'm interested in committed citizens since I don't live there anymore. I'd be glad to take those kind of people."
Salameh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
E-mail Dan Judge UBDJudge@thnewsnet.com or call him at 553-6831.