TOMORROW night will see the City of Newcastle (CoN) likely to adopt and implement both a parking plan and a cycling plan.
This action follows an invitation from CoN for the public to contribute to the process by commenting on parking and cycling draft plans.
The city, its traffic and the amount of people using bikes (and electric scooters or personal mobility devices like motorised skateboards) has changed. Updates to both parking and cycling policy are well overdue. As CoN likes to say: "Newcastle is not the city it was ten years ago...".
Try driving west on Newcastle Road between Turton Road and the M1 to Sydney between 3.30pm and 6pm.
Where'd all that traffic come from? I guess some people wanted us to be on the map.
Must have heard that one a hundred times whenever there was something going on that attracted the attention of Sydney.
We certainly are on the map now and insufficient infrastructure is one of the downsides of being on the map. Maybe Newcastle was a better place in some ways when it was a well-kept secret, and we had not transformed into a smart, liveable, sustainable, global city.
This council has not remained stagnate when it comes to updating and developing policy, plans and strategies.
CoN's website is full of public engagement opportunities and that's most welcome. But without implementation, such strategies are worthless.
While there are the world-weary among us who don't think our input will have any impact and that such an exercise is merely a tick-a-box affair, there are others who contribute ideas on how to improve things from their particular perspective.
You gotta be in it to win it. And even if you're in it, you might not win your concerns being adopted and implemented, but at least they can be voiced in a submission.
CoN papers for tomorrow night's meeting include a summary of submissions.
I'm not a fan of summaries of public submissions without opportunity, if I wish, to read the entirety of the submission. Summaries, by their very nature, will omit some or much of each submission.
I think it would be useful for CoN to publish all submissions that are received from the public.
There is no real reason not to do so and it would add a level of higher transparency to the process.
The guidelines for best practice in submissions to Australian Senate committees point out that a submission should "only include information you would be happy to see published on the internet".
I can recall when a university human ethics committee demanded that the researcher make all the names of participants anonymous.
But there was one key participant who would not contribute to the research unless their name was published.
That participant had the view that the ideas and thoughts being contributed were original and the result of a lifetime of experience, and why shouldn't that be recognised in the resultant work by the researcher?
Failure to acknowledge the contribution was reason enough for the participant not to bother.
Such concern resulted in a change to process that allowed participants to nominate whether they wished to remain anonymous or be named if they elected to contribute to the research.
Persons seeking anonymity may indicate they wish their submission and/or their identity to remain confidential, but in most matters being investigated by CoN, offers of anonymity would likely be rejected.
At the moment, organisations are identified in the summary, but individuals are not.
This is not to say that summaries are not useful, but it would add another level of confidence to the transparency of process for those concerned with plans and policies that will shape the city's future to see how many times a particular view was expressed by respondents and then how that point was dealt with by council officers in summaries.
For example, I would have liked to have seen all points made by the Newcastle Cycleways Movement (NCM).
The summary of NCM's submission by council included a concern about the likelihood of objectives in the Cycling Plan being achieved as planned.
Additionally, the summary included NCM's view that "certain aspects of the approach described in the document are expressed in aspirational terms rather than clear plans."
Such points may have been elaborated upon in the submission.
Maybe they weren't, but without availability of the full submission, one has to take a guess.
It's not that big of a deal to make the submissions available to the public.
That'd be truly transparent.
Paul Scott is a regular columnist for the Newcastle Herald.