The political climate can support or undermine efforts to use
the Year 2000 problem (Y2K) to make a better world. Here are simple questions
you can use NOW to help generate a supportive political climate.
The Co-Intelligence Institute/Y2K // Y2K
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Y2K Questions for Politicians and Government Officials
Please copy and send this to everyone you know who may be interested.
QUESTIONS FOR GOVERNMENT & LOCAL OFFICIALS &
CANDIDATES FOR OFFICE
(revised March 1999)
Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute
Gordon Davidson, The Center for Visionary Leadership
Margo King, Boulder Colorado Y2K Community Preparedness
Jim Laurie, The Arlington Institute
The following questions have been designed to lift Y2K into the political
dialogue. Government officials can be asked these questions any time, especially
at public meetings.
Together, the public and the media can launch a constructive Y2K agenda
into the national consciousness. We can push officials to:
- help us get more information about basic infrastructure readiness,
- address how Y2K will affect communities, and
- encourage communities to work together to prepare for disruptions.
Statement #1: The Year 2000 problem may just be a big
inconvenience, or it could really mess up our lives and communities. What
are the important institutions that we depend on doing to fix their computer
systems and embedded microchips? Many companies are holding back information
because of legal concerns. Some government press releases including those
from John Koskinen of President Clinton's Y2K office are quite optimistic.
In a CNN report on February 22, 1999, Koskinen said that the majority of
will be fixed by March 31st and all systems will be fixed by year end.
Other government documents show more concern including the Senate Special
Y2K Committee's Report released on February 24, 1999. Congressman Horn's
latest report card, also issued in February, gave the Federal Government
an overall C+. It gave the Defense, HHS, and Agriculture Departments all
C's. State, Transportation, and the Agency for International Development
all failed. These six departments account for over 50% of the mission-critical
computer systems in the US government.
These apparent inconsistencies make it hard for people to know what is really
going on. They leave the public with no choice but to prepare for the worst.
Question #1: What would you do to make it
easier for citizens to get real information about how companies, utilities,
and government agencies are doing in their preparations for Y2K?
Statement #2: Many people are getting scared about what
might happen on January 1, 2000. In a USA Today poll on March 10,1999,
55% of Americans said it was likely that banks and accounting systems would
fail. 43% said that it's likely that air traffic control systems will fail;
and 40% say grocery store shortages are likely. Some are considering moving
to the country because of the Year 2000 computer problem. There could be
increases in gun sales, food hoarding, bank runs and other signs of fear
that social breakdown will occur. If not addressed, it may become a self-fulfilling
process even if Y2K turns out to be under control.
Question #2: What can be done to build trust
in the community so that fear is reduced and major social disruptions less
likely? What would you do to prevent widespread panic and dangerous runs
on banks and stores, without impeding people's ability to prepare for Y2K?
Statement #3: Most of the jobs in our economy come from
small businesses. They make parts and provide services that are vital to
the operations of big businesses. If lots of small businesses fold, it
may cause an economic recession or worse. A January 5, 1999 survey by the
National Federation of Independent Business showed that 1.9 million or 40%
of American small businesses will potentially have Y2K problems. 5% of
small businesses were not aware of Y2K at all. Another third were aware,
but stated that they had no plans to take any action before January, 2000.
Question #3: What would you do to make sure
that the small businesses in your constituency are well prepared?
Statement #4: The North American Electrical Readiness
Council (NERC) survey presented to DOE on January 11, 1999 showed that the
3015 participating electrical utilities had completed only 44% of their
Y2K remediation efforts. 25% of these utilities (over 750 electrical providers)
reported that they did not expect to be Y2K ready by the June 30, 1999 target
date. The Senate Special Committee on Y2K stated in February of 1999 that
there may not be sufficient time for utilities to complete remediation work
before January 1st, 2000.
A NERC study of nuclear sites stated that they are only 31% completed on
remediation work as of November 30, 1998. Over a quarter of the facilities
have identified components that can not be completed by June 30, 1999.
It is also possible that nuclear plants, (which total 20% of the USA generating
capacity) will have to be shut down because of safety concerns. Nuclear
plants require a cooling cycle of several weeks during shutdowns so prior
planning is essential.
The cascading effects of these shutdowns could lead to brownouts and blackouts
in many parts of the country. Losing the electrical grid, of course leads
to other problems; water can not be pumped, sewage can not be treated, and
heating systems often depend on electrical control. There is also the deregulation
of the electric utilities which is proceeding in many states. This creates
another uncertainty about system reliability.
Question #4: What would you do to ensure that
the United States (or your local region) has electricity (or backup systems)
in January of 2000? In particular, do you support the establishment of
local micro-grids and government incentives for sustainable, locally self-reliant
energy systems like solar and wind power?
Statement #5: Many people who live in urban areas are
very concerned that even if they prepare by storing food and water, large
populations of poor or unprepared people could lead to widespread social
unrest. We could face severe social disruptions and even violence if basic
services and supplies are unavailable. Proposals have been made that the
federal or state governments establish warehouses of food and supplies in
the inner cities to prevent this scenario. We could use schools for shelters
and involve churches and businesses. Community preparation is a real opportunity
to bring people together to solve a problem. The skills learned could be
very useful in future emergencies like storms or floods, even if Y2K is
not a major disruption.
Question #5: What would you do to help us
work together to prepare our entire community for Y2K? (This can be asked
even if it is a state or national official, because state and national policies
can help or hinder community collaborations.)
Question #5A: What would you do to ease racial and class
differences during the period of intense stress we might experience with
Y2K? How can we be sure that all citizens are treated with fairness and
included in the planning and preparations for Y2K?
Statement #6: There are several environmental concerns
relating to Y2K. Depending on where you live there may be chemical plants,
nuclear energy plants, oil tank farms, etc. in the neighborhood. If computer
failures cause a release of toxic materials or radioactive substances there
could be severe environmental damage. Also, governments and businesses
could become too distracted by Y2K work to pay enough attention to their
Question #6: What are you going to do to ensure
that we don't have toxic leaks or nuclear accidents because of Y2K? What
do you propose to do to protect the environment from Y2K related damage?
Statement #7: The Senate Report on Y2K which was released
in February of 1999 stated that that, "The health care industry lags
significantly behind other sectors in its Y2K preparations." Medical
equipment has embedded microchips that might fail and affect patient care
and record keeping. The agency that handles Medicare payments is not ready
for the Year 2000. Some medicines might become hard to get because they
are produced overseas or from imported materials. Insulin was given as
Question #7: What would you do to ensure we
have adequate health care in January 2000?
Statement #8: Many people are concerned that our entire
infrastructure could be threatened, especially if the electrical grid goes
down, as the entire system is completely interdependent. A telecommunications
failure could bring down the electrical grid which uses remote sensing and
control devices. Banking and emergency services such as 911 are also vulnerable.
Gas pumps won't work without electricity, not even for ambulances and fire
Question #8: What would you do to ensure that
the basic, vital infrastructure we all depend on will function well into
the Year 2000, at least in our area?
Question #8A: What would you do to ensure we have water,
sewage disposal, waste disposal, basic energy supplies, food, public security,
health care, care for the poor, elderly and infirm, adequate public transportation,
a functioning local economy, a functioning justice and prison system, and
increased self-reliance and resilience as a community?