Questions for Public Officials

Public dialogue on the year 2000 problem has centered around its
potential impact on businesses and government and ‘the economy.’
Little attention has been paid to the potential impact on
communities–which are, after all, where we live–and on what
preparations would be prudent to support communities (that’s

Please use these questions. If enough of us ask them in public
forums, we can trigger vital community-oriented public dialogue and
public policy on Y2K. And please, today, share them with your
friends and associates. The sooner these questions get asked by
lots of people, the faster we’ll get creative responses. Feel free
to print, publish, broadcast, distribute, or use this material in
any way that you think will stimulate positive approaches to

Now is the time for us to demonstrate to politicians and
officials at all levels that citizens are aware and concerned about
Y2K. Our representatives should be educated about what needs to be
done to prepare for potential disruptions. We have designed the
following questions to lift Y2K into the political dialogue. Before
each question, we provide an opening background statement
questioners may use to inform their audience and the politician or
official. Then we give the question, phrased to get politicians and
officials to say how they will handle the Y2K issue being

Government officials may be asked these questions any time,
especially at public meetings. If they’re asked these questions
repeatedly, we’ll probably see coordinated government responses to
Y2K rising to the top of everyone’s agenda. We suggest you have
your local groups attend public meetings, call in to radio and TV
talk shows, write letters and ask these questions. Together we can
launch our constructive Y2K agenda into the national consciousness.
We can push officials to:

? help us get more information about basic infrastructure

? address how Y2K will affect communities, and

? encourage communities to work together to prepare for

We could also send these questions to the offices of public
officials, saying that we’re spreading them by e-mail. We can
suggest that the official prepare answers. We might even provide a
website that has all the answers (our answers) on it. (Unless they
do their own research and come up with their own answers, which is
also fine.)

Statement l: The year 2000 problem may just be a big
inconvenience, or it could really mess up our lives and
communities. I want to know how the important institutions we
depend on are doing in fixing their computer systems and embedded
microchips. Most companies and governments are holding back
information. They don’t answer our questions–or they give us PR
responses or legalese that doesn’t tell us where they’re at. They
leave us no choice but to prepare for the worst, because we have to
assume that they’re really behind and are going to fail in January
2000. We should be able to know what is really going on; or at
least they could tell us that they don’t really know what will
happen in January 2000.Question 1: What will you do to make
it easier for citizens to get real information about how companies,
utilities and agencies are doing in their preparations for Y2K?

Statement 2: Lots of people are getting pretty scared
about what might happen on January 1, 2000, when some computers and
microchips break down. Already there are signs that thousands of
them are heading for the hills, stocking up on dried food and
planning to take all their money out of the banks. This sort of
stuff will probably get worse during the next year.

Question 2: What will you do to prevent widespread panic
and dangerous runs on banks and stores, without impeding people’s
ability to prepare for Y2K?

Statement 3: Last July President Clinton cited a Wells
Fargo survey that showed that of the small businesses that even
know about the year 2000 problem, roughly half intend to do nothing
about it. 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,
our economy is done for.

Question 3: What could you do to make sure that the small
businesses in your constituency are well prepared?

Statement 4: The North American Electrical Readiness
Council stated in a September 1998 report that 64 percent of
electrical utilities in the U.S. are only 30 percent through their
Y2K repairs, and 36 percent of utilities have no plan at all. Many
people think there is just not enough time for them to complete
this work. It is also likely that nuclear plants, (which are 20
percent of our generating capacity) will have to be shut down
because their safety cannot be guaranteed. If we lose our
electrical grid we will have severe infrastructure and supply

Question 4: What will you do to ensure that the United
States (or your local region) has electricity (or backup systems)
in January 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 government
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. There are all sorts of things we
could do.Question 5: What will you do to help us work
together to prepare our whole 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’ll probably
experience with Y2K?

Statement 6: A significant number of people are moving to
the country because of the year 2000 computer problem. If these
migrations become large, or if computer failures release toxics or
radioactive substances (which the EPA has publicly expressed
concern about) or if governments and businesses just get too
distracted by Y2K work to pay attention to the environment, the
environment could be hurt pretty badly.

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

Statement 7: A lot of experts are saying that hospitals
are threatened by the year 2000 problem–that some of their
equipment has embedded microchips that might fail, or that
computers might not be able to do important calculations with
patient records. And the agency that handles Medicare payments is
not ready for the year 2000. Furthermore, some medicines might
become hard to get. I’ve heard that 70 percent of the world’s
insulin is produced by one company in Europe.

Question 7: Do you know how they’re progressing on their
Y2K preparations? What would you do to ensure we have adequate
health care in January 2000?

Statement 8: The media likes to play games with the year
2000 problem. One day they’ll say that it isn’t a problem, and the
next day they’ll publish some scary millennial survivalist story.
They paint pictures of how divided people are about Y2K and they
seldom actually investigate what’s behind the claims of officials,
corporations, and fear-mongers. And a lot of good stuff that’s
going on–like concerned citizens getting together to prepare their
communities–never gets reported. The Internet is filled with good
analysis and documentation, but also with wild doomsday rantings
and false reassurances.

Question 8: What will you do to get the media to give us
the useful information, inspirational stories and good guidance we
need to get our communities ready for the year 2000? We can’t
really do it without their help.

Statement 9: Many people are concerned that our entire
infrastructure could be threatened, especially if the electrical
grid goes down, because the entire system is completely
interdependent and a failure by telecommunications could bring down
the electrical grid, all banking, and emergency services.

Question 9: What will 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 9A: What will 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, increased
self-reliance and resilience as a community?

Tom Atlee, president of The Co-Intelligence
Institute, believes Y2K is an opportunity to improve and transform
ourselves and our culture. His website (
and the book Awakening: The Upside of Y2K(1998, The
Printed Word), coedited with Judy Laddon and Larry Shook, have
inspired hundreds of people to engage creatively with Y2K.

Awakening is available from 509/747-8776 or

This document is also available on the Web at:

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