Y2K Task Force Credits Strength to Member Diversity

If technology is often seen as a culprit in the breakdown of
community life and spirit, preparing for technological failure of
the kind associated with the Y2K computer glitch is helping to
bring community members back together.

That’s what’s happening in Santa Cruz County, Calif., where more
than 50 citizens have formed the Santa Cruz Y2K Community Task
Force. Spawned from a somewhat unlikely alliance of grassroots
organizers and the business community, the task force has become a
leader among national Y2K community preparedness groups.

William Ulrich, a member of the president’s national Y2K Council
and president of a consulting group providing Y2K-related
assistance, helped found the task force and credits diversity of
membership with much of its progress.

‘Many community groups have a narrow vision — teaching people
how to cook on wood stoves,’ he said. ‘We have a much broader focus
based on a broad diversity of group members.’

The task force considers its main goal to inform and empower its
community around the Y2K issue. Members include staff of
not-for-profit agencies, doctors, lawyers, psychologists,
communications specialists and businesspeople.

With the help of a written charter and formal structure – now
used by groups across the country, Ulrich said — members volunteer
to focus their efforts on either awareness or research. Awareness
includes orientation of new members, public events, media
coordination and emotional support and outreach. Research includes
working to determine the potential level of disruption in the power
supply, telecommunications, the food supply and transportation that
could take place when 2000 rolls in.

Michelle Robbins, executive director of an environmental group,
said the task force’s mixed membership has allowed it to address
this wide variety of issues. ‘We’re really a diverse organization
and pretty unique in that way. Bill Ulrich put out a call to the
computer, software, embedded chip industry at the same time we put
out a call to the activist community. Since then all types of
people have joined.’

In addition to providing information to the broader community,
Ulrich said, the task force plans to break down into subgroups to
assess individual neighborhood needs and talk to neighbors

‘We’re concerned about the elderly and disenfranchised, people
who are shut in at home and could run into food and water problems,
or experience problems with medical equipment due to embedded
chips,’ Ulrich said, explaining that neighbors are the best people
to know and care about such individuals.

He said he plans to work as a task force representative in his
own neighborhood. ‘The worst time to get to know your neighbor is
in a disaster situation. We should know our neighbors
(beforehand),’ he said, noting that the task force has given him
great opportunity to do so. ‘If nothing happens regarding the Y2K
problem, I’ll still have had a chance to meet fifty to a hundred
really interesting people. In fact, I’ve met more people in the
past six months than in the past ten years. I’m more a part of the
community now than in the past ten years. I don’t see what could be
wrong with that.’

In fact, Michelle Robbins sees the organization’s community
spirit as one of its great strengths. ‘A lot of groups don’t hold
as strongly to seeing this as an opportunity to come together as a
community — to know neighbors, to know who’s vulnerable, to become
more resilient,’ she said. ‘I know a lot about the activist
community. This provides an opportunity to know others.’

One of those Robbins would have been unlikely to know outside
the task force is Rachmat Martin, a vice president of a Silicon
Valley telecommunications firm. Martin said he was urged by a
friend to attend task force meetings but at first resisted because
of time constraints. ‘I think I was typical of mainstream America.
I figured I was too busy to deal with this Y2K thing — that it was
just a computer issue.’

Out of respect for his friend and his own curiosity, Martin
finally attended a meeting. Struck by the quality of the group and
reading material they provided, he soon came to see Y2K as a
problem with potentially serious consequences and became

‘I was really struck at the first meeting by the strong sense of
purpose and obviously well-educated people with a high degree of
moral and spiritual content,’ Martin said. ‘There was a strong
sense of mutual respect and desire to serve the needs of the

Though the task force represents a broad spectrum of
perspectives and styles, Ulrich said, members have in common a
desire to provide credible information and support a reasoned,
nonalarmist response.

‘For example, when people ask how much food they should store,

refer them to the Red Cross and FEMA,’ Ulrich said. ‘We’re not
saying to run out and store a year’s worth of ammunition. One of
the key reasons we exist is to counter that sort of mentality.’

Michelle Robbins agreed. ‘It seems the media characterizes the
Y2K issue as either ‘the end of the world as we know it’ or that
nothing is going to happen at all. If seems anyone with any concern
at all is put into the former category. I’d like to broaden the
spectrum to include intermediate concerns.’

Rachmat Martin, member, Santa Cruz Y2K Community Task Force, Santa
Cruz, Calif., 831-475-2814, 408-557-1904. Michelle Martin, member,
Santa Cruz Y2K Community Task Force, Santa Cruz, Calif.,
831-465-1081. William Ulrich, member, Santa Cruz Y2K CommunityTask
Force; president, Tactical Strategies Group, Soquel, Calif.,

Brant Herr, media contact person, Santa Cruz Y2K Community Task
Force, Santa Cruz, Calif., 831-421-0525; e-mail:
web site: www.murtek.com/y2ksc.

289 Fox Farm Road, Brattleboro, VT 05301. For further information,
please call 1-800-654-NEWS or e-mail

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