DC Y2K meeting draws over 100 people

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Went to local Y2K meeting yesterday, organized by local community activists. Over 100 people representing diverse communities were there. Paul Nicholas, a staff representative from the US Senate Special Committee on Y2K was there, along with our Council rep Sharon Ambrose, a rep from Mobil Oil Corp. (who basically read her company's prepared statement and said nothing), and the contingency planning manager from the DC Government. Ambrose opened the session and seemed to take the issue quite seriously. All we got from the other panelists was a lot of rosy spin about how everything was going so well that there were hardly going to be any problems at all. Then came the question and answer segment, moderated by a popular radio talk show host (Eric St. James, who has educated his listeners on Y2K). There were more people lined up to ask questions than there was time to ask questions in. The tenor of the questions showed that people were not taking what the panelists said at face value. They saw through the spin and were quite vehement about challenging it. At one point when the congressional staffer was trying to answer a question from his "spin" point of view, i.e., not saying anything at all, people started yelling "Stop Lying to Us!" He finally admitted that he did not know how the Federal Reserve System computers, which are responsible for the electronic deposit of social security and medicare checks, are in terms of y2k readiness. He also said that the Senate had to constantly nag federal agencies in order to get any y2k status reports.

The contingency planning manager for DC said that while all DC agencies were rushing to fix their computers, they had now turned their attention to working on contingency plans.

People are definitely "getting it" and are seeing through the attempts of the powers that be to calm the populace. People are preparing. Good networking opportunities. Unfortunately, I didn't stay for the break-out sessions; wish I had. Nevertheless, it was good to break the isolation of this Y2K preparedness plan we're on....

-- Libby Alexander (libbyalex@aol.com), January 31, 1999


I am sorry to say that over 100 hundred in the DC area is not much. We had over 200 in a very small town in IA. Where is everyone? Why aren't thousands showing up at these meetings?

-- a mom (250@smalltown.com), January 31, 1999.

Libby: Thanks for the info. Did anyone their (panelists or audience) specifically address the Jan 20 report from the GAO?

This report should be required reading by every man, woman and child in this country. All news reporters and politicians should be required to read it 3 times. If it were, there would be much less arguing over the serious potential of the Y2K problem.

-- Arnie Rimmer (Arnie_Rimmer@usa.net), January 31, 1999.

Here's the link to the Jan 20, 1999 report:

Statement By
Joel Willemssen
Director, Civil Agengies Information Systems
Accounting And Information Management Division
U.S. General Accounting Office
Before The Subcommittee On Government Management,
Information, And Tehcnology Of The
Committee On Government Reform And Oversight
U.S. House Of Representatives
January 20, 1999

-- Arnie Rimmer (Arnie_Rimmer@usa.net), January 31, 1999.

THANK YOU ARNIE !!!!!!!!! Wholeheartedly agree with your recomendation !!!!!!!!!!!


-- Paul & Sandy Stambaugh (patches96@worldnet.att.net), January 31, 1999.

I was there also and equally dissapointed with the sanitized message. A-Mom, this meeting was advertised for 2 weeks on the radio and thru e-mail and at other meetings. The press was also invited. You're right,there should have been more.People in this area are too "comfortable". It's the same pathetic story. Anyway thanks Libby.

-- Dana Scully (Truthseeker@D.C.org), January 31, 1999.


Thanks for the excellent information (I think). :) Doesn't exactly make my day, though.

-- Scarlett (ohara@tara.net), January 31, 1999.

Libby, the event was covered in today's Washington Times, and noted that "Mark Frautschi, an embedded chips expert" was there. He has written a lot about the Y2K embedded chips problem, do you recall what his comments were and how D.C. should be preparing? The only one mentioned in the Times is how we should not be complacent about the statistically low failure rate of embedded chips: "The Titanic sank in an ocean that was 99 percent free of icebergs".

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.net), January 31, 1999.

What a damning article... For a government employee to say that agencies are in a critical situation. For him to say how many companies and agencies are still in the assessment stage is horrifying.

Folks, buy more beans.

-- Jon Williamson (pssomerville@sprintmail.com), January 31, 1999.

Arnie -- thanks for the link to the GAO report. I hadn't read it before. Sure doesn't look good. As far as I can recall, no one mentioned the GAO report. Dana, do you recall any mention of this?

Jack, I was not impressed with the embedded systems guy. However, I can't recall any specifics. Dana, do you recall anything?

Dana, I didn't get to stay for the break away sessions. Did you? Are there any plans for future meetings? Feel free to e-mail me.

-- Libby Alexander (libbyalex@aol.com), February 01, 1999.

Mark Fraschuti's presentation at Hine was not impressive. I was surprised because I had just heard him speak a few nights before at a forum on embedded chips given by The Washington Post and George Washington University (it was part of a series of forums on Y2K). His presentation at The Post was much more polished. I think at Hine he was hindered by time constraints (Libby, did he even have 15 minutes to talk?) and the abscence of his Powerpoint presentation. He gave no real advice on how people should prepare. In fact, much to my surpise and disappointment, he made a rather baffling statement about how people could get around some embedded chips problems. He suggested, for example, that people program the date on their VCRs back by 28 years so they could still tape their favorite shows. My VCR is the least of my worries. It was a very strange comment considering that at The Post's forum he rated Y2K as a 7.

Lisa Ransom Brown gave the best advice on preparing. I can't remember the name of her organization. She suggested people make sure they have hard copies of all important documents and bills, consider alternative ways to cook and stay warm, think about home safety, and mentioned a few other things. She went against the grain of the panelist by suggesting that people take out atleast two months of expenses from the bank (everyone else was saying don't take your money out). She was encouraging community preparation. Unfortunately, her presentation wasn't very long.

Another baffling comment came from Paul Nicholas (I think that's his last name), who was with the Senate Year 2000 Committee chaired by Bennett and Dodge. In an effort to discourage people from taking thre money out of the bank and purchasing gold coin, he commented about how difficult it would be to get change for gold coin when making a purchase at the local 711.

I thought the question and answer period was the best. Too bad it wasn't longer. People asked some really good questions, including local DJ, Eric St. James (I thought he was very straight forward). He has really alerted his listeners to this issue. The representatives from DC and the Senate Committee took the hardest blows, mostly for being less than straight forward.

Libby, I did attend a break out session on public outreach and media. I am working with a Y2K group in Maryland and wanted to get some ideas on how to spread the word. It was helpful. It was the only session I attended. I had a friend who attended the session on mobilzing your neighborhood. I haven't had a chance to talk to her about it.

Finally, I understand that The Washington Times, DCTV, and WUSA (CBS Channel 9) were the only media there. Representatives from Pepco, DC water and sewage, and Eleanor Norton Holmes' office were also there. Bell Atlantic, our local phone company, was invited but declined (they had cut back on their staff and didn't have anyone to send).

-- Dana Scully (Truthseeker@DC.org), February 03, 1999.

Dana -- Great summary! You're right. The embedded systems guy barely had 15 minutes to talk.... Do you know if there are any further meetings scheduled?

-- Libby Alexander (libbyalex@aol.com), February 03, 1999.

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