Y2K Message & Suggested Action Plan Sent to Governor of California By State Senator Vasconcellos (Silicon Valley)

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Y2K Message & Suggested Action Plan Sent to Governor of California By State Senator Vasconcellos (Silicon Valley)

This was another message just sent out by Tom Atlee. (Note: State Senator John Vasconcellos is Silicon Valley's Rep).


Message ...

California State Senator John Vasconcellos delivered the following letter and strategic plan March 4, 1999, to CA Governor Gray Davis, his top staff, members of the press (including major editorial boards) and every CA legislator. He has proven very responsive to testimony and advice. He is an important ally in all creative Y2K work. Any of you who have suggestions can send comments to him at SenJohnV@aol.com. -- Tom

Tom Atlee * The Co-Intelligence Institute * Oakland, CA



John Vasconcellos' CA Y2K plan to Gov Davis


I trust you recall that during our January llth first meeting after you became Governor of California, I encouraged you to take a bold lead in assuring the State of California is fully prepared to fully meet the challenges of Y2K.

So I especially appreciate your public statement last week that you are doing so, that you have named somebody to take charge and responsibility for seeing to it that all that needs to be done will be done, that you will lead California, and all Californians, to be fully ready to meet the challenges of Y2K.

As you know, last Wednesday three of our legislative committees held a joint hearing on Y2K, to receive recent reports from your Department of Information Technology (DOIT) and from our Auditor General, as well as to hear concerns from community leaders regarding our overall preparedness.

From what I learned at that hearing, I have composed a 20-point strategic action plan which will serve to enable you to, assure that you can, carry out your pledge, to assure California becomes fully Y2K ready in time.

In composing this plan, I have used the smart simple framework offered us at that hearing by Rich Hall, a most knowledgeable member of Intel's world-wide Y2K team, who urged us to think especially in terms of three (3) prime priorities:

l - Asia;
2 - Electricity; +
3 - Panic.

Altogether, most simply, we owe it to ourselves and to our people:

l - to anticipate and deal with any fallout from the lst of those,
2 - to assure we are fully prepared to maintain the 2nd of those, and
3 - to assure neither we nor our people succumb to the 3rd of those.

If we well, successfully, manage these three priorities, all other concerns are likely to fall into place.

Attached is my 20-point California Y2K Strategic Action Plan:

l - For your consideration, +
2 - Hopefully, for your adoption soon, +
3 - Hopefully, for all of our implementation soon after that, on through completion.

As this year moves on, Y2K will become an ever more burning priority for you and all of us Californians. It is essential for us all that you build now on your February l7th Executive Order, provide leadership for a comprehensive strategic action plan that provides our people assurance, our systems compliance.

I pledge you my best efforts to support your leadership and partner with you in assuring that California, and all Californians, are fully prepared to meet, in a timely fashion, every one of the challenges we face with regard to Y2K.

I thank you, I wish you well, call whenever I can help.

john vasconcellos


A - ASIA (anticipating its eventualities):

l - Instruct your Secretary of Trade and Commerce Lon Hatamiya to proceed immediately to conduct an intensive survey of the state of readiness of the major Asian nations and economies California relates to, and design a contingency plan for our addressing any fallout their potential Y2K failures (this is incumbent in light of the Gartner Group assessment that almost every major Asian nation - including both Japan and China - are in Tier 4, the lowest readiness state. It would be wise to instruct Secretary Hatamiya to conduct a similar survey + contingency plan with respect to Latin America).

2 - If this survey concludes those nations are in dire straits, we are likely to be seriously adversely affected by their failures, take yourself soon to Asia to meet with the respective heads of State and national economic directors, to encourage them to commit themselves to focus more fully, more immediately, on curing their respective Y2K problems.

3 - If this survey so concludes, convene a top-level strategy meeting of California's major exporters (especially hitech), develop a specific plan for addressing the problems we can then anticipate for our economy.

B - Electricity (assuring its continuation):

4 - Convene the CEO's of California's major providers of electricity, insist each provide you and the People of California the closest they can to a guarantee that each of their companies will have the entirety of their systems compliant and prepared in plenty of time for Y2K.

5 - Invite to California for a summit with you, bring to the table, the CEO's of each of the out-of-state electricity providers (individual companies as well as associations) whose continuing services and supply are essential to California's maintenance of its supply of electricity, and insist each and all provide you the same quasi-guarantees.

6 - Altogether, invite all various energy providers and the public (especially non-utility energy experts and community leaders) into dialogue to design and promulgate a comprehensive energy supply plan, including attention to clarification of which energy uses should be considered 'vital.'

7 - Ask the Public Utilities Commission to make public, now and in the future as they are submitted, all documents from electricity providers which pertain to their Y2K readiness (except insofar as need for confidentiality is demonstrated, and it won't jeopardize the public interest).

8 - Instruct your new Director Elias Cortez of the Department of Information Technology to immediately convene his own summit with the CEO's of each of the companies operating nuclear plants in California, and seek their assurances that each of their plants has been made Y2K compliant, and tested positively, otherwise have him close them down in a timely safe manner.

9 - Convene the CEO's of the major communications companies operating in California (I'm advised the power providers all express concerns about the continuing of communcations in face of the threats of Y2K), insist each provide you and the People of California the closest they can to a guarantee that each of their companies will have the entirety of their systems compliant and prepared in plenty of time for Y2K.

C - Panic (assuring we don't succumb):

l0 - Request the County Supervisors Association of California and the League of California Cities to each request that each of its member counties or cities (including California's singular city & county) develop a correlative comprehensive strategic action plan for itself and each and all of the vital activities within its operation and jurisdiction.

ll - Request the County Supervisors Association of California and the League of California Cities to each request that each of its member counties or cities (including California's singular city & county) convene at least monthly a confidential roundtable of top officials and opinion leaders from government, media, business, utilities, emergency services, non-profit and community sectors - chaired by its respective mayor or chair of its county board of supervisors - to inventory preparedness for Y2K, consider how best to inform and involve the public to prepare themselves as individuals, neighborhoods and communities, together with development of community contingency plans for anticipated failures.

l2 - Request the County Supervisors Association of California and the League of California Cities to each request that each of its member counties or cities (including California's singular city & county) convene at least monthly a community-wide conference regarding total preparedness for Y2K, together with community contingency plans for failures that can be anticipated (advise them that the County of Kauai in Hawaii and the City of Portland, Oregon likely have the most advanced models of such community involvement and preparedness).

l3 - Instruct your new Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to immediately conduct a status survey of all operations which, were their systems to fail on account of lack of Y2K preparedness, could spill toxics, radioactivity or potentially destructive biological agents into our midst, doing so on a regional basis.

14 - Instruct your new Director of DOIT to immediately enter into a contract (or contracts) for conducting IV&V's (Independent Verification & Validation) of all of California's mission critical systems (we can no longer depend upon self-reporting assessments in this critical matter).

15 - Be sure any and all such assessments examine whether all computer systems that come together to fulfill each departments individual functions are compliant (e.g. all the computer systems necessary to process, cut and mail an unemployment check are compliant).

16 - Direct your Director of the Office of Emergency Services (OES) to convene immediately a blue ribbon advisory team to develop for your consideration and adoption an emergency plan for the State of California to deal with contingencies of failure of our mission critical systems.

17 - Direct your Director of OES to convene immediately a blue ribbon advisory team to develop for your consideration and adoption an emergency plan for the State of California to deal with providing back-up provisions (especially of food and water) to residents of California's economically marginalized communities (who are unlikely to have resources necessary to purchase their own stockpiles of such critical life-support commodities); such advisory team should include members of various diverse community groups, and develop recommendations for involving citizens and various associations in the design and implementation, so it empowers target communities rather than increasing long-term dependence on the state.

l8 - Invite the Legislature to fully partner with you in providing leadership and oversight in our effort to assure California becomes fully compliant in time, especially by having the leadership of each House:

- request its budget chairs to have each of its budget subcommittees update its query of each of the state agencies and departments within its jurisdiction regarding respective readiness, +

- request each of its policy chairs to conduct 2-House joint hearings to query each of the critical private sector operators within their subject matter jurisdiction with respect to respective readiness for Y2K.

19 - Design and implement immediately a smart broad public media campaign to advise each, every Californian of her/his personal responsibility for enlisting in our effort to make California entirely Y2K ready, perhaps focusing on a simple message: inform yourself, prepare yourself, don't panic - together we'll get ready in time!

20 - Publicly commit yourself to conducting a public press conference, a "fireside chat," at least monthly, on the 1st of each month from now on, to provide the People of California an updating of our progress (making graphic via use of progress charts) toward making all of California's critical mission systems Y2K compliant in time.

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), March 16, 1999


Leska e-mailed this copy over, but not the link. It appeared on CSY2K. -- Diane

Report from California OES Y2K Workshop
Friday, Feb. 26th, 1999
by Rebecca Kaplan
Oakland 2001: Y2K Network for Community Preparedness & Advocacy

http:// www.anamorph.com/oak2001.html

The California State Office of Emergency Services is holding a series of regional workshops throughout the state. The workshops are one day long, the first half deals with y2k, the second half deals with earthquakes. The workshops are geared to local emergency service providers, to encourage them to take steps to prepare for y2k and earthquakes, and to share information regarding what is happening State-wide. The design of the workshops is such that each one is basically the same as all the others, they just take place in various locations so people all over the state can attend. I attended the Y2K portion of the Workshop that was held in Oakland, California. The following are my notes of what took place at that workshop, being shared for informational purposes. These are based on my recollections and notes -- I make no guarantees as to the accuracy of the information conveyed.

First Speaker: Vince Fontaine from California OES. (sharing information on lots of issues)

- OES is taking Y2K very seriously. He thinks this is different from other disaster/emergency preparedness issues, because it is global. Since problems will be happening everywhere, local offices cannot rely on or expect to receive outside help.

- Energy utilities are doing reasonably well, and are now moving to contingency planning.

- Many local water companies are not far enough along, local governments need to stay on top of local water companies, and monitor their progress.

- Local OES offices need to stay on top of local Hazmat issues. State OES has developed hazmat guidelines and questionnaire, to be distributed. There is a danger of y2k-related hazmat accidents, and local offices should be dealing with this, especially smaller hazmat facilities that may not have the budget for y2k remediation.

- FEMA will be having an invitation-only y2k workshop in the Presidio in March for high level govt officials. OES does not currently know what FEMAs plans are, but will try to find out and coordinate.

- The federal govt will be working with large supermarket chains to encourage them to stock extra of items that are going to be in high demand due to y2k stockpiling.

- The Small Business Administration has loans available for y2k remediation for small businesses.

- California OES will keep updates of available information on their website.

- California OESs own computers and technology is expected to be y2k compliant by June 1999.

- There is a need to focus more on hospitals and health care issues. Many health care providers (e.g. Kaiser) are not ready, and are far behind schedule.

- OES to complete contingency plan by summer

- Attendees at these workshops are encouraged to ask questions and participate fully.

- Utilities need to do more to let the public know about the successes of their remediation efforts to rebut public fear and the black helicopter survivalists. The failure to give adequate information is increasing public fear and mistrust.

Sherry from California Energy Commission:

- Their mission includes energy shortage contingency planning, and compiling and disseminating information about energy issues, especially in an emergency.

- Their website is www.energy.ca.gov

- They have the power, by emergency order, to take and distribute fuel.

- They have the power to implement voluntary or mandatory energy conservation.

- Suggests reading the NERC report, and checking out the PUC website for more info.

- Says power companies are doing well.

- In the past, in emergencies, energy providers have cooperated with them, such as providing extra fuel for generators and fire trucks, without the need to use emergency orders.

Spokesperson From Water Resource Control Board:

- This office regulates water safety

- They do think that y2k does pose a hazard for water safety, especially sewage systems.

- Most sewage treatment systems have the capacity to store sewage for 1 day at most (many can store for only a few hours). After that, if power malfunctions, there would be raw sewage backing up and flowing through the streets.

- The WRCB is sponsoring regional workshops on water safety issues

- See website swrcb.ca.gov, and go to hotlinks for more info

Other Comments from Panel:

- Statewide, most 911 equipment appears to have no internal y2k problems. However, it will only work if there is power and dial tone.

- The phone company has power backups (enough power to maintain dial tone) which can last for about 1 week in the case of a power outage (this provides dial tone, but not power to run electronic telephones or 911 computers).

- There is a serious danger of hospitals being overwhelmed. They are likely to have malfunctions, and New Years Eve is always a big night for hospitals anyway. Of additional concern is the possible trend of people trying to have millennium babies. People should be encouraged to avoid hospitals around New years if possible.

- OTIS elevator company has said that their elevators do not have y2k problems.

- About 2-3% of medical devices are predicted to fail dangerously (according to emergency health spokesperson). Hospitals also have the problem of relying on just-in-time delivery of supplies, and should be prepared with extra supplies of medications, equipment, etc.

- OES is considering activating the emergency communication system ahead of time, so it will be up and running during y2k rollover.

Spokesperson from OES Fire:

- There do not appear to be y2k problems with fire trucks, their internal chips use accumulated hours to keep track of time, not real- time clocks.

- There might be a problems with computer dispatch equipment, and with electronic medical equipment.

- There is the possibility of getting a higher call volume due to y2k, and might be handling different types of calls from the usual ones.

- There is a real danger of fires from private storage of fuel and generators, including improper use of generators and improper storing of fuel.

- Recommends doing contingency planning for power and communication outages. Should also foster employee self-preparation, and provide education for employees to help prepare their families, so employees will feel okay about coming to work on New years. Make plans to have extra personnel available at rollover.

- See www.preparenow.org for info on preparedness for special needs populations.

- Notes that in survey of fire/law agencies, there is no correlation between the size of the agency and their level of preparedness.

- Note that there is info on the FDA website about the y2k compliance of various medical devices, see www.fda.gov

- With regard to hazmat, the biggest danger is chemical process shut downs (releasing toxic chemicals). Questionnaire has been sent out to survey hazmat issues. OES will have the results by October, 1999. Of particular concern is the danger of multiple incidents simultaneously, overwhelming emergency response capabilities. Chemicals which need refrigeration are especially dangerous if there is a power outage or other refrigeration malfunction.

- Chevron alone is spending 1/4 billion to remediate its own hazmat problems, and says even so they wont be 100% complete.

- OES is updating State hazmat emergency plan, including cross-agency mutual aid.

- Also plan to use SEMS for y2k hazmat problems.

- Fire is working on public education materials, especially regarding use of generators and fire dangers.

[I asked, in light of the problems that were mentioned, such as people trying to have millennium babies, and the dangers from improper use of generators, wouldnt it make sense to put more effort into widespread public education to prevent some of these problems, rather than simply responding to them after the fact.] The response was:

- OES encourages everyone at the workshop to help spread the word responsibly.

- OES will be working with the media to help disseminate good information

- State OES will not be allocating or requesting money for public education because they believe that Red Cross and other local agencies and local govt are doing this.

- They say that Warner Bros. will release a y2k movie this summer. Depending on how it comes out, it might be a source of bad information.

Other information:

- The governor issued an executive order mid-February 1999 creating new y2k task forces, including one to work with the media on information dissemination.

- Some school districts around the country have announced that they are expanding next winter break by a week, to give the district extra time to make sure systems are working before students return.

- San Mateo school district has added a couple days to the break to give them a little more time to get repairs done.

- Other California school districts are currently contemplating extending next years winter break.

PG&E Spokesperson:

- PG&E is always set up to deal with any emergency, and expects to handle y2k fine.

- They have been working on y2k since 1996.

- They are currently negotiating with employees & the union to have staff available on new years.

- They are doing public outreach, (pamphlet included with the last bill) & plan to continue. They do have information available on energy safety, safe use of generators, etc.

- They make no guarantees to provide power, and make no promises of no y2k disruptions.

- They say we should not worry, because they will have their own systems fixed and tested by the end of the third quarter of 1999.

- They are building a back-up plan for their own internal communication system.

EBMUD: (East Bay Municipal Utilities District)

- They will be watching y2k impact around the world on new years eve, to take advantage of the 20-hour advance warning that California will have, and use this information to make last-minute decisions, including the possibility of shutting down non-critical systems.

- Spokesman says, we can always turn the clocks back to 1971 at the last minute if the other repair options dont work.

- EBMUD uses hypochlorite instead of chlorine. Hypochlorite is less dangerous, but has a much shorter shelf-life, so it is not possible to stock much extra of it to deal with possible supply disruptions.

- They maintain a 6-month water supply in the system.

- Tap water to the area is gravity fed from steel tanks in the hills. The tanks have the capacity to store a 1 week supply of water. Though the tanks are not normally kept full, they will be filled ahead of time for y2k so there will be a full weeks supply that is gravity fed.

- Getting tap water in is unlikely to have problems, especially since it is gravity fed. Sewage and waste-treatment systems are much more vulnerable, relying on chemicals, computers, and electronics.

- EBMUD has been working on y2k since 1995, and plans to have its internal systems compliant by June 1999, and then do testing.

- EBMUD does not do waste treatment itself, it collects waste from the cities, and then passes it on to other companies to do the waste treatment.

- EBMUD has a good brochure on the safe storage and purification of water for emergencies [the brochure is designed primarily for earthquakes, but is highly relevant for y2k].

- The Brochure, Water Lines are Lifelines is available now from EBMUD.

Lake County Official:

- The county has very few traffic lights, high rises, and is generally less technologically dependent than many other parts of the state. County is rural, and sparsely populated.

- Many people are self-reliant, and wouldnt accept help from the county even if they needed it.

- Spokesperson is concerned about the elderly and those with limited mobility in the case of utility outages, and is also concerned that Lake County will be treated as a low priority for utility restoration.

- Recommends using the Chevron brochure on preparedness. They will be giving advice in local newspaper.

Contra Costa County:

- They are doing a cable news show, and sending pamphlets to local govt agencies.

Sonoma County:

- Dont plan to activate emergency communication systems, think y2k wont be so bad.

- Spokesperson says that the County wont be doing public education because they believe that State and Federal government will do it.

- Says that the publics biggest fear is that the govt wont be able to respond to possible disruptions. Therefore, govt agencies should make it a priority to reassure that the government will be able to handle it.

- Their own internal systems will be compliant by June 1999.

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), March 16, 1999.

That report concurs with what we learned in early November, plus a CIA report:

The first things to watch out for in 2000:

FIRES, sewers backing up, hazmat incidents

Of course, power problems and civil unrest, those were a "given," but considered "containable." The "worry" was the fires, sewage, and chemical spills and toxic fumes.

Think eventually we'll start seeing mailings from Fire Depts advising proper storage of fuels and operation of generators, plus recommendations, maybe edicts, that city dwellers NOT store fuel or buy generators. The fire danger is horrendous, especially since it is not known whether adequate water pressure/delivery will be "normal."

Diane, we have a CERT Y2K Committee Meeting tomorrow, so will try to get some updates. Hope the meeting isn't cancelled ;^) That happens every once in a while. Also hope to pin down some HAM info (maybe mis-info) that we were given -- that may take a few days. The firemen have been in anti-terrorist training with FEMA out East; should be interesting. There's another report today on WorldNetDaily about the current Administration spending $$/training Fire Depts as front line against terrorism since, after all, they are the first responders to any accidents. Seems the firepersons are finding their roles expanding rather quickly.

As always, thanks for your sleuthing :-)

xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), March 16, 1999.

3/3/1999 - California urges citizens to stock up & prepare CALIFORNIA JOINS RED CROSS, FEMA IN URGING PUBLIC TO STOCK SUPPLIES [news] The California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (CAGOES) has joined the ranks of organizations urging the public to prepare. In an official OES brochure now available on the Internet, California, "...is encouraging California residents to prepare now for Y2K using similar steps at those used for other emergencies such as earthquakes and severe winter weather." The California Business Continuity Planning & Emergency Preparedness Conference is being held today, March 16. CAOES http://www.oes.ca.gov

They have a 14 person task force comprised of officials listed on the site as well.

Their site links to the following other states Y2K pages:
The State of Colorado's Year 2000 Home Page.
The State of Georgia's Year 2000 Home Page.
The State of Missouri's Year 2000 Home Page.
The State of Washington's Year 2000 Home Page.

Mr. K

-- Mr. Kennedy (CA@conference.now), March 16, 1999.

Yessir Capn' Smith. We are going to conduct a study to see if other ships hitting icebergs sank. We are going to be going thru the passengers in just a few minutes reaffirming that 1. we can't sink 2. we have a program to create contingency plans, just in case 3. we are going to have a conference of the life boat manufacturers in which they can assure use that everyone indeed can fit into the boats 4. we are working with the boiler crew to make sure that the boilers don't explode when the cold water hits them, not that we are taking on water, of course.

Oh, Captn', toast while we are waiting?

Hey shut that guy up who is talking about bad iron in the rivets and that there aren't enough lifeboats.

All the King's Horses and and the King's Men, couldn't put Humpty back together again.

-- Mitchell Barnes (spanda@inreach.com), March 16, 1999.

If interested ...

State of California
Governor Gray Davis

EXECUTIVE ORDER D-3-99 - Year 2000

http:// www.state.ca.us/s/governor/d399.html


The only edible option for cracked eggs is to make an omlette. Goes well with toast.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), March 16, 1999.

If you think generators and gasoline cans are dangerous you havent seen what glass keronsene lamps, unattended candles and camp stoves are capable of, especially where small children are concerned.

Ban them? Are you crazy? Try banning firearms while you're at it. Fire danger, BIG TYME!

-- joey did it, mommy, not me (knucklehead@dingaling.com), March 16, 1999.

Someone in an e alerted me to this. Thanks. -- Diane

Los Angeles Times
Tuesday, March 16, 1999

State's Progress on Y2K Bug a Puzzle

Computers: Despite upbeat report by Davis, technology experts say they are still assessing the situation. Officials are optimistic that critical systems will be repaired.
By DAVE LESHER, Times Staff Writer

http://www.latimes.com/HOME/BUSINESS/CUTTING/OTHTECH/ t000023764.html

SACRAMENTO--Even as an upbeat and reassuring Gov. Gray Davis reported last month that the state was 75% along in fixing its Y2K computer problems, technology experts throughout California's government were dubious.

The very next day a report from the state auditor suggested an almost opposite conclusion. And a week later, puzzled lawmakers were told at a legislative hearing that the two assessments were "apples and oranges."

Frankly, the governor's newly hired computer consultant testified, "we cannot tell you exactly where the shortcomings are or where we stand.

"We have launched a detailed reassessment of where we are today and from that we will be better able to inform the public," he said.

As for Davis' 75% estimate, Davis aides later acknowledged that that was based on old data they already considered faulty.

They still contend that that assessment could turn out to be correct after the current review of state computer systems is complete. But such a statistic can also be misleading, suggesting that the work is almost complete when experts say there is risk if even a quarter of the state's repair job is incomplete.

"I'm concerned that the job . . . is 'mission impossible' if we are very far behind, and my sense is that we could be very far behind," said state Sen. Debra Bowen (D-Marina del Rey), who attended the special legislative hearing.

The upshot, officials acknowledge, is that California government is scrambling to get a grip on its Y2K problem before the notorious Year 2000 software glitch threatens to disrupt computer systems on New Year's Eve.

Most state officials are optimistic--if not confident--that they will at least repair the critical state systems responsible for public health and safety before a self-imposed deadline of Sept. 1.

But by all accounts, California's repair work is behind schedule. How far behind is uncertain.

The auditor found that some of the tests conducted were not adequately documented. Other systems had problems even though they were certified as fixed. And almost all state agencies still had plenty of work to do.

Davis responded to the backlog last month by creating three panels to rapidly assess and repair the problems. And last Wednesday, he met with experts from about a dozen high-tech companies that have agreed to participate in the effort.

"We would prefer to be a little farther down the road than we are," Davis told the group. "But I think with 296 days to go, we still have time to get this job done."

The first task of the new team is to re-inventory all of the state's computer systems. They still do not have a reliable working list of which computers need work and which are done.

All of the repairs in the state's most critical departments were to have been completed last December under an executive order that Gov. Pete Wilson signed in October 1997.

But the state auditor's report last month said at least 11 of those 14 departments are unprepared--in violation of Wilson's order.

Manual Overrides on Many Systems

The auditor warned about computers that direct about two-thirds of California's water supply; others that control electrified security fences at 23 state prisons; others that run the state's emergency communications system; and still others that calculate more than $7 billion annually in benefits for the unemployed, the retired and Medi- Cal recipients.

Many of the critical computer systems have manual overrides or alternatives that can perform critical functions if the computers fail, officials said. But many departments also have not prepared a contingency plan they can follow in case of a computer failure.

"With time running out and no potential for an extension, it is troubling to find so many computer systems that support such a large number of state programs--many delivering vital services to Californians--are still in need of some remediation before state agencies can ensure the risk of failure is minimal," the auditor's report said.

The 14 critical departments represent a small fraction of the programs in state government, officials said. At least some--if not many--of the noncritical computer systems throughout state government may not be repaired before the new year, officials acknowledge.

Kurt R. Sjoberg, the state auditor, said an example of a noncritical computer might be a billing system that collects fees for special purposes like boating. In such cases, he said, there could be minor delays caused by computer failures.

"If we had a few of those . . . it might mean you don't get a little sticker for your boat [on time]," he said. "Their impact on us . . . will be less onerous" than a failure of the critical systems.

Officials are debating whether the Department of Motor Vehicles should be considered critical or noncritical. The auditor left the department off its critical list. But aides to the governor say they might include it on theirs because of its use as a database for law enforcement.

The designation is significant because it will help determine how the state deploys its teams of computer repair technicians.

Officials also have not determined how much the repairs will cost this year. So far, they have reported spending $342 million on the problem since 1996.

And there were several other unanswered questions when the Legislature convened a special hearing on the matter Feb. 24.

Lawmakers complained that they hired a consultant last year to inventory the state's computer readiness. But Davis aides were unable to explain the results of any previous work.

State officials also could not answer a question from Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) about how many state technicians were working on the Y2K problem.

And emergency preparedness officials could not answer a question from Assemblywoman Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) about whether all of the state's police and fire departments have backup power generators.

"Are you saying we don't know?" she asked.

Alquist was told a survey of local police and fire departments is underway.

Concerns Over Asia's Economy, Public Panic

Even if the state corrects all of the problems with its computers, lawmakers were also told that some of the most significant problems could come from outside government. Richard Hall, a government affairs representative from computer chip maker Intel, told legislators that their three chief Y2K concerns should be Asia's economy, electric power and public panic.

Hall said an international study of Y2K readiness identified many Asian countries as almost certain to suffer failures of critical computer systems.

Since California's economy was softened last year by economic problems in Asia, Hall suggested that the state budget should anticipate another impact next year due to financial losses in Asia because of Y2K.

Regarding electric power, concerns were raised about the myriad state, local and other jurisdictions responsible for the western power grid that supplies California. The state's utilities have reported that their systems will be ready. But the lawmakers were told that much of the utility testing has been done in private and has not yet been available to government inspectors.

The Legislature has scheduled a hearing on utility readiness later this month.

Finally, Hall warned that the state could suffer significant disruptions from a frightened public that withdraws extra money from banks and stocks up on food.

State authorities acknowledge that they are walking a careful line in trying to provide the public with an accurate and complete status of Y2K repairs while not causing unnecessary alarm.

Vasconcellos recently wrote a letter to Davis suggesting that the governor try to maintain calm by conducting a regular series of "fireside chats."

"Gov. Davis is the one official in our state who can ease the anxiety [and] prevent panic from becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy," he said.

Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), March 17, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ