Y2K Community Groups in Major Cities?

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

It has occurred to me recently that most of the Y2K community groups exist in small towns and suburbs, and that there is relatively little activity in the major cities. To check this, I visited the Cassandra Project's new site, and found a list of 226 community groups, including major cities like Chicago, Miami, Denver, Washington, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, Charlotte (NC), Austin, Portland, Nashville, Tucson, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Antonio.

But what about New York City, Boston, Hartford, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Dallas, St. Louis, Omaha, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Atlanta, and dozens of others? Of course, some of these cities may have groups that have not yet been listed in the Cassandra site ... but I worry that some of the cities are so big that there's no sense of community. Does it also mean that the political apparatus within these cities is failing to provide meaningful information to the residents?

If anyone on the forum lives in major cities that do not yet have an active Y2K community group, could you comment on this? Do you think the situation will change in the remaining 9 months? Have you abandoned hope of such a community group being created? Is it even reasonable to expect that an informal "grass roots" group could do anything useful in a city of N million strangers?


-- Ed Yourdon (ed@yourdon.com), March 18, 1999



Thanks for your answers and comments ... but I find them a little depressing. What does all of this say about the fate of big cities if there are serious Y2K problems? Will there be no community effort at all?

As someone said, big cities typically do consist of somewhat cohesive neighborhoods. I lived in NYC for 30 years, for example, and everyone knew the cultural, as well as geographical, boundaries of the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, the West Village, the East Village, Alphabet City, SoHo, NoHo, Tribeca, Gramercy Park, Hell's Kitchen, and a dozen other places -- and that's just Manhattan, south of 110th Street. I'm not surprised that we don't have an all-NYC or even an all-Manhattan Y2K community group ... but it's a little sad to think that all of these localized neighborhoods haven't started doing something yet...


-- Ed Yourdon (ed@yourdon.com), March 18, 1999.

Mr. Yourdon,

First off, thanks for the opportunity to allow us to comment on this.

I live near a major metropolitan area (not listed in the cities you mentioned) and have heard of no such group. Suburbs, yes. City, no.

I seriously doubt that any group will be formed, because it is my sense of things that no one among the "movers and shakers" in this major city (home of three publicly-held large multi-national corporations who are remediating and reliant on thousands of national and international compliant suppliers) will ever publicly admit that Y2K might present problems to the residents of that city or the residents of this state.



-- VLS (inbusiness@theoffice.net), March 18, 1999.

Ed -

I am in Charlotte, NC and have been looking for a group. I too visited the Cassandra Project site and saw a listing for a group here. I contacted the woman referrenced in the post and she told me (I quote):

"I am so mad at my husband for posting our names. There is no group, only 2 or 3 families. It scares me to think everyone now knows we are preparing".

Our city's Y2K coordinator stated in a newspaper article that the city has no plans to inform the public about remediation efforts, prep, etc. until this summer. They don't want to "saturate" people too far in advance of the rollover. They as much as stated that they want to give the utility companies more time, which means people would be alarmed if accurate information were to be released right now.

Personally, I don't hold out much hope for community mobilization. To spur such an effort in a city this size, the truth would need to be told to get people moving. That won't happen with the "fear of panic" mentality held by public officials.

It's all so stupid and avoidable...


-- Roland (nottelling@nowhere.com), March 18, 1999.

Ed, I haven't been able to find anyone in New York City even remotely interested in this subject, let alone willing to be part of a group. The Guiliani administration certainly doesn't seem interested. Nor the business community. The word on the street here, and in the media is zilch. Worse than zilch, actually, just read what the NYTimes has to say.

I'd thought about figuring out how to start a community group, at least on a small scale, but you know what? I'm planning on getting out of Dodge, and going to the small town where the folks live and where a Y2K community group IS forming, albeit late, and with a narrow focus.

-- pshannon (pshannon@inch.com), March 18, 1999.

Mr. Yourdon, I feel that the industry concentrations of each city affects the formation of Y2K community groups.

I live outside of Raleigh, NC. The concentration of economic growth in this area for the past 12-15 years has been focused on information technology. To protect the confidence in the IT industry, there is less emphasis on preparation for possible Y2K consequences. Given the number of people that live in the city, you would think that, based on numbers alone, there would be larger groups addressing preparedness issues.

I think that this area is affected largely by the desire to protect company images and consumer confidence in the industry, thus, no cohesion. After looking at the list of cities that have organized groups, it is reasonable to deduct that the overall industries in those cities are not as high tech oriented.

On a personal note, I have spoken twice to an area Chamber of Commerce to begin a county-wide business coalition addressing Y2K. I started last year in September. The business officials got wide eyed like they would have to disclose something about their businesses publicly, and the Chamber officials proposed a "committee", which has yet to be seriously addressed. I spoke, volunteered, handed out link disks and printouts. Amazing also: out of 17 officials at one of the meetings, only one banker had any idea what it was all about. Hardly anyone wants to take a stand. Lots of fence sitting.

In my estimation, there will be a lot of Humpty-Dumpty's come 2000.

Best Regards,
Mr. Kennedy

-- Mr. Kennedy (JKennedy@destinationsusa.net), March 18, 1999.

"but I worry that some of the cities are so big that there's no sense of community. Is it even reasonable to expect that an informal "grass roots" group could do anything useful in a city of N million strangers?"

I'm in South Florida (Miami/Ft Lauderdale/W. Palm Beach) with a population of 3 million+ . Talk about no sense of community - everyone here is from somewhere else. Instead of "community", we are a bunch of splintered sub-communities at cultural war. But when I saw a group listed at Cassandra, the optimist in me said "why not". I just got off the phone with the coordinator. *Huge sigh*. He tried to sell me financial planning. Everyone here is just out for themselves, AND I live within 1 mile of a 7-11. Sigh.

-- Online2Much (thought_I_was_ready_for_y2k@mindspring.com), March 18, 1999.


Can't answer for a big city. In Kalamazoo, MI, our "group" consists of about 14 people, 3 of whom work for the organizing community groups. This is for 3 counties. We "hope" to get the attention of possibly 5% to 10% of the people we talk to.

Myself, I'm moving to the country. Don't know what to do about those new neighbors yet. Mainly setting up for my extended family, all of whom (except my parents) think I'm taking another run at the "lunatic fringe", or externalizing an old (outgrown) desire to go back to a "simpler" life.

I'm prepping for an 8+. No generators, spending my money on tools, seeds, livestock, clothes, etc....

-- Jon Williamson (pssomerville@sprintmail.com), March 18, 1999.

I live in a metro area of about 600,000. Not a word from the local media concerning preparedness. There was one letter to the editor six months ago, from a consultant, warning about inaction. Nothing since. I am afraid to speak out publicly because of my occupation, preferring to alert friends and aquaintances on a individual basis. I have spoken with a half dozen neighbors on y2k and all but one responded with glazed eyes, laughter, or ridicule. I have bought a place in the country and am in the process of bugging out.

-- a (a@a.a), March 18, 1999.


I live north of Baltimore city. I am aware that some of the pastors/ministers of the inner city churches where approached by the Police Dept. about the issue of Y2K. One of the pastors told of meetings with the police department and psychiatric/social workers. I saw an information paper written by one of the pastors that discussed what the problem is and potential impact of Y2K.

The Police hierarchy realize that they won't be able to deal with this alone, and see church groups as playing an important role in helping prepare members and local church communities (to the limited extent that they can) for likely disruptions in services. It is my understanding that these meetings are ongoing and involves almost 100 pastors/ministers/church leaders.

-- Mark (quke@ix.netcom.com), March 18, 1999.

I think Silicon Valley is a clone of the Research Triangle experience (or vice versa). Most people here outside of gun stores appear to regard the problem as little more than a bit IT exercise. This includes city and county government officials, workers, startups, churches, media, and volunteer organizations such as local Red Cross. And of course my spouse. Personally I am forecasting a 3 week maximum power outage, based on finger in the air after doing research (another thing, local governments don't release information that would be helpful to citizens trying to plan ahead for this). The biggest dilemnas, as others have noted, are whether to fight or flight and if staying, whether to come out or not. Coming out means contradicting almost all the common perceptions and institutions' wisdom on Y2K so far, but I am hopeful (in vain?) that examples like Portland and the Vasconcellos letter may help. There is definitely a leadership vacuum issue to be dealt with and if things continue to be uphill am willing to modify stance to as radical as necessary under circumstances (albeit handicapped by later start). I expect to have a better fix on local government by early April

-- Ann Y Body (annybody@nowhere.disorg), March 18, 1999.

Speaking for Lancaster Pennsylvania............ A small town of 55-60K people.

I have been active now for about 18 months. Aside from us I KNOW of two other families getting ready. No formalized groups I know of. I havn't got time to head/start one. Thought about it.... I am just not a people person.

We're also working with a church group of about 200 people I think. So far they are just laying info out to the members and taking no stand on Y2K. We're doing what little we can to help, offering advice and access to what we have learned about preparations.

I have heard rumors of church groups in the area who are making an effort, but nothing I can pin down.

Will the situation change in the next 9 months? Not enough to matter I think. The city and county Government have taken a 'no problem' attitude. The churches are working at arms length to avoid embarrassment if they are wrong.

Can a community group actually make a difference? Yeesss...I would guess it could...IF it was focused properly. Look, if a community group went into the game trying to avoid rocking the boat and risking embarrassment they just are not going to get anything done. We are talking about situations that seem extreme to us today, but might seem normal tomorrow. A group could and should spend time trying to educate families on the risks we face. A community that is ready on the family level would come thru troubled times better than otherwise. Beyond that, knowing that most families can't or won't prepare the community group must be ready to lobby business and government to take up the slack. Can you imagine how far a community group will get in today's climate if they go to a large business and ask for a donation to cover 'survival' food for 50,000 people? How about going to the city and asking for a warehouse to store toilet paper and bulk wheat 'just in case' the city's official version of the future is wrong?

Before any community group can get anything serious done they must first break through the crust of disbelief and denial that is almost universal in business and government concerning Y2K.

Honest truth....If I had several hundred thousand dollars to spend and the financial freedom to devote the next 9 months to it, I think I could design and work a plan that would get our 'community' thru to the other side in one piece with minimal loss of life. Nothing less would do. Anything less than meeting the goal would present a huge risk to my own family by making us a target. Without backing by local big business and government anything less than a fully funded full time effort would be doomed. That backing is not there.

I can only imagine it's that way most places. I think community groups could do some good, but from their very concption they will be handicapped by the structure they must work within. The only way they could be truly effective is with serious backing by the powers that be (HA! Think that's gonna happen? Wannna buy a bridge?) or with a financial stake to go it alone. The press will not give them sufficient coverage to make up for lack of funding, big business will not chip in because doing so would admit the seriousness of the problem, and government will never admit they have lost control to the point they need help just to assure basic survival needs.

Regards, Art Welling

-- Art Welling (artw@lancnews.infi.net), March 18, 1999.


When talking about Y2K in the Dallas/Fort Worth you usually just get a few chuckles out of people. Have just recently found several co- workers that are concerned. Talking about Y2K with them has helped tremendously. (Yep, that would be you jockey...)

If anybody is from the Arlington,TX, Dallas, TX, Fort Worth,TX area that would be interested in meeting I know a great italian place where we could meet and talk about y2k over a inexpensive italian dinner.

Email me and we can hash out the date and time.

This saturday sounds good doesn't it...???

-- Saint Francis (STFrisky@hotmail.com), March 18, 1999.

Ed - The Massachusetts listing for "Jamaica Plan" is really Boston, or rather a residential neighborhood within Boston proper. I can't see Boston as a whole doing anything - it is far too fractured and I don't see that level of leadership developing. The City is intent on focusing on a three-day First Night party instead. The business community is concerned, but not getting any assurances from the utilities. There are some church groups and ethnic neighborhoods that might make some headway.

-- Brooks (brooksbie@hotmail.com), March 18, 1999.

Ed, I'm in a suburb of Los Angeles, a city of about 125K people. Last summer I pushed hard at the city council to begin community awareness and preparations. I pestered, I emailed, and I have been ignored. I understand there are some Y2K groups in a few other suburbs in Orange County, and have been contacted by a few people. I'm very POed at the bureaucratic children in my city. I woulda worked for free. (sigh)...

-- Donna Barthuley (moment@pacbell.net), March 18, 1999.

We do not live near a big city miles from a 7-11. While I find a few people worried about the effects of y2k most I have talked to can be described with one word......... Complacent..(satified with the way one is or with one has done) This country has a lot of complacent people how did this happen???? I think it will change soon.....

-- not Complacent (?@?.?), March 18, 1999.

Mr. Yourdon,

I share your take on the lack of cohesion in the communities. There are quite a few of us that share ideas in this forum that have been ignored in our efforts to start the awareness and action community groups we are discussing.

I have seen that it is easier for businesses and prominent individuals to try to make me look like a fool or ignore me than to take an unpopular stand that threatens the community businesses. It is not clear to them that I am not the threat, that Y2K is. But, we all know about "shooting the messenger".

Believe it or not, the strongest community is within churches in organization against potential Y2K effects. Not because the church members think it is "the end times" (although, that is a healthy topic of theological discussion), but because people that follow a Christian faith are not as bound up by physical and worldly possessions and know that true treasures are not of this world. Therefore, the ability to adapt to less than stellar conditions tends to be handled with greater acceptance.

It is known that the main focus is to be good stewards of what is given on earth. So, you will find some of the better organizational efforts are in church groups that focus on helping others as well as their own families. More church groups, including the one I go to, are storing up medicines (OTC's), baby formula, emergency medical supplies, water, food, diapers, clothing and the like. It is not much out of the normal than what is done on a regular charity level. If we do it for total strangers that are hurt, sick, and hungry, why should we not do these things for ourselves in times that threaten us and our families?

There are high-tech professionals, including myself, that work to alleviate the problem as best we can on one end, though choose not to leave things to chance. Yes, God does supply our needs, but we have to do our part in all facets of life to continue doing the work we were meant to. I am in the process of arranging to have a health professional come and teach JR. and adult CPR courses at the church. We need to know those things anyway. Y2K isn't the only time people would have heart attacks or experience medical emergency.

What I have experienced is a true taste of just how materialistic the society has become as a whole. The media and government sound bites have done just enough to make people that aren't in a Y2K community effort already feel like they have to prepare for themselves, in secret. They've shown couples on tv that are preparing, but in the most extreme ways, always emphasising that "the location is not disclosed for fear of being robbed for their huge stockpiles of food, guns, and gold". No wonder that folks who don't have or take the time to research the facts (both sides) either 1.- start feeling and acting like near-terrorists or 2.- Ignore it altogether out of fear of being perceived as a kook. I would say that media feels that a story on a community group that is making rational decisions, making carefully planned preparations and taking the situation in a calm but somber "wait and see" attitude just isn't twisted enough to make a good story.

Heck, that kind of story doesn't hold a candle to our esteemed President's trist. It's either put on the loonies or the violin playing Senators. It isn't fair to us, who really care, and who really would accept good news if it comes. We don't want our families to suffer, nor anyone elses. But with the media treating Y2K like some sort of secretive, cult action or totally individual, "everyman/woman for themselves - you can't trust anyone" scenario, we'll never see the community groups en masse that need to be in place.

By the time people will want to know how to prepare late in this year, most of us will be near burned out from trying. In any event, it would also be too late for addressing preparedness properly.

Mr. Kennedy

-- Mr. Kennedy (JKennedy@destinationsUSA.net), March 18, 1999.

"Thanks for your answers and comments ... but I find them a little depressing. What does all of this say about the fate of big cities if there are serious Y2K problems? Will there be no community effort at all? "

Hell Ed, you're the one on record as saying that "large cities would resemble Beruit if even a subset of the potential y2k problems materialized." That was the comment that turned on my "y2k light bulb" when I heard you say it on TV early last July. I thought to myself, why on earth would Ed Yourdon say such a thing? Within two days, I understood your statement completely, and, as I sat on my bed at 3am getting ready to pass out from this horrible enlightenment, I had a sort of "vision" of the modern day Tower of Babel that would soon ensue. Scared the crap out of me.

I checked the Cassandra site...my state has one group...located in a small city that has about three traffic lights. I thought about trying to get active in the community last fall, maybe talk to the mayor, county emergency preparedness director, etc, but at that time, people would become quite aggravated when you belabored the y2k threat.

I don't think much has changed...you can thank Koskinen and the other government trolls for blanketing the nation with happy face stories and confusing ITS OK/ITS NOT OK tautologies.

As Cory Hamasaki said at day 500, its too late to fix the systems. The day is fast approaching when it is going to be too late to prepare the people, and in fact, that day may have already come and gone.

-- a (a@a.a), March 18, 1999.

Hi Ed. Thanks for the forum and the book.

I live in Pasadena, CA. SoCal is essentially one gigantic megapolis from San Diego in the south to Ventura/Santa Barbara in the north. Somewhere around 15 million souls inhabit what is a desert without the elaborate water theft from our cousins up north. There is no way to support this large an ecosystem without a fully functioning infrastructure. We need it all. If we can't pump water from the Aqueduct (water brought down 100s of miles from northern CA), SoCal reverts to sagebrush. Any number of vulnerabilities that fail will bring SoCal to its knees. So I don't see how it's possible for contingency planning to have much of an effect in our case.

As far as local planning? We (in Pasadena) just had an election for mayor. I got to meet most of the candidates. Only one was familiar with y2k and being a member of the city council said they'd had one y2k meeting to date. I missed that one. He asked me with a giggle whether I thought y2k was the end of the world? So much for y2k awareness from that quarter. He didn't know how much water we drew from local wells versus the Aqueduct. He didn't know if our local generation plant could disconnect from the grid. He didn't know if the fire and police departments had contingency plans for y2k in general or their families in particular. He was aware that at the end of April the city will conduct a y2k test. He didn't react when I suggested that the city web site provide information on the city's y2k plans if they develope any. And he didn't have any comments on contingency plans for the one million plus visitors we'll have for the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl should events turn nasty.

Perhaps contingency plans for a megapolis are just castles in the sky. We'd best hope for a bump in the road. I'm headed for parts distant in case the "bump" turns into a mountain.

Good luck to you all. brett.

-- brett (brett45@bigfoot.com), March 18, 1999.

From my local city's IT mgr (received today in response to my inquiries on the topic of Y2K and city plans for raising community awareness):


The City is planning a public information program that includes articles in our quarterly mailer to all residents and web site information, brochures may be considered if a focused need seems to justify it. We have intentionally not published any of our public preparedness information yet because we recognize the need to impress the information on the public at an appropriate time. We don't want our information to become just Y2K background noise or simply forgotten in the Y2K hysteria. We planned to publish once in the summer, and again late in the year. We also have hosted two forums earlier this year specifically targeted to business managers on Y2K preparedness both of ourselves and the major utilities that serve them.


The Portland program appears to be an excellent program, however it is also a very resource intensive program. We have asked ourselves on a staff level what is the likely impact of the Y2K problem and our judgement is there will be an impact, however what we perceive to be the most responsibile information coming forward in the last few months is that the impact of Y2K in the United States will be relatively minor. The information you sent from OES does not conflict with that assessment. I don't want to minimize our level of concern or lead you to believe we are not preparing at a level appropriate to our evaluation of the risk.


The majority of the Council both at the time and in informal conversations after, seem to feel the collection and desemination of information is an appropraite level of involvement for the city organization.


-- Ann Y Body (annybody@nowhere.disorg), March 18, 1999.


Thanks for pushiung me to expand my box a little more. I finally checked into the Cleveland Y2K forum. Found aboiut the same level of stuff as here but nothing on any Community Preparedness Initiatives.

I am not optimistic about any Community Prep activities here for several reasons.

1) I have seen the city plan a 200th birthday party, a five day extravaganza, taking 3 years to plan, and come down to 10 days before the "party" and realize that they had no provision for first aid for the 5 days. My wife, another person and I put together the key core group and teh Red Cross went out to every instructor they knew, and half teh Hospitals in town and we covered 4 first aid stations. Did it in 10 days including ordering supplies. And I do mean I/WE as me and Mrs Driver!

2) This administration has bitten off a bit more than they can chew by taking over the schools as a part of the mayor's direct responsibility. Nuff said about that!!

3) The total focus is on Aug 7,8,9 or so as the first Browns game in the new stadium. The mayor wants a two week festival. (Thanks, I'll be at an INDY car race!)

4) Without getting libelous, our mayor has made a carreer of riding horses broken to saddle by G. Voinovich (former mayor and tehn former governor). He has ridden the Business horse GV created, and has done nothing really creative to enhance this "partnership". I'm truly not sure (personal opinion only) about his true, across the city, leadership ability. And then we come to the City Council.......

Enough already...

Someone pass the xanax.


-- Chuck, a night driver (reinzoo@en.com), March 19, 1999.

i certainly hope minneapolis sits up and does something soon, because my sister lives there. i will encourage her to be somewhere else, like the family farm. as for where i live, i keep plugging along in the face of the federal government's "prepare for 3 days" advice. i am putting aside some supplies for babies, because my next door neighbor has a brand new baby. but i am not the messiah, unfortunately, to get the whole town prepared. i tell people to at least stockpile their medications, if nothing else. it's a tough sell, and i find i won't argue anymore, i will only talk to someone sympathetic.

-- jocelyne slough (jonslough@tln.net), March 19, 1999.

Hi Ed, from Houston.

Do you think the situation will change in the remaining 9 months? NO

Have you abandoned hope of such a community group being created? YES

Is it even reasonable to expect that an informal "grass roots" group could do anything useful in a city of N million strangers? 4 million, and NO!

There ARE people preparing. I just spoke to my 3rd ladies group last Wednesday. But, there is NO cohesion. You can drive for an hour and a half in a straight line and still not be out of Houston. It is HUGE! The television stations (4) and the newspaper have done a pretty fair job of covering Y2K, but it seems the only "leadership" is coming out of the churches.

(PS- to pshannon, David Wilkerson (Times Square Church) is telling his entire congregation to prepare for total self-sufficiency for 60 days.)

-- Gayla Dunbar (privacy@please.com), March 19, 1999.

Hi Roland, I'm a regular poster here, under another address. I'm also in Charlotte. Had planned to call those people under Cassandra's. Did you see the Observer article the other week about all the people buying wheat? Renfrow Hardware in Matthews sold 40,000 pounds in a couple days. Lots of people prepping, all of 'em "nottelling."

If you're making serious preps and interested in communicating, write me at this address. There's another guy in Charlotte who posted to a previous thread, but he says he'll only be in Charlotte another month or so.

-- Anon (y2kAnonForNow@yahoo.com), March 19, 1999.

I'm in the western edge of St. Louis. There is a community group here, see www.gandillon.com for details. We've had two meetings, with about 100 folks each time. We are assembling a list of queries for utilities and local offcials. I've been able to convince only about 5% of the folks I've talked to to take y2k seriously. I gave my oldest friend Ed's book, neither he nor wife will read it. I plan to be in east Tennesse well before rollover, in a place I'm finishing up in the Smokies. My current assessment is that the vast majority of the DGI's will remain so until the lights go out. I am not optimistic at all about the outcome.

-- Les Holladay (holladayl@aol.com), March 19, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ