Y2K not a threat, officials contend

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Y2K not a threat, officials contend

By Russell Clemings The Fresno Bee (Published May 15, 1999)

After conducting six hearings throughout the state on the year 2000 computer problem, Assemblyman John A. Dutra, D-Fremont, has some advice for worried Californians:

Stop worrying.

The Y2K problem, says the chairman of the Assembly's Information Technology Committee, won't cause nearly as much economic and social disruption as widely believed.

Friday, at the California State University, Fresno, campus for the last of the committee's six hearings on the problem, more than a dozen local government, police, fire and emergency services officials agreed with Dutra.

"All of these entities are considerably more prepared for Y2K than the public perception," the assemblyman said. "Unless there is some unanticipated event, this is going to be a nonevent for Jan. 1. But in the event that there is an event, the emergency services agencies are going to handle it well."

Joined by California's new chief information officer, Elias S. Cortez, Dutra and the committee's staff heard from public officials representing Wasco, Firebaugh, Shafter, Fresno, Kingsburg, Reedley, Fresno County, Kern County and other jurisdictions.

"There's probably been more planning for this event than any other event in the history of the world," Cortez said, referring to Jan. 1, 2000, when computers that use only two digits to represent the year might conclude that the date is actually Jan. 1, 1900.

Each speaker outlined steps that his or her agency is taking to head off such problems.

"This month," said Shafter City Manager John Guinn, "we will be finishing our remediation and testing phase, and we will be quite a ways along with our contingency planning."

Hap Cluff, chief information officer for Fresno's city government, said the city has spent between $6 million and $10 million to upgrade more than half of the city's computer systems. But he said the outlay has paid dividends: The new systems have capabilities that the previous systems lacked.

"We're a state-of-the-art city now," Cluff said. "We can do a lot of things that we couldn't do before. So it's not fair to say all that cost was Y2K."

Throughout the hearing there was an emphasis on the need to reduce potential panic by informing the public of steps being taken to address the Y2K problem.

Officials talked about Web pages that they have set up to tell the world what they have done. But they also talked about the need to use traditional media for the benefit of people who aren't connected to the Internet.

"I think a Web page is a great idea, and it needs to be done, but it's not going to reach everybody," said Kingsburg police Sgt. Brian Bissett.

Concern also was expressed about possible overreaction to routine events, such as a local power outage, that happen to occur at the same time as the new year. Officials said they plan to be prepared for such reaction.

"If the power goes out on Jan. 1, 2000," Cluff said, "there may be a different feeling about whether it is going to come back on, and we need to address that."

On the whole, though, the view of those at Friday's hearing was that local governments are doing enough to ensure that the first day of 2000 arrives without major problems.

And that, Cortez says, is a good thing: "The good news is that we all know when it's going to happen. The bad news is we can't file for an extension."

-- Norm (nwo@hotmail.com), May 16, 1999



-- cool hand luke (at@dotcom.com), May 24, 1999.

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