Y2k Town Hall Meeting in Milwaukee

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The Y2k Community Conversations series is coming to Milwaukee. It is free and open to the public.

"Ask your questions about Y2K readiness to government, utility and private sector representatives."

When: Tuesday, July 20, 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.

Where: UWM Golda Meir Library Conference Center 4th floor

Who: Hosted by UWM Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and featuring Mayor John O. Norquist, Alderman Don Richards, 9th District, and Lt. Governor Scott McCallum

Those interested in attending are invited to register or call for more info at (414)286-2150 (City Hall)

[From an advertisement in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, who is also a sponsor. I'll be there, and report my observations here. Can someone link to the thread(s) with question suggestions?]

-- Steve (hartsman@ticon.net), July 17, 1999



If there's someone there from the federal government, you might want to ask about these 43 high-impact federal programs:


-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), July 17, 1999.

I notice on Horn's ratings the NRC got an A for being 100% done with its 7 critical systems. How does this jibe with their announcement that 1/3 of the nuclear plants won't be "ready" until as late as Dec. 15 - 16th?

-- Linda (lwmb@psln.com), July 19, 1999.

I hope there's a decent showing tonight, and that the spin is minimal. I'll report my observations here later.

-- Steve (hartsman@ticon.net), July 20, 1999.

Lots to report. First things first: the turnout was abysmal (about 50 people in a room set up for 200 or so), and the spin was astounding. Disappointed on both accounts, but not surprised.

The "show" was broadcast on the local Public Access Channel in both the city of Milwaukee and suburbs, and will be rebroadcast in Milwaukee only (not suburban channels) soon--check your listing if you're in Brew City.

I took sketchy notes, and had numerous "off-the-record" conversations with panel members after the "show" ended. The public statements were as expected: Everything's under control, don't worry, "people behavior" was the main concern, your money is safest in the bank, beware of scams, "the more one learns the less one is concerned" (actual statement--made me laugh aloud), an "unprecedented" amount of sharing information amongst city agencies and departments, etc.

The Mayor, John Norquist, spoke briefly about emergency services, and then left the room. He tried to reassure everyone that the Fire and Police Departments were fine, testing was being done, and that there is "less to worry about", but never once mentioned compliance.

A statement was made by Cheryl McCollum, who is Director of Communications for the Wisconsin Bankers Association. She claimed that 100% of Wisconsin banks were compliant. There were several audible groans from the audience. She was later asked to name a single bank which has been certified as compliant through the testing phase and has been independently verified as such. She bypassed the question entirely, and then changed "compliant" to "ready" when another audience member cautioned against casual use of the terms interchangeably. She repeated the mantra that "98% of all banks are compliant", which of course is simply not true ("on track" is correct; "compliant" simply ain't the case).

I asked a rambling question about the numerous risks from disruptions in global trade, the oil supply, etc., and the need for public officials to encourage preparedness of more than 2-3 days. (I am not a public speaker--I was very nervous and didn't have a question written. C'est la vie.) I directed it to Dr. Virginia Hirsch, who is Chair of Milwaukee Connection for Y2K Preparedness (McFYP), and who teaches courses on preparedness through the Milwaukee Public Schools (I attended one of them several months ago, and had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Hirsch for an hour or so afterward).

I honestly don't recall much of her response, as my nervousness sent my synapses scrambling for a minute or so. However, she stressed the need for everyone to prepare, but wouldn't commit to a time frame, saying that everyone should prepare to the extent they're comfortable (I'm paraphrasing--sorry Dr. Hirsch).

There were many other panelists, including representatives from State Government, Wisconsin Electric, Wisconsin Gas, Milwaukee Water Works, Ameritech, Froedert Hospital, the Milw. Police Dept., the Milw. Fire Dept., and several others.

As mentioned, I had several conversations afterward, during which several panelists shared information with me. I also met with several audience members after the show, several of whom I knew either professionally (from the Y2k projects I've worked on) or from previous Y2k Preparedness Expos, and got their feedback and asked them about private conversations they had as well. I also had coffee with a couple of attendees afterwards, and we shared thoughts and conversations.

Here's what was shared with us privately. I will not give the names of those who spoke, as they made it clear to each of us that their remarks were to be "off-the-record". While I would love to name names, I won't jeopardize other people's careers. My guess is that they would deny making the following statements. Nevertheless, they didn't seem to hesitate to talk with several of us openly and honestly.

One panelist, who clearly took the problem seriously and had first- hand knowledge of the progress (and lack thereof) of the systems s/he was responsible for, urged preparation. S/he said that failures were expected, and that Politicos were, in effect, lying about compliance to the press. When one works for the government, however, dissent (and bad news) is simply not tolerated.

Another panelist flatly stated that the majority of the panelists knew nothing about Y2k issues beyond what they were instructed to say, and that audience members who asked questions were more informed than those on the panel. S/he shared our frustration that direct questions weren't answered, and also complained about political pressures not to talk about preparedness.

I was a bit surprised at the frankness shared by several participants with several different people, and angered at the whole charade. If the circus comes to your town, I encourage you to attend. Stick around when the lights go off. Talk to people. You'll probably find, like I did, that their concerns are the same as ours, and that what we're being told doesn't jive with reality.

All in all, a morally reprehensible, albeit somewhat enlightening, "Community Conversation". About what I expected, I guess.

Flame away.

-- Steve (hartsman@ticon.net), July 21, 1999.

Here's what I heard when I went to a "Community Conversation" in Frankfort, Kentucky on June 17th:


-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), July 21, 1999.

Hey Linda you should say that over at Rick Cowles site so they could tear you a new one.

-- you're a shill (aintcha@linda.net), July 21, 1999.

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