The political climate can support or undermine efforts to use the Year 2000 problem (Y2K) to make a better world. Here are simple questions you can use NOW to help generate a supportive political climate.

The Co-Intelligence Institute/Y2K // Y2K home // CII home

Y2K Questions for Politicians and Government Officials

Please copy and send this to everyone you know who may be interested.


(revised March 1999)


Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute
Gordon Davidson, The Center for Visionary Leadership
Margo King, Boulder Colorado Y2K Community Preparedness
Jim Laurie, The Arlington Institute

The following questions have been designed to lift Y2K into the political dialogue. Government officials can be asked these questions any time, especially at public meetings.

Together, the public and the media can launch a constructive Y2K agenda into the national consciousness. We can push officials to:

Statement #1: The Year 2000 problem may just be a big inconvenience, or it could really mess up our lives and communities. What are the important institutions that we depend on doing to fix their computer systems and embedded microchips? Many companies are holding back information because of legal concerns. Some government press releases including those from John Koskinen of President Clinton's Y2K office are quite optimistic. In a CNN report on February 22, 1999, Koskinen said that the majority of will be fixed by March 31st and all systems will be fixed by year end.

Other government documents show more concern including the Senate Special Y2K Committee's Report released on February 24, 1999. Congressman Horn's latest report card, also issued in February, gave the Federal Government an overall C+. It gave the Defense, HHS, and Agriculture Departments all C's. State, Transportation, and the Agency for International Development all failed. These six departments account for over 50% of the mission-critical computer systems in the US government.

These apparent inconsistencies make it hard for people to know what is really going on. They leave the public with no choice but to prepare for the worst.
Question #1: What would you do to make it easier for citizens to get real information about how companies, utilities, and government agencies are doing in their preparations for Y2K?

Statement #2: Many people are getting scared about what might happen on January 1, 2000. In a USA Today poll on March 10,1999, 55% of Americans said it was likely that banks and accounting systems would fail. 43% said that it's likely that air traffic control systems will fail; and 40% say grocery store shortages are likely. Some are considering moving to the country because of the Year 2000 computer problem. There could be increases in gun sales, food hoarding, bank runs and other signs of fear that social breakdown will occur. If not addressed, it may become a self-fulfilling process even if Y2K turns out to be under control.
Question #2: What can be done to build trust in the community so that fear is reduced and major social disruptions less likely? What would you do to prevent widespread panic and dangerous runs on banks and stores, without impeding people's ability to prepare for Y2K?

Statement #3: Most of the jobs in our economy come from small businesses. They make parts and provide services that are vital to the operations of big businesses. If lots of small businesses fold, it may cause an economic recession or worse. A January 5, 1999 survey by the National Federation of Independent Business showed that 1.9 million or 40% of American small businesses will potentially have Y2K problems. 5% of small businesses were not aware of Y2K at all. Another third were aware, but stated that they had no plans to take any action before January, 2000.
Question #3: What would you do to make sure that the small businesses in your constituency are well prepared?

Statement #4: The North American Electrical Readiness Council (NERC) survey presented to DOE on January 11, 1999 showed that the 3015 participating electrical utilities had completed only 44% of their Y2K remediation efforts. 25% of these utilities (over 750 electrical providers) reported that they did not expect to be Y2K ready by the June 30, 1999 target date. The Senate Special Committee on Y2K stated in February of 1999 that there may not be sufficient time for utilities to complete remediation work before January 1st, 2000.

A NERC study of nuclear sites stated that they are only 31% completed on remediation work as of November 30, 1998. Over a quarter of the facilities have identified components that can not be completed by June 30, 1999. It is also possible that nuclear plants, (which total 20% of the USA generating capacity) will have to be shut down because of safety concerns. Nuclear plants require a cooling cycle of several weeks during shutdowns so prior planning is essential.

The cascading effects of these shutdowns could lead to brownouts and blackouts in many parts of the country. Losing the electrical grid, of course leads to other problems; water can not be pumped, sewage can not be treated, and heating systems often depend on electrical control. There is also the deregulation of the electric utilities which is proceeding in many states. This creates another uncertainty about system reliability.
Question #4: What would you do to ensure that the United States (or your local region) has electricity (or backup systems) in January of 2000? In particular, do you support the establishment of local micro-grids and government incentives for sustainable, locally self-reliant energy systems like solar and wind power?

Statement #5: Many people who live in urban areas are very concerned that even if they prepare by storing food and water, large populations of poor or unprepared people could lead to widespread social unrest. We could face severe social disruptions and even violence if basic services and supplies are unavailable. Proposals have been made that the federal or state governments establish warehouses of food and supplies in the inner cities to prevent this scenario. We could use schools for shelters and involve churches and businesses. Community preparation is a real opportunity to bring people together to solve a problem. The skills learned could be very useful in future emergencies like storms or floods, even if Y2K is not a major disruption.
Question #5: What would you do to help us work together to prepare our entire community for Y2K? (This can be asked even if it is a state or national official, because state and national policies can help or hinder community collaborations.)

Question #5A: What would you do to ease racial and class differences during the period of intense stress we might experience with Y2K? How can we be sure that all citizens are treated with fairness and included in the planning and preparations for Y2K?

Statement #6: There are several environmental concerns relating to Y2K. Depending on where you live there may be chemical plants, nuclear energy plants, oil tank farms, etc. in the neighborhood. If computer failures cause a release of toxic materials or radioactive substances there could be severe environmental damage. Also, governments and businesses could become too distracted by Y2K work to pay enough attention to their environmental responsibilities.
Question #6: What are you going to do to ensure that we don't have toxic leaks or nuclear accidents because of Y2K? What do you propose to do to protect the environment from Y2K related damage?

Statement #7: The Senate Report on Y2K which was released in February of 1999 stated that that, "The health care industry lags significantly behind other sectors in its Y2K preparations." Medical equipment has embedded microchips that might fail and affect patient care and record keeping. The agency that handles Medicare payments is not ready for the Year 2000. Some medicines might become hard to get because they are produced overseas or from imported materials. Insulin was given as an example.
Question #7: What would you do to ensure we have adequate health care in January 2000?

Statement #8: Many people are concerned that our entire infrastructure could be threatened, especially if the electrical grid goes down, as the entire system is completely interdependent. A telecommunications failure could bring down the electrical grid which uses remote sensing and control devices. Banking and emergency services such as 911 are also vulnerable. Gas pumps won't work without electricity, not even for ambulances and fire trucks.
Question #8: What would you do to ensure that the basic, vital infrastructure we all depend on will function well into the Year 2000, at least in our area?

Question #8A: What would you do to ensure we have water, sewage disposal, waste disposal, basic energy supplies, food, public security, health care, care for the poor, elderly and infirm, adequate public transportation, a functioning local economy, a functioning justice and prison system, and increased self-reliance and resilience as a community?