U.S. Cities Dispute Government’s Concern Over Y2K Readiness

Despite concerns about Y2K readiness raised by the U.S. Congress’ investigative arm, the National League of Cities says most of its members will be ready in time for the calendar to turn to the year 2000.

The cities group released a study this week saying more than 90 percent of cities’ computer-driven systems will be able to avoid the problems expected from software written to recognize only two-digit years.

In related news, Congress sent a bill electronically to President Clinton Thursday to prevent lawsuits over year 2000 issues. H.R. 775, the Year 2000 Readiness and Responsibility Act, was the first to include electronic signatures, with House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) and Senator Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina) signing a computer screen with an electronic pen provided by PenOp, an electronic signature technology company. The bill, expected to be signed by the president Friday, would limit lawsuits over the failure of any device or system relating to any Y2K problems.

Big City Issues

The National League of Cities presented its report Thursday at a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on the Year 2000 Problem. At the same hearing, the Senate’s General Accounting Office reportedly voiced concern that 10 major U.S. cities do not expect to be completely Y2K ready until New Year’s Eve. Those cities include two of the three largest — Los Angeles and Chicago — and the country’s political hub, Washington, D.C.

In the face of concern from both the GAO and Y2K Committee leaders, the League of Cities said most cities are not in danger of losing essential public services when the year rolls over. The group says the computers and chips that help run those services — such as utilities, public safety operations and financial management systems — in 92 percent of 400 cities polled will be ready for the millennium. The other 8 percent of cities said they will be at least 80 percent ready.

Contingency Plans

More than 90 percent also said they have a citywide plan in place to address any Y2K-related problems that arise, and 70 percent of those plans require private contractors who provide services to cities and towns to be Y2K-compliant. More than half of the cities that do not yet have contingency plans in place expect to have them by September, with another 32 percent saying they will complete their planse between October and December

“This report is some of the best news we’ve heard yet,” NLC President Clarence Anthony said. “Not only are cities saying they’re prepared, but they are proving it. They have strategic plans to deal with Y2K; they are analyzing and repairing systems, and they are developing contingency plans in case of unexpected failures.”

Most cities are also educating residents about Y2K issues and what they should do if a problem arises. In addition to printing notices in local newspapers and posting notices on city Web sites, many cities are holding public forums to give residents a chance to ask questions. More than 23 communities in 18 states plan to hold such meetings this month with the help of the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion.

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