Oregon (again): Grassroots at its best

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These two messages, forwarded by Cynthia Beal, reflect the continuing progress of what appears to be one of the world's most "doing it" grassroots community preparation places. The first simple announcement reflects an amazing degree of organization and background work. The second is a great look at one neighborhood's take on, and "one-foot-in-front-of the-other" approach, to the situation.

Thank-you to the people who took the time to write these things down, and to Cynthia for passing them on so they could get posted on this web page where others will be able to gain some insight and maybe have a lightbulb or two go off.

Which reminds me... If you're reading this, and you can type, remember: It's EASY to post whatever insights or experience you may have to share onto a web page just like this. No harder than typing and sending an email. To read a little about that, head to the Forums page sometime. The main things to remember are it's easy, and doing it will put your information in an onine library others can refer to, learn from, add to. It's another way to use the Internet to collaborate - locally and globally.

And you folks out there in Oregon. Don't be shy! If you're so inclined, please do the y2k community prep world a favor by taking the little bit of time required to get the hang of this system, and keep us tuned into what's happening and how it's getting done.

And those of you in the Eugene/Lane County area, be sure to drop in on, bookmark, and (most importantly), use the web site/system you've got out there in your community. It's at http://home.ica.net/~njarc/lane/2000.html, it's all wired into this system (and a few others), and works a lot the same way.

Okay. End of today's sermon. Here're those snapshots from Salmon Country.)

A Common Sense Approach

Many people have questions about the year 2000 computer issues. How many of our computer systems will successfully switch from 1999 to 2000? How Y2K compliant are our banks, power companies, hospitals, emergency services, schools, grocery stores? Come to the Fair and speak directly to representatives of all vital companies and service providers. Come talk with the people who have important information. All interested people are invited to attend the Salem/Keizer/Marion County Emergency Preparedness Fair on Saturday, April 10 at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Cascade Hall. The Fair is free and open to the public. Hours are 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Make it a family outing. There will be balloons for the children, refreshment stands for everyone, free parking, handouts, and over 45 booths of presenters. There will be a station where you can direct questions to the Emergency Management Directors of Salem, Keizer and Marion County.

Presenters include, but are not limited to the following:

American Family Network
American Red Cross, Willamette Chapter
Bonneville Power Administration
City of Keizer, General Services
City of Salem, 91-1- Dispatch
City of Salem, Public Works
Culligan Water
Emergency Food and Supply
Keizer Chamber of Commerce
Keizer Fire Department
Keizer Police Department
Les Martin, Home Preparation Kit
Marion County, Dept. of Public Works
Marion County Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES)
Marion County Search and Rescue
Marion County Extension Service
Marion-Polk Food Share
Northwest Natural
Oregon Banking Association
Oregon Board of Pharmacy
Oregon Credit Union League
Oregon Public Utility Commission
Oregon Veterinary Medicine Association
Portland General Electric
Salem Electric
Salem Fire Department
Salem Hospital
Salem-Keizer Public School, 24J
Salem Police Department
South Salem Cycleworks
State of Oregon, Department of Administrative Service
State of Oregon, Risk Management
State of Oregon, Accounting and Finance
State of Oregon, Department of Corrections

An on-going series of 30 minute presentations are scheduled at the west end of the building throughout the day. These will focus on basic services and how our agencies and major companies are preparing for the year 2000. Presentations will also address how citizens can prepare to meet their needs in case of any type of emergency. Come attend any of the presentations or just stroll the booths and see what companies and agencies are doing to prepare.

April 10th - Come to the Fair!

April 1st, 1999


The encouraging news from Whiteaker Neighborhood, Eugene, Oregon - please circulate to others in your circle who are not on this list and might find it useful or interesting:

Whiteaker Y2k is a formal subcommittee of the Whiteaker Community Council, an official neighborhood area chartered by the City of Eugene to more fully empower the citizens of Eugene to participate in their self- governance. The Whiteaker Community Council meets 5 times a year; the last meeting before the summer break (this is the election!) is the second Wednesday in May, 7 pm, at the Whiteaker School's gym or community center (look for the signs!).



March 24, 1999
Nicholas Routledge and Mary Leontovich

The Whiteaker team have been meeting every second Tuesday [Campbell Senior Center temporarily - e-mail maryl@efn.org for specifics] for approximately the past three- four months. We're a poor neighborhood - I seem to remember a survey of Oregon schools which placed Whiteaker Elementary 4th from bottom in socio-economic rankings of over 200 school communities in Oregon. As you're well aware, some wise Y2K minds regard our material poverty as an enormous plus. Cynthia's opening quote to her essay, "Finding Each Other in Hard Times," in "Awakenings" comes to mind:

"John Neal wrote: Do you fear the economically deprived sections of our large cities? History has proven that these people are better equipped to survive hard times than the "upper" classes. In 1929 when the suicide rate on Wall Street soared, it didn't change at all in Harlem. Instead of fleeing from this sector of society, you should probably migrate toward it. This sector of society has, through necessity, preserved the skills you need to acquire in order to make it through hard times."

[Note: See "Wanda and the Ice Storm" in the Millennium Salons forum for an interesting "insider's look" at how some that plays out in an infrastructure crisis.]

Certainly, there's no place I'd rather be to see in Y2K than a poor, urban 'hood such as ours. Money, of course, is an issue: one reason we've had difficulty finding space to use that's reliable and doesn't cost moolah. This last week, we settled on the Campbell Senior Center at 3rd and High. Looks as though we'll be there for the next three meetings or so.

We've used the [Eugene] Weekly and the radio to publicise meetings quite aggressively. Our LCC [Lane Community College] mention really only served to bring in faces from outside Whiteaker. As it happens, attendance at our meetings has shrunk rather than grown. But that's actually something the core group are glad about.

As you're well aware, one of the more difficult issues facing experienced Y2K teams is dealing with individuals who have just stumbled into Y2K awareness. Such souls often to come to gatherings, excited and loquacious - brim full of questions and suggestions we've addressed a long time ago. As you told me at the Atlee gathering, "beginner's mind is all very well, but..."

So, now that we're mostly down to a core group, when meetings happen we're not spending too much time sitting in polite silence while newcomers sound orff. There are about 8-12 key players at this juncture who function around a core of two businesspeople, a retired engineer, an organic gardening activist, a puppet maker, the wife of an Orthodox Church minister, an EPD public safety officer, and a monk-shaman type. They're one of the more impressive groups I've hung with over the years. Wise. We're a rather relaxed crowd. Universally, we percieve Y2K as an opportunity rather than a problem. The sensibility is decidedly gnostic.

Meetings tend to be informal, generally beginning with gossip - family, hood, city, state, national, international. None of us are info junkies, but we do have an Art Bell listener or two, and one individual who spends time on the net in the milennial salons [http:/ /home.ica.net/~njarc/ms/main.html] and suchlike (at our last meeting, for example, he shared the musings of a trucker on the net (third message down) who revealed that he and every other trucker he knew is planning to be at home come the new year). Several within the group are very active among the local "building sustainable communities" scene. All told, we're well-connected and have quite an effective intelligence gathering op. Oftentimes we pick up on interesting factoids that have significant national as well as local ramifications.

A case in point. One of my areas of responsibility is sanitation. " Six weeks or so ago, two of us dutifully toddled off to meet with one of the senior sewage engineer types - to get a sense of where Whiteaker stands. Sewage is a huge story. Innanutshell, unless we address the sewage issue fundamentally, some parts of town are _literally_ going to see feces pushing up the manhole covers and basements awash in poop. The _whole_ of Springfield is pumped, for example. And if their pump goes down, there's an Issue - and not only for Springfield, eh? (If you want to know how your neighborhood stands, please _respectfully_ call the sewer maintenance folks). Outside of our s**t discussion, there were other gems picked up. We learned, for example, that our contact had had five Y2K related meetings in the prior few days. So we were able to real sense of how the "engineers", the "workers", the "people who get things done" are responding to Y2K.

Perhaps the most telling tidbits were shared almost as an aside as we parted. Our contact mentioned he'd been at a get-together with other engineers that morning where a Big Concern was expressed by the electrical minds. They're very concerned that if power goes out, people might start plugging generators into their household electrical systems. If this is done without disconnecting the house from the local grid, power gets stepped back up into system. If that happens, we will see linemen getting killed. Repeat: if that happens, we will see linemen getting killed.

[Note: Click here to read/bookmark/print related article & basic instuctions]

As a community group, we've been actively sharing this concern with our 'hood - and with other Y2K types around town. Currently, for example, in our canvassing efforts, we're talking the issue and handing out a brochure which says, "Generators should NOT be used unless your house is disconnected from power lines - the power from the generator can go back up the line, causing severe hazards." We have a real sense this is the sort of concern that can be addressed far more effectively at the grassroots level than by press releases or dictats from city hall. I've already told several engineer/technocrat types that if the political process stymies their efforts to get such information to the grassroots, they should contact us directly and we'll get the word out.

Another part of the electrical story illustrates how local issues and national issues intermingle. I haven't seen this tidbit elsewhere so I thought I'd share it with you now. One further concern about people running generators without disconnecting from the grid, is that if we have two generators running out of phase in different houses in Whiteaker, thingz start exploding. The engineer told us this is a concern matched at the national level. Let's assume, for example, that almost every utility in the country breezes through Y2K without a hiccup, but say, a tiny handful of utilities go down, and then try to come up again. Apparently, it's extremely difficult to match phase manually - which is what they'll be doing. The big fear from our local electrical utility types is that even just a dozen or so utilities, trying to fire up power manually, will crash the entire national grid. Of course, this will affect Whiteaker.

As for our canvassing efforts, we have just begun going door to door in Blair, to both get the word out about our efforts and to learn more about how our community is responding. What we're learning is enormously refreshing. All told, we get the impression that Whiteaker is ahead of the game in Lane County. We're not alone in that opinion. We had a journalist from the Register Guard following us round the neighborhood last night and at the Atlee salon a couple of weekends ago, we were better represented than any other community - and we all made the ride up the long hill by bicycle. When it comes to transport, we're Y2K compliant. :-)


Mary's comments:

Just thought I'd add a thing or two to Nick's account.

We made up pamphlets that we're giving out door-to-door in Blair, outlining things to have on hand (matches, can openers, etc.) and a suggested food list. (Rich Bremmmer, of WPSS, was nice enough to xerox them for us.) The pamphlet also gives info on community gardens, CERT training, and checking in on neighbors who may have disabilities or other problems.

The other thing we're doing is starting a Whiteaker Food Bank. Everyone Patrick and I canvassed last night offfered to give at least one can/package of food to the food bank, which we'll collect at a later date when we find storage space. If the food is needed because of Y2k, it will be here and waiting in the neighborhood. If not, we'll donate it to Food Not Bombs and/or Food for Lane County.

Other things about canvassing: Everyone thanked us for doing it. In one block we located EMTs, plumbers, carpenters, musicians and herb growers who donated either their services, or, in the case of the herb grower, her greenhouse. Several people offered to teach canning skills to the neighborhood at large.

We couldn't have asked for a better response. Especially since Ann Williams, a reporter for the Register Guard, came along to see what the reaction would be. She was quite stunned by how friendly and helpful people were. "I don't think people in my neighborhood would be this nice," she said afterwards.

"I think you'd be surprised," Patrick said. "People really want the opportunity to do good things and work with their neighbors. You just have to make it easy for them."

In short, it was a blast. God, I love this neighborhood.


-- Bill (billdale@lakesnet.net), April 01, 1999

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