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 OPINION PAGE - DECEMBER 29, 1999 - COMMERCE, GA

Editorial
The Commerce News
December 29, 1999

Scope Of Y2K Predictions Decreased Dramatically
From dire predictions to nary a worry, few issues have changed so much so quickly as the concern over the so-called Y2K computer glitch.
Two years ago, one year ago the speculation was that the inability of some computers, chips and software to tell 2000 from 1900 had the potential of being a major disaster worldwide. The public was confronted with the possibility of power outages nationwide, lost data in the financial world, elevators that would refuse to work and even (gasp!) coffee makers that would fail Jan. 1.
Various groups began making recommendations of stockpiling food, weapons, firewood and drinking water, predicting major disruptions in the delivery of virtually every commodity.
Today, there is a universal cautious optimism that the average citizen will see very little disruption. The vast majority of American firms have upgraded or replaced computers and software. We are assured that the electric grid will work, and today the worst-case scenario is a short power outage.
It's anybody's guess as to what Y2K might have generated had no one taken it seriously. Today, curiosity about where Y2K problems will appear has replaced fear. In the unlikely event that the power goes out, chances are it will be for some other reason than Y2K and will be very short-lived.
Have a safe and Y2K worry-free New Year's Eve, but keep a flashlight handy, just in case.


Lots Of Progress In '99
As 1999 comes to a close, the new year is being greeted as the start of a new century and the "new millennium," while technically, it is neither. The 20th Century began with 1901 and will end with the year 2000. But so many people have begun calling 2000 the beginning of a new millennium that most of America seems to have redefined the rules of counting.
The debate over what the new year actually is will probably last until mid-year, when the public will realize that if it corrects its viewpoint, all of the "new millennium" hype can be repeated again in late 2000.
What should not be debated is that 1999 was a good year for this county and this city. Consider a few of the good things that occurred:
·Voters approved a change in county government that should bring professional management and better representation.
·Voters approved a sales tax to help pay the costs of providing infrastructure for the growth we're experiencing.
·The county landed what will eventually be a $400 million Georgia Power plant. Taxes Georgia Power will pay will help relieve residents of the growing cost of operating schools and government.
There were other significant activities during 1999 as well. Work progressed on the important Bear Creek Reservoir, Jackson County took the plunge into the sewage treatment business, Commerce made strong strides toward improving and expanding its utility capabilities, work actually started on "Progress Road," the first access road along Interstate 85, the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce, with more members than ever before, positioned itself to provide leadership throughout the community, and school construction projects were planned or started all over the county..
But there is much to do. The county faces tremendous pressure from growth, and all communities will be affected. More thought must be given to long-range planning, the emphasis on providing water, sewerage and other utilities must continue, the county must implement its new government and survive the transition.
1999 was a year of much progress. Hopefully, it will continue during the next year, and into the New Millennium ­ whenever people decide it starts.

Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
December 29, 1999

OK, Now It's
Time To Panic
Over Y2K
Well, it's here. We've laughed about it, read about it, been warned about it. Y2K, the year 2000, is here. Those of you reading this by candlelight should have read it before midnight Jan. 1.
The paper is printed Wednesday, Dec. 29. It arrives in local mailboxes Thursday, Dec. 30. If you read it promptly, you have from one to two days to get ready for the Disaster of the Year.
No, not the presidential elections. They'll be much worse, but you have to survive Y2K before you have to vote in even the primary.
By now, you've read all of the articles advising you that the Y2K problem isn't one and that you should keep calm. I'm here to advocate the opposite. If you haven't panicked, it's about time you did. Get ready for the worst (next to the elections).
Actually, it will not be all that bad, assuming you are not flying, driving a car, standing in an elevator or taking a shower as the new year arrives, or at 1:00 a.m., considering that all of the region's electrical generating facilities operate on Central Standard Time.
Other than those possibilities, aside from nuclear meltdowns in Georgia Power's plants Hatch, Vogtle and Yamtrahoochie, the only real danger is that none of the former Soviet nuclear weapons are Y2K compatible. When the clock turns over at midnight Dec. 31, the launch mechanisms are going to read 01-01-00, causing the computers to figure that the Soviet Union has been nuked back into the dark ages, and they will automatically launch all missiles.
This would really be terrible, except that the guidance mechanisms, which are all based on stolen western technology that at the time was not Y2K ready, will fail and the bombs will fall in remote or expendable places like the Sahara Desert, Birmingham, AL, or Washington, DC, the lasr of which might have the benefit of causing those elections to be canceled.
The good news is that even with all the power out, we'll still get good service. The DOT and the city of Commerce have both announced plans to physically man the traffic signal devices that are going to fail, not really because of Y2K, but because the DOT computer programmers inadvertently left off January.
When the power goes, the main source of local electronic news, which is mainstreetnews.com, will also be out. But we at MainStreet Newspapers Inc. carefully planned for that contingency. All of our newspaper vending racks are Y2K compatible. Carefully insert two quarters, open the door and remove one, just one, newspaper. Most of what was on the web page will be in our newspapers.
There are a few simple things you can do to help you get through the worst. Unfortunately, it's too late to do most of them, so if you haven't prepared, don't come walking up my driveway.
I've stocked up on food, water, fuel, Tums and beer. I've maxed out the credit cards, refilled my extra propane tank, and loaded and sighted in my guns, and had my camouflage cleaned and pressed.
See you in 2000, if you make it. You still have time to get in a few hours of panic.


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