Stop USPS Dismantling New Deal Legacy through Sell-Off of Historic Post Offices

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Why is the US Postmaster General, Patrick Donahoe, trying to Sell Off America’s Historic Post Offices?

Lower East Side Mural in Madison Square Post Office in NY by EdenPictures on Flickr CC

Lower East Side New Deal Era Mural in Madison Square Post Office in NY by EdenPictures on Flickr CC

USPS leaders seem determined to sell off our precious New Deal era historic post offices as fast as possible with the help of the major real estate company CB Richard Ellis Group (CBRE). An article in Commerical Property Executive by contributing editor Barbara Murray on July 21, 2011 entitled, “CBRE Wins Exclusive Rights to 300 MSF USPS Contract” states:

“Clearly, CB Richard Ellis Inc. didn’t mail it in when bidding for a big contract with the U.S. Postal Service, because the commercial real estate services firm has just become the chosen one. CBRE is now the exclusive strategic corporate real estate solutions provider for USPS and its 300 million-square-foot portfolio of owned and leased properties.”

CBRE received exclusive rights from USPS to manage all of the billions of dollars worth of USPS properties.

Instead of selling off our brick and mortar post offices which are technically owned by the American people, especially those built before the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, let’s revitalize them with creative solutions to keep them as Post Offices and expand services for communities.

Ontario California Post Office Mural by Jimmy Wayne on Flickr

In addition, there needs to be a new law that entitles the American people to say what happens to their own post offices. Unfortunately the USPS has been very busy undermining the ability of citizens to stop the steam rolling misguided leadership of USPS from selling off its historic post offices.

In recent years through changing various rules, the USPS uses “relocation” as a means to prevent citizens from being able to legally file appeals with the Postal Regulatory Commission. It is a devious way to undermine due process of the citizens in a community to be able to stop sales of their precious post offices which serve their cities and towns.

Santa Monica CA New Deal Post Office in Jeopardy

The Santa Monica community and all interested Americans who care about preserving our national treasures and the New Deal era architecture and art, need to know that the US Postal Service is deciding if it will sell off an historic icon in Santa Monica. Of course, one must ask who is guiding the hand of the USPS to make these choices despite the outrage or confusion of the communities that these post offices serve. Again, one needs to look at the manager CBRE of the postal facilities.

America’s Commons: Historic U.S. Post Offices built and bought–at least before 1970–are more than Real Estate Property, They Belong to the People of the United States who Paid for Them

What will the people of Santa Monica and Los Angeles and all of California do to protect the heart of their community — their beautiful Art Deco Post Office?

It is time for America to wake up and realize that through sinister design or through ignorance, some people in the halls of power in the U.S. Postal Service have decided to sell off our history. What is frightening is that as the following New York Times article, “Post Office Buildings With Character, and Maybe a Sale Price,” by Robin Pogrebin points out, in 2009 the New Deal Era Virginia Beach post office was sold and torn down, and a Walgreens was built despite pleas from the community to keep their post office.

The NYT article quoted above had interesting comments from readers. The passion of the readers to save their historic post offices came through. Here is a quote:

Patricia Allan of Hamburg NY, March 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm (Recommended by 57 people) replied in the Comments of the March 8th NYT front page article about the USPS:

“What will be gained by selling these jewels? Who gets the ransom money for them? If our government cannot restore and build, it will soon lose the power it has to govern…….it seems to me that if National Parks and environmentally endangered sites can and should be preserved for our cultural and physical wellbeing, then these jewels should be, as well. Doesn’t history have to be handed on to enrich those who are our future citizens?”

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What is the Best Role for the U.S. Postal Service?

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One of my favorite sources of news about the post office is the blog http://www.savethepostoffice.com. I urge you to also bookmark this wonderful news source about all things related to the ongoing saga about the real story of the postal service.

The mainstream media is just beginning to finally write about some issues beyond talking points of folks like Darrell Issa and Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. However, even though Americans in every single U.S. city affected by potential post office closures or processing centers emphatically say absolutely NO, the media is only partially covering the story and much news is only in local news.

The fact is that every single community told their post office will be closed, “relocated” or “consolidated” has repeatedly fought to save their post office. The people in each community are unhappy about the potential negative effects economically, socially, and on the entire well-being of the community.

It’s Time to Stop Forcing USPS to “Act Like a Business”

Why is the U.S. Postal Service forced to “act like a business?” As a result the top executives of USPS claim their high salaries and bonuses which exceed the Vice President’s salary and Cabinet Level Secretaries are warranted because they are supposed to be comparable to a “business model.”

Here is a recent list of USPS high Executive salaries. However, as the Save The Post Office Blog points our here, the list does not include the bonuses which for some folks could be over $25,000/year or more. Here is a letter from Congresswoman Hochul to the Chairman of the USPS Board of Governors regarding the unusually out of touch high salaries of the USPS executives.

The Executive Team seems to pride itself on creating “efficiencies” at the same time they are requesting that the Postal Regulatory Commission not reveal a study they conducted that shows potential negative revenue impacts of the combined strategies they have to cut costs like:

  1. Closing and selling off over 3600 post offices, many historic in nature with important historic murals and art
  2. Closing and selling off over 252 processing plants which would put tremendous pressure on the people processing mail in remaining plants
  3. Potentially slowing First Class mail from overnight delivery to two to three days.
  4. Potentially cutting back mail delivery from 6 to 5 days.
  5. Potentially cutting or eliminating through attrition and other means over 100,000 to 220,000 jobs
Congressman Gerald Connelly filed a brief recently according to this article on Save The Post Office requesting that the PRC release this important study.
Connelly’s brief requesting the USPS release its study of the consequences of its proposals to close post offices, processing centers, slow mail, states:

In its submission to keep revenue impact information secret, the Postal Service claims that releasing revenue projections would provide an advantage to its competitors. I am concerned that it is the Postal Service’s proposal itself that will force customers to take their business to private competitors. The Postal Service is proposing sweeping reductions in service standards, processing facilities, and Post Offices. Congress and the public have a right to understand the aggregate impact of those decisions on Postal Service revenue. The Postal Service has proposed specific facility closures on the premise that such actions will save money. If it actually would result in greater revenue losses than savings, then both Congress and the public should have access to that information. Such information is relevant because multiple Members of Congress have petitioned the Postal Service to delay or stop facility closures and because the public is participating in a statutorily-protected public input process on this proposal through the Postal Regulatory Commission. Both aggregate and regional revenue data could have direct bearing on Members’ decision with respect to postal legislation and on citizens’ comments with respect to proposed facility closures, which is why that revenue data should be made public. While the Postal Service’s submission expresses concern about competition, it is precisely because of my concern that the Postal Service’s own downsizing proposals will divert mail to competitors and harm the Postal Service financially that I am filing to make revenue information public.

Conclusion

Based on the arguments submitted above, I am requesting that the Commission make public the Postal Service’s market research information file as Library Reference, USPS-LR-N2012-IINPI4 and NPI.

Why is USPS hiding important potential negative revenue facts from Americans at the same time it claims it is trying to save itself through its drastic cuts? The reality is that the combined plans could destroy the post office and have disastrous domino effects on local, regional, national and possible international businesses that use the U.S. postal service. In addition, USPS could potentially lose many customers, both individuals and businesses, due to slower mail delivery and making it harder for people to gain access to a postal facility due to closures and “relocations.”
The U. S. Postal Service is More than a Business

Professor Steve Hutkins states in “Bad News Comes in Threes: How Congress, Industry and Management Have Made a Mess Out of Things,”:

The idea of the Postal Service as an essential national infrastructure that serves the American people has been seriously undermined. This democratic vision has been replaced by the view that the Postal Service is merely another player in the mailing industry, a player whose primary purpose is to facilitate the business model and increase the profits of commercial marketers and mailers.

It is inappropriate that USPS hides behind having to “act like a business” in order to suppress its study on the combined effects of its policies and strategic plans which would gut the infrastructure of the U.S. Postal Service. Already the U.S. Postal Service is doing everything it can to cut the public out of appeals regarding historic brick and mortar post offices like those in Venice and La Jolla, California, by classifying these post office closures and sales as “relocations.”

We have to put the “public” and “democracy” back into the U.S. Postal Service leadership that seems to have another agenda other than serving the American people and fulfilling the Postal Service’s original mission to provide a service to bind up this nation and facilitate communication for the public good. It is undemocratic that the USPS is trying to cut the public out of a process that prevents them from filing an appeal regarding the closure and sale of their post offices.

If this is “acting like a business” then Congress must act to change the model currently being used for the U.S. Postal Service before the fire sale of our historic New Deal post offices and other historic post office treasures are sold on the market for a quick profit despite the protests of each local community.

USPS Cuts Public Out of Appeals Process with New Rules

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Postal Regulatory Commission Eliminates Public’s Ability to Appeal Closure & Sale of “Relocated” Post Offices

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

From “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll, Chapter VI, Humpty Dumpty


Through the Looking Glass with the New Definition of the Word “Relocation” of a Post Office

The Federal Register contains information regarding pending rules submitted for comment to the public. Each pending rule has a deadline. After a set period of time, the rule becomes final and is published. Frequently the general public has no clue about what rules are “pending” and what the consequences of the rule means in terms of potential negative outcomes to the public.

Take for instance the rule that was submitted to the Federal Register by the Postal Regulatory Commission called “Appeals of Post Office Closings” 39 CFR Parts 3001 and 3025 [Docket No. RM2011-13; Order No. 814]. The Agency that submitted this rule was the Postal Regulatory Commission. The Action they were seeking: “Proposed rulemaking.”

The Summary of the rule sounds like the new rule is going to make it easier for Americans to appeal the closures of their post offices. However, even though the appeals process is simplified to a degree by the new rule, it also contains another passage that redefines what is considered a “relocation” of a facility. Here is the definition:

Within the Section entitled “II. Advantages of the New Rules”

“The new rules specifically clarify that when a retail facility is relocated within a community so that the number of facilities within that community does not change, that relocation is not a closing that can be appealed to the Commission.” (See 54180 Federal Register/Vol. 76, No. 169/Wednesday, August 31, 2011/Proposed Rules)

What does this new definition of “relocation” mean to people who want to save their post office in their community? This new definition is published under “Advantages of the New Rules” section. How is “relocation is not a closing that can be appealed to the Commission” be an advantage to the public? 

Here is an explanation of what this new “relocation” definition means related to closing a post office. If a community receives notice in a press release that its post office will be “relocated” within a community, the public will not be able to appeal that “relocation” to the Postal Regulatory Commission. If a post office is “relocated” to another facility, the original post office could be closed and sold and the public has no recourse with USPS or the Postal Regulatory Commission to legally voice their concerns in a way that could stop the “relocation” and possible sale of the original post office. These words “closed” and “sold” are conveniently disappeared from the definition of “relocation.” Even though in reality an historic building like the Venice Main Post Office, Ukiah Main Post Office, or La Jolla Main Post Office could be closed and sold, because these post offices are defined as only being “relocated” to another part of the community, the new rule prevents the public from being able to appeal the closure and sale of its historic post offices.

This new rule to “simplify” the process just simplified the public out of the process for “relocated” post offices. In other words, because of this new rule, the United States Postal Service (USPS) can legally close any post office it chooses, sell it without the public having any say about the matter if USPS calls this a “relocation” where they then put the post office in a different facility in the same community.

Is this fair? Is this democratic? Is this right? This rule only makes it easier for USPS to do whatever it wants with its facilities despite the valid concerns of the public about closing or relocating a particular post office. This new rule enables the United States Postal Service to legally have carte blanche in selling post offices without input from the local residents who will be affected by the sale and closure of their post office. This is a perversion of the law because it cuts the public out of the appeals process in a very nuanced and nasty way. And most people had no knowledge that this rule could cut them out of possibly appealing the closure of their post office.

Where is Government Of the People, By the People, and, For the People when USPS cuts the people out of having input into what happens in their own community?

This rule deliberately enables the USPS to not have to deal with the public about post offices that will be relocated. This is truly unbelievable and undemocratic.

"Story of Venice" mural in New Deal Era Venice Post Office. Photo Credit: "Story of Venice" by lavocado@sbcglobal.net on flickr cc

"Story of Venice" mural in New Deal Era Venice Post Office. Photo Credit: "Story of Venice" by lavocado@sbcglobal.net on flickr cc

Post Offices Built Prior to the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act

The United States Postal Service and Congress need to be reminded that all the postal facilities built or purchased prior to the Postal Reorganization Act in 1970 were paid for by taxpayer dollars. However, the top leadership and legal counsel at USPS and the Postal Regulatory Commission fail to understand this important point because many post offices like the Venice Post Office, Ukiah Main Post Office and La Jolla Main Post Office were built in the New Deal Era in the 1930s. They were built with taxpayer dollars. Yet, these very post offices that have served people in their communities are being sold for a fast buck similar to CEOs who raid corporations by selling off their assets to squeeze every bit of money out of a company. Then all that is left is a skeleton of a company. Is that what is happening here?

This is a misuse of definitions, law, and rulemaking to make it legal to eliminate the public from the process of deciding what happens to public facilities in their own community. This is antidemocratic and this rule should be changed.

Divestiture on the Unspoken Road to USPS Privatization

Is the United States Postal Service top leadership focused on selling off its assets in an attempt to rid itself of its infrastructure using its current economic situation as an excuse? This article, “How to Privatize the Post Office: Piece by piece, step by step” on the SavethePostOffice.com website outlines a clear blueprint showing how the undoing of the postal service as a public good replaced by a privatized version began with the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act and has been happening piece by piece for decades to the present.

It is up to Americans and Congress to stop the fire sale of their historic post offices which now are being sold off using new definitions of words like “relocation” to edit out the public’s ability to even participate in an appeals process to stop the selling off of their community post offices. The latest misuse of the “relocation” scam happened by this USPS press release on January 10, 2012 in a special announcement titled “Postal Service plans to relocate La Jolla Post Office.” Here is some of the text of that strange announcement which blames the internet in part for the reason it is “relocating” this post office. There is no mention that that facility is profitable and that there is no “similar” building like it anywhere in La Jolla because it is an historic treasure to that community:

“Within the process of the Facility Optimization, the La Jolla Main Post Office would be relocated to a similar location within 1 mile of the current site.”…”The Postal Service has retained the real estate professionals of CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) to handle the real estate transactions.”

Let’s put out the fire sales now shall we.