Berkeley scholar on radio to discuss sale of post offices



Gray Brechin, a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley and founder of the Living New Deal Project, as on KALW radio to discuss the significance of post office and historic postal buildings like the Berkeley post office, which is about to be sold.  More than 600 buildings have been targeted for sale.

Brechin has plenty to say about the role of the Postal Service's real estate broker, CBRE, in these sales.




Glendale City Council fights sale of historic post office


The City Council of Glendale, California, voted unanimously for a resolution protecting the city's historic post office from sale.  ilwoman Laura Friedman acknowledged it might not to any good.  "It's a shame what's going on with the U.S. Postal Service," said Friedman. "I doubt this resolution is going to carry much weight with anybody, but I think it's important for us to take a stand."

City officials said the closure of the downtown post office would not only negatively impact current users, but it could hurt the demand for postal services as people begin to fill the new apartment complexes popping up downtown.

"Having a central post office in our downtown when we have a couple thousand units coming into our downtown is very important to our residents," Friedman said.

The property is on the National Register of Historic Places and the Glendale Register of Historic Resources.  Read more.



POStPlan could mean the end of Horatio, SC


Under POStPlan, the post office in Horatio, South Carolina, is supposed to have its hours cut to two a day. That could put Lenoir's general store, where the post office is located, out of business, and that might mean the end of Lenoir.  It's a small town, and Lenoir's  depends on area residents to come in to get their mail and then do some shopping.  Read more.  (Photo credit: J Gallagher.)


Fiasco in Freistatt: How the Post Office Became a Cluster Box



The Postal Service didn’t think the folks in Freistatt, Missouri, should have a post office, so they closed it.

The Postal Service didn’t think the folks in Freistatt, Missouri, should get rural carrier delivery like their neighbors, so they tricked the town into accepting cluster boxes.

Now the Postal Service doesn’t think the folks in Freistatt, Missouri, ought to have the opportunity to tell their story to the Postal Regulatory Commission, so they filed a motion asking the PRC to dismiss the appeal because it was submitted a week late.

As reported on STPO back in March 2013, the Postal Service closed the Freistatt office on two-days’ notice by emergency suspension — and on Good Friday no less. But that was not the end of the story.  It was only the beginning.


The first push to close Freistatt: The 2011 RAOI

Freistatt is an incorporated town of 160 people in the southwest corner of Missouri. The town is situated along Highway H, a main road that serves trucks traveling between Missouri and Arkansas, and it has a fairly thriving business sector.  There is a major insurance agency in the town, an active non-profit that mails Braille bibles for the blind, a large John Deere outlet, and a housing complex for seniors and the disabled.  Although the town’s population decreased between the 2000 and 2010 census, the general area of Lawrence County grew by about 34% during that time.

In 2011 the Freistatt post office was one of 3,700 offices marked for closing under the Retail Access Optimization Initiative (RAOI), and a discontinuance study was initiated in August of that year.  Like most discontinuance studies, this was a pro forma exercise that was less a study to determine if the office should close than a means to legitimize the Postal Service’s decision to close it.  The plan back then was to replace the post office with rural delivery.  

The discontinuance study was flawed by the usual anomalies and misinformation that has become an all-too-common feature of this process.  For example, even though the office had both a postmaster and a postmaster relief (PMR), in the cost-savings analysis, all of the offices hours were rated at the higher labor rate of the postmaster, thus giving the impression of greater savings than actually would have been accrued.

The initial letters sent to Freistatt’s customers had more than a few things wrong as well.  For example, the mileage to the other post offices was incorrect, and an office that was more than seventy miles away was included as an “alternate” facility. That initial letter, which is not in the administrative record provided by the Postal Service, also apparently had some assertions about the town and the post office that were wrong, including the notion that the town was unincorporated and that the postmaster did not help the elderly.  

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Mystery blockade of private truck at Portland mail facility


A mystery vehicle suddenly blocked a private truck attempting to transport mail at the Mt. Hood Distribution Center (US Postal Service) at 9am this morning. A ten-foot banner reading “Stop the Privatization of the People’s Postal Service” covered one side of the silver station wagon, tying the action to a blockade of the same private truck last month.

”Postal truckers are losing work to a bankrupt, fly-by-night outfit – Dill Star Route, Inc. —  in a corrupt, no-bid deal with local USPS management,” declared Jamie Partridge, a retired postal worker, when he participated in the July 17th blockade. 

 “We intend to stop this attack on family wage, union jobs.”  Partridge would not comment on claims that the silver station wagon is registered in his name.


Did Netflix and the USPS have a falling out?


Netflix is planning to close one of its distribution centers in Connecticut, and it’s blaming the Postal Service.  A Netflix spokesman had this to say:

"Netflix has closed the Bloomfield DVD distribution center due mainly to United States Postal Service transportation and service changes, along with increased internal production efficiencies, resulting [in] a small number of jobs lost."

That announcement has to be hurting some feelings at L’Enfant Plaza.  Netflix is the Postal Service’s largest individual commercial mail client, with postage expenditures topping $500 million annually.  For several years now, the Postal Service has been fighting with GameFly and the Postal Regulatory Commission in defense of the good deal Netflix receives on postal rates. 

After everything they have done for Netflix, postal officials may be feeling it’s rather ungrateful for Netflix to blame them for closing a distribution center.  They're having enough trouble defending their decisions to close mail processing plants.  Now postal officials are getting blamed for closing a Netflix distribution center, too.


The high cost of slowing down the mail

The Netflix spokesman would not specify how the Postal Service is hurting business, but his reference to “service changes” is a clue.  It may have something to do with the Network Rationalization plan to consolidate 240 mail processing plants.  When fully implemented, the plan will end overnight delivery and slow down First Class mail a day or two.  Netflix mails First Class, so slowing down the mail adds a day or two both ways, which means that subscribers get fewer movies per month.

When the consolidation plan was announced in 2011, there was immediate speculation about how it would affect particular mailers like Netflix.  Some said that delays in sending disks back and forth would lead some customers to end their Netflix service contact.  Other customers would demand that Netflix lower its prices because customers would be able to see fewer movies per month.

Slower delivery times may already be pushing some Netflix customers to the streaming alternative.  Over the past 15 months, Netflix's DVD business has fallen from 10 million members to 7.5 million.  During that same period, the “Domestic Streaming” segment has increased from 23 million members to 30 million.

There are a lot of reasons besides mail delays that would turn people from DVDs to streaming (like convenience), but this is just the kind of thing that had critics of the Postal Service’s Network Rationalization plan worried.  While the plan might save a couple of billion dollars in operating costs, it also has the potential to drive away billions in revenue as well.  According to a marketing study that the Postal Service tried to keep hidden, slowing down the mail could cause revenue losses of over $5 billion a year.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Network Rationalization might be pushing some customers from subscribing to streaming.  The changes in delivery time could easily be driving away some portion of the $500 million a year in Netflix mail business.  And they may have also contributed to the decision to close the Bloomfield distribution center.

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