Things go badly at meeting about post office closing

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As required by law, the Postal Service is holding meetings about the post offices it wants to close.  At a recent meeting in New Hartford, Iowa, where the Postal Service has its eye on several post offices, things didn't go so well.  Confronted by angry citizens opposed to the closure, two "postal service officials abruptly left the gathering at the middle school."  You can read the whole story here, and you can see the TV news video below.

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Historic post office in Venice, California: For Sale

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Another historic post office, this one in Venice, California, is set to close.  Like the one we posted about a few days ago, it's from the New Deal, built in 1939 by the Works Projects Administration.  The full story is here, and a blog on "save the Venice post office" is here.

Like many New Deal public buildings, the Venice post office has some significant murals, including "The First Thirty Years of Venice’s History,"  by Edward Biberman, painted in 1941.  That's Abbot Kinney in the middle, surrounded by the town he created.  Here's an interview with Biberman.

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The Postal Regulatory Commission Weighs in on Proposed Changes to the Closing Process

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On May 2, 2011, the Postal Regulatory Commission submitted comments to the Postal Service on its proposed changes to 39 CFR Part 241, which seek to alter postal regulations “to improve the administration of the Post Office closing and consolidation process” as well as apply “certain procedures employed for the discontinuance of Post Offices to . . . the discontinuance of other types of retail facilities operated by Postal Service employees.”  Here's the entire letter, and here are the  highlights:

1. The Commission wrote that the Postal Service’s goal to apply a single set of discontinuance procedures to all kinds of post offices (post offices, stations, and branches) was appropriate, but "the Postal Service’s execution of this goal is lacking in one very significant way: the notification of an opportunity to appeal decisions to the Postal Regulatory Commission." The proposal submitted by the Postal Service "does not provide for uniform procedures with respect to notifying persons served by stations or branches of an opportunity to appeal closing or consolidation decisions to the Postal Regulatory Commission."

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Harkin Opposes Proposal that Would Allow USPS to More Easily Close Rural Post Offices

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From Postal News:

"WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today wrote to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in opposition to a proposed regulation that would give the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) the right to convert post offices into stations or branches of larger post offices at their discretion. Once converted, the USPS would then be able to close rural post offices without any consultation with local citizens or concern about the impact on a rural economy. As Harkin points out in the letter, it appears that the proposed regulations are designed specifically to circumvent current laws to ensure local voices are heard. Currently in Iowa, many post offices are facing potential closures that would disrupt service."  Read more.

 
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Historic Post Office in Modesto, CA: For Sale

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The post office in Modesto, California, was built by the New Deal in 1933, under the supervision of James Wetmore, who was responsible for "designing" hundreds of public buildings in the 1930s.  As the Modesto Bee relates, the post office contains nine original wall murals in the lobby, commissioned by the Treasury Relief Arts Project. The oil paintings were done in 1937 by Ray Boynton, with the assistance of several local artists, and they depict agricultural scenes: plowing, sorting and harvesting grapes; irrigating orchards; meat and cheese packing; grain harvesting and feeding cows.

The Modesto post office closed this week, and now the building is for sale.  It will be auctioned off on June 9, opening bid, $100,000.  (More on the story here, and a TV news report, here.)

(Vintage post card credit; mural.)

UPDATE: June 15, 2011: "Bidding begins on Modesto post office": "Online bidding to buy downtown Modesto's historic post office started a week ago, but only one hopeful buyer has bid. The minimum opening bid of $100,000 was placed by an undisclosed person the morning bidding opened."

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Public, Legislators Join the Fight to Save Mail Service

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From the April-June 2011 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine: "The Postal Service’s assault on the nation’s mail processing network shows no signs of stopping — and APWU locals have responded by engaging elected officials, community leaders, and members of the public in the fight to save our service.

"Nearly 100 members of the Flint, Michigan Area local and community activists gathered for an informational picket on March 16 to protest the proposed closing of the Flint mail processing facility.

"February was a record month for consolidation announcements, as the USPS launched studies that could lead to the closing or significant downsizing of 20 mail processing centers. The previous record month was September 2010, during which the Postal Service announced 13 planned studies.  In response to a new onslaught of possible consolidations, local unions ramped up efforts to prevent the cuts at postal facilities across the country, building coalitions with members of Congress; elected officials; community activists, and the public."  Read more.

 
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And the closings go on and on

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The Postal Service has been announcing post office closings for many months now.  Each day sees newspaper accounts of more and more.  Our news feed gets about five closing news items every day, and they all tell the same story—the shock of residents when they hear the news that their post office is closing, the urgent call for town meetings, petition drives, pleas to the postal service to reconsider, fears for the impacts on the business district and the community as a whole.  The Rhinecliff post office has not been put on the closing list, at least not yet.  But the Postal Service has its eye on shutting down at least 2,000 small post offices, and Rhinecliff is just the kind of small rural post office that they're closing.  And if the announced changes in the postal regulations are approved, it will be even easier to close post offices and more likely that Rhinecliff will find itself on the "discontinuance" list one day.  

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Rhinecliff protests the post office closings on YNN TV

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RHINECLIFF, N.Y. — The United States Postal Service is cutting back in many ways, including closing some of its post offices. Recently, there had been some concern the Rhinecliff Post Office would be closing.

Fortunately for local residents, the postal service says it's not closing. Community groups are using this potential scare as a way to bring awareness to the fact that these small community based post offices are necessary and although Rhinecliff isn't on the list of closures, residents are urging others to sign an online petition to protect their local office from closing.

"With 2,000 post offices about to be closed, it’s just the kind of post office that they might want to close because there’s another post office a few miles away. So we're very worried, this is a historical landmark district, it's a historic post office. It’s been here since 1853; in fact its birthday was a few days ago, April 13th,” said Steve Hutkins, Rhinecliff resident.

See the YNN news video here.

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How towns get broken

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No surprise that with email and facebook and twitter and UPS and FedEx, the amount of mail delivered by the post office has gone down in recent years, from 213 billion pieces in 2006 to 170 billion in 2010.  That means declining revenues and cost-cutting measures like maybe no mail delivery on Saturday.  It also means closing something like 2,000 “underperforming” post offices over the coming months.

But closing all these post offices isn’t going to make much of a dent in the deficit of the Postal Service ($8.5 billion in 2010).  And it isn’t going to do anything for the national deficit either.  That’s because the Postal Service gets no direct support from taxpayers.  It is actually a self-sustaining institution—it pays its own way, and when it goes in the red, it has a credit line with the U.S. Treasury.

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“Rightsizing” the post office

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In the current issue of <a data-cke-saved-href=”\\\\” href=”http://postalemployeenetwork.com/news/2011/04/rightsizing-the-usps-network/””>Postal News</a>, Dean Granholm, vice president of Delivery and Post Office Operations, says that new postal regulations, published recently in the Federal Register, expand the criteria for which a Post Office, station or branch may be closed or consolidated.  Granholm says customers already are choosing — and desire — alternatives to visiting a local Post Office. This includes paying for postage online at usps.com, purchasing stamps from ATMs, and vending machines and visiting more than 63,000 other alternate retail locations where stamps may be purchased.  He also says USPS has to rightsize its network and make good business decisions to remain viable.</p> <p>What Granholm doesn’t seem to recongize, however, is the role post offices play in the social life of a community.  They are not simply places to buy stamps.  They are not simply “retail locations.”  And “rightsizing” may have a nice ring to it in the era of fiscal responsibility and budget cuts, but what’s right about the size of your post office when it’s closed down for good?  You’d think a postal service VP would understand that.</p> <p></p>

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