Another high-profile official has come out against the U.S. Postal Service’s selloff of historic and necessary post offices to private real estate concerns. This comes as more and more people are suffering from declining performance service standards.
Ruth Goldway, former chair of Postal Regulatory Commission, lashed out against the closure of the Stamford, CT main post office. She called this and other closures “short-sighted and myopic.” In addition to depriving local residents of necessary institution, she argues, closing that facility further diminishes the USPS by taking away space to display important artwork and other cultural artifacts, according to Post and Parcel http://postandparcel.info/64687/news/companies/usps-short-sighted-over-sale-of-historic-central-post-offices/
Goldway may indeed have lost some credibility after President Obama replaced her in 2013 as PRC Chair. This came following longstanding criticism that she ran up overly high travel expenses, according to the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2014/12/05/postal-commission-replaces-jet-setting-chair-amid-scrutiny-of-travel-habits/. She will remain a Commissioner until a replacement is found.Nevertheless, her observations about the USPS’s post office closure practices are right on the money.
Before closing main post offices, the USPS should consider using those buildings to house other businesses, notes Goldway, who remains a Commissioner, though no longer chair. Reconsidering its approach may ultimately make even better business sense for the postal service down the road.
Her pleas may be falling on deaf ears.
Last August, veteran corporate fighter Ralph Nader warned local demonstrators in Berkeley, CA that proponents of post office closings have friends in high places.One of them is Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). She’s married to Richard Blum, chairman of CBRE, the real estate giant that has a contract with the postal service to sell off its properties without competitive bidding.
Even though Feinstein is now part of the Senate minority it’s doubtful her, or her husband’s influence have abated very much. And who knows? CBRE could also find a way to make money through lining up companies to share space in post offices. Feinstein and Blum may not be the only well-connected people involved in these enterprises.
But all may not be lost.
Thanks to strong lobbying of both the postal service and local politicians USPS eventually backed away from selling this particular post office building. This led to a recent California court decision to dismiss a suit against the postal service over its previously intended sale of the building, according to savethepostoffice.com http://www.savethepostoffice.com/court-dismisses-lawsuit-over-berkeley-post-office-after-usps-rescinds-decision-sell-historic. This dismissal was a mere legal formality in the wake of the postal service’s walking away from this venture.
The Stamford post office is just one of such endangered facilities which include the Bronx General Post Office in New York and many, many others.In Houston, TX, for example, negotiations are still ongoing for how to unload that city’s main post office building, according to the Houston Business Journal http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/morning_call/2015/05/negotiations-reportedly-underway-for-downtown-post.html.
But it’s not just post offices that are closing. In April, the USPS said it plans to close at least 10 more processing and distribution facilities, according to the National Mail Handler’s Union http://www.npmhu.org/media/news/postal-service-announces-additional-changes-to-the-phase-ii-2015-usps-network-rationalization-consolidation-list.
So what’s the artificially debt-ridden USPS supposed to do to cut expanses? For the quarter ended March 31, postal service reported a $1.5 billion loss http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2015/pr15_024.htm.
That debt stems from an annual $5.8 billion-plus annual payment to cover the healthcare costs of future retirees. That obligation was central to the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, which stabilized previously haphazard postal rate increases.
Only new Congressional legislation can change and/or modify this provision. That won’t happen without
concerted and persistent public action.In the meantime, local activists can learn a thing or two about local post offices from what happened at Berkeley.