The U.S. Postal Service is once again proving its disdain for the wishes of ordinary people and how much of a sore loser it is.
The USPS has just filed suit against the City of Berkeley, CA, contending that the municipality has no right to restrict commercial development of its landmarked main post office building, according to Berkeleyside.com.
But if the suit is successful it may doom nationwide efforts to stop post office closures and selling them off to private real estate developers.
At any rate, the postal service’s latest action suggests how much the agency is in thrall to politically-connected private real estate interests.
This whole issue began back on 2014 when a group of local activists began protesting the postal service’s plans to close that city’s main post office and sell it off to private developers.
Specifically, Berkeley had just passed legislation that year restricting the post office and eight other surrounding buildings to such civic uses such as museums, libraries and performance venues.
That law pertains only to the main post office building. In passing it the city violated the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, according to the lawsuit.
The Supremacy Clause states that the U.S. Constitution takes precedence over state and local laws and even state constitutions, according to the Cornell University Law School https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/supremacy_clause.
This lawsuit may help clarify the reach of the Supremacy Clause.
Protests against shuttering Berkeley’s main post office building sale got so heated that longtime consumer rights and political activist Ralph Nader got involved. Two years ago he went to the city to encourage local activists in their fight to prevent the deal from going through.
Nader should know about uphill battles. In the 1960s he wrote the Book “Unsafe at Any Speed.”
The famed consumer advocate and one-time Presidential candidate did warn the activists to keep plugging away because this fight if far from over. He should know.
Because about a half century since he came out with this book “General Motors’ Corvair car http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unsafe_at_Any_Speed#.22The_Sporty_Corvair.22 the automotive giant apparently hasn’t learned its lesson.
Over the past few years, GM installed faulty ignition switches in many cars which allegedly led to deaths, product recalls and lawsuits.
These postal activists belong to the National Post Office Collaborate, http://www.nationalpostofficecollaborate.com, an organization that’s battling post office closures all across the country. But the organization has strong forces working against it in resisting the USPS’s selloff plans.
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.
The USPS put the building up for sale because it used less the USPS put the Berkeley building up for sale. Because the USPS used less than 10 percent of the building’s available space. the deficit-ridden agency thought it might be able to make some money and help improve its financial position.
That’s a specious argument considering that the USPS’s deficit was artificially created in 2006 when Congress slapped the postal service with an annual $5.8 billion obligation to cover the healthcare costs of future retirees.
No post office building sale I likely to bring in quite that much despite the ever increasing prices of commercial real estate even if it’s landmarked.
What’s more, the outcome of this suit could affect other potential post office building sales across the country many of which are not landmarked but have served their communities well for years.
One small example is the shutdown of the Stuyvesant Station Post Office on New York’s east side.
Despite years of loud neighborhood protests, the USPS has seen fit to sell off the building and convert it into condominiums for the wealthy in about two years, according to local newspaper Town & Village https://town-village.com/2016/08/12/east-14th-street-slated-to-open-in-2018/.
These post office selloffs could go unchecked for years and line the pockets of wealthy developers at the expense of local communities.