The Rhinecliff post office is not on the list of post offices targeted for closure, at least not now, so we're focusing our attention on the national picture. Please visit Save the Post Office for the latest news on post office closings around the country.
May 17, 2011
Media Matters reports that "Fox Launches Misleading Attack On Postal Service": "On Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney attacked the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for seeking a 'bailout" because if it "were run like a business," the USPS would be "cutting costs" and wouldn't need federal assistance. In fact, the USPS has been cutting costs for years, and like the USPS, hundreds of private businesses have recently received federal assistance." The Media Matters article provides exhaustive evidence from a number of news sources about what the USPS has been doing to cut costs. Here's the Fox video:
May 17, 2011
The Wall Street Journal editorial bashing the USPS that we noted a couple of days ago continues to stir up controversy. The blog "Dead Tree Edition," which follows the production and distribution of magazines and catalogs, provides a thorough debunking of the Journal piece, and it makes the additional point that the Postal Service gives the Journal special treatment: "Within the Postal Service, the Journal is famous for complaining vociferously if any of its newspapers are delivered a day late, even if the Journal misses the deadline for getting the papers to a postal facility. Postal managers generally acquiesce, creating special (and labor-intensive) procedures to expedite handling of the Journal." In response to the op-ed's refrain about what the Postal Service would be doing to cut costs if it were a private enterprise, Dead Tree Edition concludes, "If the Postal Service were a private business, it would not be subsidizing The Wall Street Journal."
The Journal editorial got the attention of Dennis Ross, Republican Congressman for Florida's 12th district, who's been Tweeting about it with his followers. Ross is a member of the Tea Party, and apparently he's making himself a "watchdog" of the Postal Service. You can imagine what he has to say.
If you want more on all this bruhaha about a "bailout" that's not a bailout, check out the editorial in Business Insider, which makes pretty much the same case as the Wall Street Journal piece. This one gets a quick debunking from the Postal News blog.
May 15, 2011
Yesterday's Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed piece entitled "The Coming Postal Bailout: Congress wants taxpayers to save mail worker pensions." The editorial argues that because the Postal Service is about to use up its $15 billion line of credit with the federal government, the USPS is going to have to ask for a "taypayer bailout." But is helping the Postal Service stay alive really about a "bailout"?
At the heart of the issue is the $5 billion the USPS is required to pre-pay health and retirement benefits, as mandated by the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA). Postal Service officials argue that if it did not have to make these payments, it would be showing a $9 billion profit instead of a $12 billion deficit. As the USPS website explains, "The Postal Service wants to restructure retiree health benefits payments to 'pay-as-you-go,' comparable to what is used by the rest of the federal government and the majority of the private sector. The Postal Service is paying for health care costs that have yet to be incurred. These funds are set aside to pay for future health care needs for employees who are not even retirement eligible. It is an unreasonable financial burden given everything that is happening in the mailing industry."
So, while the WSJ warns of a "union raid," the Postal Service is not really asking for a bailout at all. As Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told Congress, "We are not asking for a bailout, just a level playing field," he said. "Take care of these unfair financial burdens and you'll never hear from us again except about how great we're doing."
May 13, 2011
It's Friday the 13th, and Fox Business contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano has a scary thought: "Let's Abolish the Post Office." According to Napolitano's latest "Freedom Watch" column, the postal service is a "Soviet-style behemoth" and an inefficient, non-competitive "dinosaur," and the only reason it even exists is because politicians are pandering to voters. Don't think Napolitano is alone. Conservative think tanks like the Cato Institute have been busy for years holding conferences, cranking out white papers, and testifying before Congress about why the postal service should be privatized.
Next week a Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management will hold a hearing on “Addressing the U.S. Postal Service’s Financial Crisis." Don't be surprised if a witness or two argue that the postal service should just be eliminated altogether.
In the meantime, communities across the country are expressing their dismay about the news their post office is being closed. Today, like most every day over the past couple of months, brings news of more closings: In Ellisburg, NY, "Another rural community has found its post office on the chopping block, and residents aren't happy about it." Residents of the hamlet Etna, NY (near Ithaca) are being forced to "imagine life without the post office."
In Woodgate, NY, residents assembled outside their community post office Thursday afternoon, "and they weren't there to buy stamps. Instead, they gathered united in a fight to keep a staple of their community open—the post office." It's been the "heart and soul" of the community for nearly 100 years. In Michigan, the village of Boon in Wexford County just learned their post office might be closing—TV news spot here. And in a small town east of San Francisco, the headline reads, "Moraga Town Council Versus the U.S. Postal Service."
Maybe in the next sequel to "Friday the 13th," instead of haunting a summer camp, Jason will be stalking victims of a closed post office. There will be plenty of them.
May 12, 2011
President Obama has announced his intent to nominate Robert G. Taub as Commissioner, Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). That's bad news for those concerned about post office closings. Taub, who's a former aide to a Republican Congressman, was instrumental in developing the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which is one of the reasons the Postal Service is in such financial straits. As this article explains, "The cause of the Postal Service’s multi-billion dollar losses over the last few years is a little-known provision of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which requires the USPS to pre-fund future retiree healthcare liabilities." This costs the USPS more than $5 billion annually, and had it not been for these payments (which no other government agency is required to make), the Postal Service might be showing a profit instead of a deficit. It's the Postal Regulatory Commission that plays a crucial role in the "discontinuance" process the Postal Service must follow when it chooses to close a post office. The PRC handles an appeal when the public is dissatisfied with the Postal Service's decision to close a post office, and the PRC weighs in with an "advisory opinion" on proposed changes to the closure process—as it did just last week.
May 11, 2011
The Postal Service announced another quarter of losses, more than $2 billion, and warned it could be forced to default on federal payments for the billions it's borrowed from the government.
In the meantime, the closings continue. In Floriston, California, they closed a historic post office that dates back to 1872. In Modesto, CA, prospective buyers have begun touring its vintage downtown post office—the 78-year-old landmark will be auctioned June 9 by the federal government. In Veribesst, Texas, their little United Methodist Church was standing room only as residents confronted the U.S. Postal Service about the possible closing of their beloved post office.
In Nebraska, several congressmen have written to the postmaster general of the USPS expressing concerns about the closing of small rural post offices. Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., 3rd Congressional District, said that the Postal Service "must uphold the original mission of serving both rural and urban areas. . . I applaud the recent efforts by the USPS to balance its budget, but I hope it will keep in mind the impact on communities, jobs and urgent mail delivery when deciding whether to close a facility," he said.
And if you think things are bad in the U.S., over in the U.K. they've been closing hundreds of small rural post offices, and this week the company which runs the Post Office network has been accused of running a “secret closure programme” after news leaked that more than 400 branches have quietly closed and not reopened.
(Photo: Joan Alioto takes a last look as Floriston post master before her retirement and subsequent closing of the Floriston post office April 30, 2011. Amy Edgett / Sierra Sun.)
May 9, 2011
From the Watertown Daily Times: "PARISHVILLE — Town Supervisor Jerry G. Moore said closing the U.S. post office in the hamlet is a bad idea that will create a hardship on many in the community, especially senior citizens. Mr. Moore said he won't let the U.S. Postal Service close the post office without a fight.
"I'll get a hold of the board members and start spreading the word to try and get people in town aware of what is going on. We plan to do everything we can to let them know we need this post office," Mr. Moore said. "We've got to fight, we've got to write some letters, we've got to make some phone calls." Read more.
May 8, 2011
The website Postal Reporter is keeping track of all the post office closings, and they're neatly organized, state by state, with links to news articles about the individual closings. It's a great website for keeping up with the latest news about all things postal. And thanks to Postal Reporter for this perfectly apropos cartoon by Chan Lowe. By the way, if you think this is supposed to be funny, read this.
May 8, 2011
From the NAPUS website: "On Monday, May 2, the National Association of Postmasters of the U.S. (NAPUS) and the National League of Postmasters (LEAGUE) submitted “Public Comments” to the U.S. Postal Service, opposing proposed regulations that would result in the wholesale closing of Post Offices through the nation. In a joint comment, the two postal management organizations illustrated how the proposed rules violate current law, undermine post office accountability, weakens universal postal service to small towns and rural America, and jeopardizes the historic community role that Post Offices play. Appended to the comments was the expert legal opinion of former USPS General Counsel Harold Hughes, who views the proposed regulations as illegal and, therefore, should be withdrawn."
May 7, 2011
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.
May 7, 2011
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."
May 6, 2011
"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.
April 30, 2011
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.
April 29, 2011
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.
April 29, 2011
Thanks to all of you who signed the petition over the past few weeks. The comment period for the proposed changes to the regulations concerning the closing of post offices ends on May 2, so we have sent copies of your names and comments to our elected representatives—Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Congressman Gibson—and to the Department of Customer Service Standardization for the Postal Service. The cover letters to our reps can be seen here, and the letter to the Postal Service, here.
We will continue to update the website about the latest developments. In the meantime, if you haven't signed the petition, please do. We'll send it out again when we have a bunch more names.
April 20, 2011
A message from the Postmasters' League: We want to remind everyone if you have not already done so to contact all your members of Congress as soon as possible regarding Title 39 CFR Part 241. This is just a cloaked plan to close 1000s of Post Offices. We believe the long term impact to the Post Office brand, overall customer trust and service, especially to rural America has not been fully consider with this change. The Postal Service has filed formal notice through the Federal Register of a proposed change to the Discontinuance (closing) process for Post Offices found in the Title 39 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). This is different from US Code Title 39, which is law. These are Postal Service regulations and do not need legislative approval or a bill to change. It is simply a regulation change, not a change in the law. The Post Office will seek comments (written) for thirty days. They will review those comments and make their determinations on whether to make the regulation changes and change the face of rural America. The 30 days open for comments expires May 2, 2011. Unless we get our Representatives to intervene, these regulations will most likely be changed and, regardless of the nice spin being placed on this proposal, it will not be good for rural America.
Congress is going on a two week break and leaving Washington to go back home this Friday. That still gives us two more days to send emails, faxes and make phone calls to your representatives’ Washington DC office so it is not too late. Your representatives are home; let them know what their constituents want. They sometimes forget what is important to the citizens that voted for them. Get their commitment to object to the CFR changes and ask them to submit comments by May 2, 2011.
April 18, 2011
There are just a few more days to sign the petition opposing changes being proposed by the the Postal Service to make it easier to close post offices. If approved, the Postal Service can re-designate an independent post office as a "branch," shorten the period people can respond to an announced closing, and choose not to hold a public hearing. Please sign the petition to oppose these changes.
If you'd like to do more, you can send a letter to the Department of Customer Service Standardization, attention: Retail Discontinuance, 475 L’Enfant Plaza SW., Room 6816, Washington, D.C., 20260-6816. Letters must be postmarked by April 29. You can also send letters to members of Congress urging them to urge the Postal Service not to make these changes; a sample letter is here, and the addresses are here.
From YNN TV, April 16, 2011
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.
April 15, 2011
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.
April 11, 2011
In the current issue of Postal News, 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.
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.
April 6, 2011
The Postal Service has filed formal notice through the Federal Register of a proposed change to the Discontinuance (closing) process for Post Offices (39 Code of Federal Regulations). If approved, this change would allow the Postal Service to make the Rhinecliff Post Office a "retail branch" of the Rhinebeck Post Office, which would make it much easier to close the Rhinecliff P.O.
April 2, 2011
There's a bill coming up in the Senate that would make it easier to close small rural post offices like Rhinecliff's. Bill S3831 would eliminate the restriction against closing a post office for solely economic reasons. That means the Postal Service could set up something like a "closing panel" that would have the power to close any post office it deemed uneconomical. It would probably mean closing thousands of small rural post offices. You can read more about the bill and what it would do in this article.