Greta Cobar

‘Save the Post Office’ Enters Critical Phase

By Greta Cobar

The Asset Manager of the postal service (USPS) is getting the Venice Post Office building ready to sell, according to an email from Diana Alvarado, Facilities Vice President.

Appeals challenging the closure have been rejected by the USPS. The Postal Regulatory Commission granted the USPS motion to dismiss. Although the plan is to sell the historical building that now houses our post office, both the USPS and the PRC classified the closure as a relocation, since services will be moved to what currently is called the Annex.

Venice residents, organizations and the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher sent in appeals arguing that the Venice post office classifies as a closure, not a relocation, and therefore qualifies for a hearing.

Ruth Goldway, chairperson of the PRC and a Venice resident, chose to recuse herself from the vote because it involved her own neighborhood. The other three members of the PRC unanimously voted to grant the USPS motion to dismiss the appeals.

In a phone conversation with the Beachhead, Goldway stated that the law clearly defines the move of retail operations to the Annex and the closure of our post office as a relocation, and that the PRC does not have jurisdiction in the matter.

The move of the post office to the Annex is a temporary consolidation that will not be able to provide enough service windows or parking for the customers and not enough room to sort the mail for the postal employees. According to Alvarado, eventually we will end up with a storefront or a drugstore selling stamps and other post office services.

The PRC order granting motion to dismiss states that on April 26 “the Postal Service held a public meeting to share information about the proposed move and to hear comments from the community,” which is not true.

Currently Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the law firm that has been representing us pro bono, is assessing the possibility of a legal challenge before deciding whether it will continue to represent us.

Amanda Seward, attorney at law and Venice Neighborhood Council Board member, is working to put the post office building on the National Registry of Historical Buildings. Being on that list would not stop the USPS from selling the building, but it would prevent the buyer from tearing it down.

Our community continues to stand strong against the closure of the historic post office housing the beautiful Edward Biberman mural, “The Story of Venice.”

Thousands of individuals have signed petitions, attended rallies and volunteered their time to this cause that has, probably for the first time, brought the community together with a common goal.

Many local organizations have come together to stop the sale of the post office building. They include the Venice Peace and Freedom, SPARC, the Venice Arts Council, the Venice Stakeholders Association, the Venice Neighborhood Council, the Free Venice Beachhead, the Venice Chamber of Commerce, Venice Town Council, the Edward Biberman Estate, the Los Angeles Conservancy and the New Deal Preservation Association.

All over the country 3,700 post offices are scheduled to close or have already been closed, and that does not even take into account the relocations, as is the case in Venice. This is a perfect example of Wall Street strangling a federal self-sufficient institution with a strong labor union and a reputation for providing reliable service. By handing the mailing business off to private companies such as FedEx and United Parcel Service (UPS), the rich businessmen become richer while the poor, disabled, elderly, rural populations are most negatively affected.

Although the culprit for the post office closures, relocations and consolidations is said to be loss in revenue, the USPS has not taken any taxpayer money since 1971. However, the federal government owes the USPS between $50 and $70 billion in excess retirement benefits payment. Furthermore, the USPS is the only business in the country that is required to pre-fund its employees’ healthcare benefits for the next 75 years in a ten year period. Putting any business in this type of situation in the middle of a great recession would probably disable its operations.

It is only a myth that people do not use the post office anymore because of the Internet. In fact, the USPS experienced its highest profit in 2006, and revenues have declined only slightly since then and in pace with the overall decline of the economy.

Remember that even though purchases are made online, the Internet cannot ship them and the USPS’s rates are cheaper than FedEx or UPS. Furthermore, only the USPS delivers a letter anywhere in the country for less than 50 cents. If a package is sent to rural Alaska through FedEx or UPS it is then taken to the USPS, which charges less and is the only company that even delivers to remote, rural areas.

It seems that Wall Street, in its efforts to please more businessmen, bought out the higher-ups at USPS, who have been intentionally suppressing revenue. For example, on January 22, when the price of stamps changed from 44 cents to 45 cents, the Venice post office did not have one cent stamps for sale. It consistently has had only a limited selection of stamps, which is a major deterrent to stamp collectors and picky customers.

Furthermore, for the past two years only two of the five windows have been open for customer service regardless of the length of the line or the waiting time. The USPS’s own provision to provide service in less than 20 minutes has been ignored on a daily, hourly basis. Overworked clerks have to constantly deal with frustrated customers, which only increases their poor morale.

Take the billions of dollars the federal government owes the USPS, the requirement that the USPS pay for the health benefits of people that have not been born yet, its own efforts to suppress revenue, the discontinuation of next-day delivery and Saturday mail, and add to that the thousands of closures and relocations. What we are looking at is a continued decline moving in a fatal downward spiral.

The Constitution states postal service and militia are two services that the country must provide. Although the war in Afghanistan is going strong at a price tag of $2 billion a week because of the military-industrial complex, the postal service is being purposely annihilated to switch profit to private businesses that will put more money into Wall Street.

In other countries the post office offers a myriad of cards, postcards, gifts, paper goods and writing instruments. Here in Venice, a major tourist attraction, the post office doesn’t even sell postcards. And one has to go to a store and then the post office to send a birthday or Christmas card. Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we didn’t have to make two trips? Goldway herself has officially proposed about a dozen ways to increase revenue.  However, both Goldway and common sense have been ignored by the USPS higher-ups.

Few know that the Postal Saving System was a non-profit bank operated by the USPS until 1966, when it was abolished because of banking industry pressure. Apparently Wall Street has been involved in the annihilation of the USPS for quite a while.

Now that 99 percent of us are ready to take a stand against Wall Street’s oppression, just as many would be delighted to switch banks to the Postal Saving System, which would hire more employees, provide fast and courteous service with a smile, and use the money to pay whatever debts the federal government is demanding for the health benefits of people who have not been born yet.

It’s time to stand up before we are stepped over. By sitting comfortably and doing nothing we will allow them to proceed with the sale of a beautiful, historical building and further cripple a service provided for in the Constitution.

We are collecting petition signatures (www.change.org, search Venice Post Office), selling custom-made first class stamps featuring the beautiful Edward Biberman mural in the lobby, have held two rallies and are planning a third for Saturday, February 18 (see advertisement, back page).

Please make your voice heard and your point of view known. Write letters to Senators Feinstein and Boxer urging them to use their political power to stop the sale of our post office, come out to the rally with signs, and contact the Beachhead to buy beautiful Edward Biberman stamps or to help in any other way. If you are a lawyer and would like to help with legal strategy, please contact the Beachhead.

We can only win if we continue the fight and increase our efforts and your participation. Get involved!

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Categories: Greta Cobar, Post Office

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