Dear Postmaster General Donahoe:
I do hope this letter arrives at your office in reasonable time.
Sarcasm aside, there was a time when I put a First Class stamp on a letter and mailed it, I had confidence, depending on its destination, it would get there overnight or within two or three days. There was a time when newspaper publishers could expect their latest edition would reach mail subscribers in a reasonable time frame as well.
Today, that confidence doesn’t exist.
And your latest plan to close more than 80 mail processing plants around the country – including the Dakota Central facility in Huron – will erase any shreds of remaining confidence.
You have a difficult job. Mail trends have not been kind to your business the past several years, thanks in large part to the internet and 9-11. First Class mail – still the biggest generator of revenue for you – has dropped more than 35 percent the last dozen years or so.
So how do you clear a path for the survival of the Postal Service in the face of some mighty strong headwinds? Obviously, you need to reduce expenditures and tighten the belt to fit new realities.
But I believe your latest plan goes too far. From the 30,000-foot view at USPS headquarters, your latest plant consolidation plan may look good on the spreadsheet. But looking at it from here on Main Street and the mailbox-dotted gravel roads of South Dakota, it’s a clunker.
The newspaper publishers of South Dakota who belong to the trade association I work for, know it’s a clunker as well. They have been fighting desperately now for several years to find ways to get their newspapers delivered to customers in a timely manner. Fighting desperately despite the roadblocks and hurdles put up by your organization.
Closing more mail processing plants will only contribute to the sclerosis of the mail network in this country. Your plan doesn’t save the Postal Service; it just makes things worse.
The degradation and decline don’t happen all it once, but they happen. Newspaper subscribers become frustrated they can’t get their hometown paper delivered to them in a reasonable time, so they stop paying for it when the subscription comes due. Advertisers become frustrated when their promotions and marketing specials can’t reach the marketplace soon enough.
But it is not just newspapers. It is all businesses that rely on the mail for delivery of invoices, checks, correspondence and so much more. It’s people who live so far from town that they must rely on the mail for delivery of their medical prescriptions. It’s the delivery of farm parts and legal documents. The list goes on.
Mail service always has been and remains a vital part of the infrastructure serving rural America. For that matter, our entire country. Good, reliable mail service supports a strong economy and a connected, engaged society.
Let’s not degrade and destroy that network. Instead, we should be working to protect and provide for a strong, reliable mail service that serves all of our country.
If you won’t do it (and your latest plant consolidation announcement suggests you won’t), then we call on Congress to step in and put a halt to it. Congress should freeze any further plant consolidations and closings until it can agree upon meaningful reform legislation for the Postal Service.
Postal reform legislation has been percolating in Congress for some time now. Congress needs to act.
Congress needs to remove the onerous, overly aggressive provisions that require the Postal Service to greatly accelerate set-asides for postal retirees’ health benefits. Doing so would help the Postal Service’s balance sheet and remove some of the pressures that lead to policies and actions that have hurt, not helped, your organization.
Postal reform legislation is not a headlines-grabbing, popularity-poll issue that Congress rallies around. Nevertheless, Congress needs to act now, before your organization, Mr. Postmaster General, regresses into a shell of its former self from which it cannot recover.
I thank you for your consideration.
General Manager, South Dakota Newspaper Association
(South Dakota Newspaper Association represents the state’s weekly and daily newspapers with a total readership of more than 600,000 people.)