Take Action Ukiah: Saving Our Post Office Meeting Tonight 4/21/11 6:30pm

Radio Curious

The United States Postal Service has plans to close post offices in cities, small towns and rural areas across America. This edition of Radio Curious is a case study of how the federal government plans to close the main Post Office in Ukiah.  The Postal Service says it operates under a “corporate model” and is not subject to public information requests, even from local government. It is unwilling to share the bases of it cost analyses or even let the City of Ukiah conduct its own evaluations. We visit with three members of the Save the Ukiah Post Office Committee: Ukiah Mayor, Mari Rodin, Alan Nicholson and Mike Sweeney. They discuss the community efforts to save Ukiah’s downtown post office and why.

Radio Curious Interview here

Letters to the Editor, Ukiah Daily Journal, from Joe Wildman, Richard Shoemaker, Janie Sheppard and Mike Sweeney…


A bureaucratic bungle

All of the folks I talk with are up in arms about the Postal Service proposal to close the Downtown Post Office, but several letter writers seem to think it’s a good idea.

These contrarians want to believe the line Postal Service management is dishing out about “financial necessity.” The Postal Service claims it can save $186,921 per year by cutting a hole in the heart of Ukiah’s downtown and remodeling the out of the way annex as a replacement.

Although the Postal Service suspiciously refuses to release any internal documents about the proposal, they did provide the city on February 23 with a list of four items where savings are expected.

The first and largest is $81,719 per year for firing one clerk. But this savings would have nothing to do with whether or not the downtown post office stays open. There are three full-time clerks now, assisted regularly by part-timers. If the workload doesn’t require all of them, the layoff could happen today. If the business moved to the annex, the Postal Service would need just as many clerks serving the counter and filling the post office boxes as it does downtown.

The second savings is $73,392 for “building maintenance labor.” This represents the entire annual cost of the existing maintenance man. But we know he doesn’t spend all of his time on the downtown post office–he works at both the annex and downtown. It’s just dishonest to claim that his labor cost would disappear if the downtown building was shut down. Especially since the annex would require much more maintenance if it became the replacement facility for all that customer traffic.

The third savings is $28,065 for “utilities.” Yes, it’s possible that they spent that much on utilities last year since they left the front door open all the time, winter and summer, driving up heating and cooling bills. It took complaints to the Postmaster General before the front door got fixed last month. And you may have noticed that the lights burn brightly in the lobby all day long, even though the windows provide plenty of natural light. Putting a timer on the lobby switch is apparently beyond management’s abilities. And they spend $3,000 on a trash dumpster that they fill with paper because they don’t seem to understand that paper can be recycled for free. And the annex requires utilities too, and the bills there will go way up if it became a customer service facility, with the lights and heater operating 24 hours.

The final savings item is $3,745 for “inter-station transportation,” which covers the local manager driving back and forth from his office in the annex to the downtown post office. Based on his management record, it would be better if he just stayed home.

In order to harvest these imaginary savings, the Postal Service says it will spend real money–$360,000–to remodel the annex by adding a service counter, post office boxes, and parking spaces.

It’s clear that the proposal to close the Ukiah Post Office is just a bureaucratic bungle. It’s up to us to make the Postal Service understand when they come to town on the 21st.


Change for the worse

Recently, I’ve read letters supporting closing Ukiah’s downtown Post Office saying “that’s progress, it’s a fiscally sound thing to do and that the people against the closing are part of the problem.”

I financially support the Post Office. I have a P.O. Box downtown. I pay 90 percent of my bills by mail, I use the Post Office for packages and I send many hundreds of cards and letters to people each year. Yes, I use email but that has generally replaced phone calls not letters.

Closing the downtown post office would not be progress, but it would be change, change for the worse. If the local Postal Administration is successful it will hurt Ukiah’s downtown and the Postal Service. Our community cannot afford to lose this busy and important component of our downtown.

It makes no sense, financial or otherwise to shut down this thriving downtown business. The downtown post office is an excellent and busy consumer service location. Nearby residents and surrounding businesses walk in every day to mail large envelopes and parcels, buy stamps and pick up mail. Shutter the downtown Post Office and it will be easier for those folks to call UPS or FedEx for pick up. The post office’s competition can’t wait. The Postal Service will lose that substantial revenue and profitability will continue to spiral downward. Close downtown and hundreds of people will give up their post office boxes. The Postal Service will lose box rental revenue while incurring the additional cost of delivering more mail on the carrier routes. The spiral continues down. The Postal Service told the city it can save money by closing the downtown post office, mostly by eliminating one clerk’s job. This doesn’t make sense. That would simply create longer lines for Post Office patrons. The same number of clerks are needed to run the counter and fill the post office boxes, whether it is done at the downtown building or at the annex. If a layoff is feasible, it could be done today.

Worst of all, the Postal Service admits it will have to spend at least $360,000 to remodel the Orchard St. annex to replace the downtown post office resulting in the high likelihood of losing significant revenue. They might get lucky and break even. So why not spend that money at the proven downtown location? Make an investment in downtown rather than create a boarded up eyesore.

The financial assumptions to shut down our downtown’s Post Office are not realistic.

Closing the downtown Post Office is a serious mistake and we’re on the receiving end of its permanent consequences. But it’s not over until it’s over. The regional managers have to hear public comment, face the facts, and submit the decision to higher management.

Please attend the Postal Service’s Public Meeting on Thursday, April 21 at 6:30 p.m. Ukiah Valley Conference Center. For more information go to www.ukiahpostoffice.com.
See also letters from Janie Sheppard and Mike Sweeney


My heart goes out to the people of Ukiah who use and love their post office. I am a huge postal customer. I visit my post office every day and send packages and personal letters by the thousands every year. I love stamps. And I love getting letters in my P.O. Box. My friends who work at the Mendocino post office tell me that if everyone sent as much mail as I do, the postal service would be in fat city. And they also tell me that more and more people don’t use the postal service at all; and they understand why the postal service is in big trouble. But the Mendocino post office, which is not a historical landmark or even a particularly groovy building, is much more than a post office, it is the real (as opposed to official) community center of our town and this local watershed. If the postal service were to close the Mendocino post office, I’m not certain our village would have a heart, so to speak. I bring this up because I think the ongoing debate and controversy and sorrow about the proposed closure of the Ukiah post office naturally confuses two issues: the closing of a community center and the closing of part of a collapsing business. Looking to the collapsing business to provide a community center might not be the best way to get what is most needed: a place for people to meet and talk and synergize in a casual, random, spontaneous way. I don’t know all the details of the specific situation in Ukiah, but the scenario is being repeated in hundreds of towns around the country, the creative solution for which could be a model for new community centers independent of federal support.

I see what you mean. However, despite the wrongful nature of the cause, (which could be said of almost everything our corporatized federal government does these days) we are confronted with the local results of those causes and find ourselves looking to the corrupted congress to undue the crimes, which congress is unlikely to do. I’m very glad there will be a protest in Ukiah about this injustice. We need to get into shape for future protests that may prove to be our best hope against the insatiably greedy overlords.