WRITE ON: Future of nation, USPS linked

August 7, 2020
Finger Lakes Times, Geneva NY
Write On column

By Michael J. Fitzgerald

If your local mail delivery seems slower these days, it’s not your imagination.

I hope you’re as unhappy about it as I am.

Since new U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy took over last month, he’s ordered a series of changes that have slowed things down so much that U.S. senators are asking questions on behalf of alarmed constituents from Maine to California.

Postal employees are complaining that if mail arrives at the post office late in the day, delivery the following day — or perhaps later — is the new rule. Until DeJoy, it was a point of pride and policy that all mail was delivered the day it came in.

DeJoy’s changes also include closing some post offices during the busiest time of the day. And on the horizon is the likelihood of shutting down hundreds of post offices across the country.

Next time you see a letter carrier making their appointed rounds, ask how things are going with the new boss in charge. Or stop by any Finger Lakes post office and ask if they fear they are on a closure list.

But be socially distant and masked. You will likely get an earful.

None of this is that surprising, given that DeJoy clearly wants to remake the U.S. Postal Service into a business and discontinue its role as a public service entity that has served the republic since the days of Benjamin Franklin.

But DeJoy’s zest for slashing operations is clearly wrongheaded. The USPS public service function is even more important today because of the pandemic.

The USPS provides a lifeline for people to get medicine and other items during shelter-in-place orders. Letters and cards of support sent via the post office are helping people feel less isolated.

Plus, for the roughly 20 million U.S. residents without internet service, first-class mail is a necessity.

The decline-in-service changes forced by DeJoy — and supported by President Donald Trump, who appointed him — are particularly alarming because the Nov. 3election will likely have more ballots cast by mail than in any previous election in our nation’s history.

Many voters are likely to opt for an absentee/mail-in ballot to avoid having to expose themselves to potential COVID-19 infection in a polling place. It makes sense, given that voters often stand in line waiting to vote, interact with poll workers and other voters, and often mark their ballots (or push buttons to vote electronically) in relatively confined spaces.

It’s an exposure many health authorities argue could be risky. It’s also unnecessary, provided the USPS is up to the task of handling the mail-in ballot load.

And it can be.

Even if a national election wasn’t looming, post offices and postal workers around the Finger Lakes (and elsewhere in the nation) should be encouraged to continue offering the public service and support the USPS has historically provided communities.

The burden of getting the post office the funds it needs falls squarely on the shoulders of Finger Lakes’ elected Congressmen Tom Reed and John Katko.

They should be lobbying hard for additional funds to support the USPS to handle the volume of mail from the election and to retain good service to Finger Lakes communities.

They should also be pushing DeJoy to reveal which Finger Lakes post offices are on his yet-to-be-revealed hit list for closure.

If they aren’t lobbying for full disclosure, maybe it’s because Reed and Katko agree with the new Postmaster General’s mission to turn the U.S. Postal Service into a business. Perhaps into a for-profit business.

But who would profit? Certainly not the public.

Why is that not a surprise?

Fitzgerald has worked at six newspapers as a writer and editor as well as a correspondent for two news services. He splits his time between Valois, NY and Pt. Richmond, CA. You can email him at: Michael.Fitzgeraldfltcolumnist@gmail.com and visit his website at: michaeljfitzgerald.blogspot.com

You can read the original article on the Finger Lakes Times website HERE.

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