From the publisher: Postal Service needs to get back its ZIP

I know things change and I too sit around with friends and bemoan how it used to be, how we miss the old days, how much better things were then.

Good thing I went online to complain to friends instead of writing a letter. Who knows when it would have arrived.

Though the U.S. Postal Service motto says "neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night" will delay the mail, that has not protected it from politics, poor management at the top and lack of congressional action.

I admit that impatience is one of my many character flaws, but a couple of recent examples struck home - after they arrived.

The Sentinel this year printed its Wrangell visitor guide in Seattle. When the printer finished the job, he delivered 2,600 pounds of guides to the Alaska Marine Lines terminal on the Seattle waterfront for the barge ride to town. That same day, he put 10 copies of the guide into a Priority Mail envelope so that I would see them in Juneau sooner - we thought.

Two days after the barge arrived in Wrangell, the Priority Mail arrived in Juneau.

My compliments to AML for easily defeating the Pony Express.

Then last week, I sent a Priority Mail envelope to my sister in San Francisco. It arrived six days later. The Postal Service website advertises three-day service for the $7.95 cost, but with the footnote: "The expected delivery data does not come with a money-back guarantee." Wise decision.

Benjamin Franklin was named the country's first postmaster general in 1775, and though the service has a long history of moving incredible volumes of mail with efficiency and speed, the ZIP is leaking out of the system in its third century.

The postmaster general appointed during the Trump administration - a multimillion-dollar Republican Party donor - came up with a plan to "save" the system. The guy's austerity plan was to raise rates, cut post office hours, close sorting centers and lengthen the timelines for delivery of the mail.

Sounds similar to Gov. Mike Dunleavy's plan to "save" the state ferry system by cutting service, selling off ships and raising rates. And we know how well that is working out.

There is no question the Postal Service has a lot of problems. People and businesses don't send letters nearly as much as they did, and that is cutting deeply into the agency's revenues. But treating the patient by making the illness worse sure seems unhealthy.

Thankfully, some in Congress got the message, or the letter, whichever arrived first. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators last week introduced legislation to help solve some of the system's financial problems. An identical bill already has won House approval.

One feature of the legislation would direct the Postal Service to develop a public online mail delivery performance dashboard where customers could view the agency's on-time delivery metrics by ZIP code each week.

The Senate bill started with 10 Republican co-sponsors, giving it enough bipartisan support to defeat a filibuster attempt if all 50 Senate Democrats line up in support.

The legislation, along with President Joe Biden's efforts to replace Trump appointees on the postal governing board, might be enough to turn the agency in a better direction, or at least get the mail back on schedule.

If so, everyone should buy a stamp and mail "thank you" cards to Congress. The post office could use the money.


Reader Comments(0)