U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) called on Congress Thursday to “move as quickly as possible to address the fiscal insolvency of the Postal Service,”according to a press release from his office.
“The Congress must take action in order to stop these closures,” said Rahall, who has been very vocal in his opposition of the closure of post offices and postal sorting facilities in southern West Virginia. “At issue is the basic right of citizens of a community to be heard. We must ensure that the Postal Service’s actions are grounded in the best interests of the people it was created to serve.”
In a detailed statement in behalf of the postal bill he introduced last month, Rahall urged passage of H.R. 4335, the Postal Service Accountability Act, which would empower the independent postal regulator, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), to block postal closures that would adversely impact mail delivery services in a community.
“It also would enable the Commission to set aside closure determinations that are unsupported by substantial evidence of cost savings,” the release stated.
“I am convinced that legitimate safety and convenience concerns of residents and businesses are not being sufficiently addressed – that many post offices’ fates are predetermined and that the public comment process, in too many instances, has become a perfunctory step in the closure process, as the Postal Service bulldozes ahead closing valued postal facilities for very little, if any, economic savings,” Rahall said. “We must provide a meaningful, long-term improvement to the current and flawed process of postal planning.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) also voiced his opinion on the matter Thursday, delivering a speech on the Senate floor to “highlight the critical role that post offices play in rural communities in West Virginia,” a release from his office stated
“In our state, we know that the Postal Service is at the very core of what makes this country great and what connects us all – in fact, the Postal Service is America — and that is why we are willing to come together across party lines to fight hard to preserve the essential services that the Postal Service provides,” Manchin said.
“We also know that serving rural communities isn’t always profitable, and private companies won’t come in to fill the gap if the postal service leaves,” Manchin said. “As Americans, we need our rural communities to stay in touch with the rest of this great nation – and I am fighting along with the members of our delegation to put a stop to these proposed closures.”
Rahall noted the independent Postal Regulatory Commission’s findings in December 2011, that found the Postal Service was unable to provide the data necessary to confirm its cost savings projections associated with the post offices proposed for closure.
The PRC also expressed concerns about ensuring that alternatives are available to meet the needs of affected communities prior to a postal facility closure decision.
“The Commission has recently heard appeals on more than 60 individual post office closings,” the PRC Chairman stated last December. “The records in these cases reveal a pattern of inaccurate and overly optimistic economic savings calculations and of careless disregard of community concerns. While the facts of those cases were not considered by the Commission in its Advisory Opinion, they nevertheless demonstrate an ongoing institutional bias within the Postal Service that presumes closing small post offices automatically provides cost savings and network efficiencies.”
Manchin has encouraged the postal service to consider several other cost-saving measures before “cutting into the core of its mission,” his release stated.
Some of Manchin’s preferred cost-saving ideas included: eliminating excessive bonuses for postal service executives, making sure that the products offered by the postal service covered their costs, getting rid of retail space that the postal service is not using, and ending the expenditure of Postal Service advertising dollars on luxuries such as sponsoring the U.S. Tour de France team and a NASCAR team.
“Under the Postal Service’s proposal, they would close thousands of rural post offices to save $200 million, but that’s less than one percent of the postal service’s $20 billion and is roughly equivalent to the amount we spend in one day in Afghanistan,” Manchin said. “While that does very little to improve the postal service’s bottom line, it would devastate our rural towns, including potentially 150 communities in West Virginia.”
In October 2011, Rahall contacted the Postmaster General to urge that the closure process be halted. Subsequently, the postal service announced that it would delay any closings or consolidations until May 15. The bill introduced by Rahall on March 29, is now pending before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the committee with jurisdiction over postal matters.
“I have always said that we as a people and a country need to pick our priorities based on our values, and in West Virginia, keeping the Postal Service intact is one of the things our people truly care about,” Rahall said. “That is why I have raised very serious concerns about the bill we have before us, which does nothing to ensure that the 3,700 post offices currently on a list for potential closure – including 150 in West Virginia – are able to keep their doors open to serve their communities.”
“Our postal facilities are the centerpieces of our communities – they are places where people gather and share important information,” Manchin said. “And they are a symbol of the importance of our small towns to the people whose families have always been there – they are our little place on the map.”