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John Andersen: Congressional oversight needed for Postal Service

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Middle of October now. Leaves at full color or just past peak depending where you live in the Chippewa Valley. Rain has fallen and we are thinking about giving the lawn a final mowing. For us who celebrate Halloween have our decorations up, and our house looks pretty spooky. So is the future of the United States Postal Service.

Every afternoon Monday through Saturday and sometimes on Sunday, the red, white and blue postal truck pulls up outside our mailbox and drops off mail and packages. In my hometown we had a postal carrier who walked a route and stopped by our house Monday through Friday usually about 11 a.m. The postal service has been a part of my entire life.

The history of the United States Postal Service is colorful and not too complex. The USPS was created in 1775 during the Second Continental Congress, when Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general. USPS became a cabinet-level department in 1872.

Then, because you have to screw around with something that is working, it was changed by the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 into the United States Postal Service as an independent agency. The idea was to have it become ‘profitable” using a business model.

Our friends of the Postal Service are legally obligated to serve all Americans, regardless of geography. But the Post Office has to compete against private package delivery services, such as United Parcel Service, FedEx, and Amazon. You will note that for those companies the USPS is often the last resort for delivering their packages.

I know of no one who has asked for the US mail to be slowed down. I know of no one who ever asked the Postal Service to become a “for profit” agency. All people want is to get their mail delivered in a timely manner at the best price they can get. Prices are going up on many things and we accept it. It is part of life.

My very simple solution is to return the Postal Service to a governmental agency with Congressional oversight. I don’t care if it makes a profit or not. I don’t care if tax dollars are used to support it. A service should not be required to make a profit. It should serve the needs of the public.

Email you say? How do you get email to everyone? Many homes do not have internet or broadband. Many homes to not have a computer. Many places will not accept email as proof of anything.

A couple weeks back I happened to not pay for some gasoline. I didn’t get an email from the C Store, I got an letter from the company. I took the letter in, paid for the gas and went about my business. The C Store was certainly not interested in email.

Our reliance on email and other electronically signed documents cannot help in many things. Indeed as a municipal clerk I still use an old paper seal which embosses the stamp of the Town of Hallie into the paper itself. Very often that seal is required for legal documents including deeds and such.

In my career as a Union Steward I hated email. Email is the gift that keeps on giving. I have represented employees who, in a fit of rage, told their bosses exactly what they thought of some of the bosses’ decisions. That did not go well. Especially if they copied members of their entire work group. If you have to write something out longhand or type it out bad things usually do not happen.

The motto of the United States Postal Service has been “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Yet there is a more poignant one located on Massachusetts Avenue and North Capitol Street, N.E.

“Messenger of Sympathy and Love, Servant of Parted Friends, Consoler of the Lonely, Bond of the Scattered Family, Enlarger of the Common Life, Carrier of News and Knowledge, Instrument of Trade and Industry, Promoter of Mutual Acquaintance Of Peace and of Goodwill Among Men and Nations.”

So when you care enough to send the very best, send a letter. Not an email.

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