Until May 2012, the U.S. Postal Service had a moratorium on proposed closures on service and costs. Senator Ron Wyden encouraged the Postal Service to solicit community input and the impact that it would have on the Central Oregon community. He said at the time: “Post offices and the services they provide are vital to the economic health of rural communities. They add tremendous value to Oregon’s commerce and are often a center of civic life in rural parts of the state. As a vote-by-mail state, a fully operating Postal Service is at the core of Oregon’s democratic process.”
Despite opposition ultimately in 2013 postal officials closed about 82 facilities nationwide and as a result Bend’s work was consolidated with Portland’s distribution center.
So for the past two years you may have wondered why your mail takes at least two to three days to get to its destination. You can mail a payment to a company about a block from you, but it will be rerouted to Portland first for redistribution back to Bend. The delays can be costly for businesses that depend on mail service as part of their successful operations.
A previous study suggested that closing the Bend processing center would save about $2 million a year and that more than 40 jobs would be lost in Bend but some would be added in Portland, for a net cut of 18 positions and one manager.
Dropping Saturday mail delivery, which in general customers agree they don’t care about, could have saved jobs and money, but that option never gets past Congress. The Postal Service had estimated it could save about $3 billion annually by cutting Saturday delivery. But years later, an improving financial landscape and a Congress continually deadlocked over Postal Service reform has led to a slow and quiet death for what was once seen as the linchpin of a revitalized Postal Service.
The Postal Service saw a controllable income — revenues minus controlled expenses — of about $313 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2015. But after factoring in the Postal Service’s obligation to prepay for 75 years of retiree health benefits and fund its worker compensation fund, the service shows a net loss of $1.5 billion. Note: eliminate Saturday delivery, save $1.5 billion annually!
Chris Edwards, the editor of the Cato institute’s Downsizing Government blog, said that the de-emphasis on ending Saturday delivery shows an unwillingness to tackle serious issues.
When Senator Wyden talked about our democratic process he was right to be concerned. A report in the Bulletin recently noted that a mix-up by the Postal Service distribution center in Portland mistakenly returned March 8 ballots to voters. According to the report County Clerk Nancy Blankenship estimated that fewer than ten ballots were actually returned to the voters who had filled them out and mailed them back. The Postal Service was aware of the problem before they were contacted by the Clerk’s office and were manually watching for the ballots.
This is a big election year and having Central Oregon ballots delivered to Portland, then, hopefully and timely, returned to the County’s Clerk’s offices for counting should be a major concern to voters.
Deschutes County is the fastest growing county in Oregon, estimated at 170,388 people last year, making it the seventh-fastest-growing metro area in the country. The strong growth, expected to continue, is beginning to spill over into Jefferson and Crook Counties. We need a Postal Service that reflects this growth and is responding to our postal needs.
If you have concerns about your postal services the best thing to do is write to Senators Ron Wyden or Jeff Merkley. Eventually the post office needs to end Saturday deliveries and return distribution to Bend.