By Lynda Jones
Wisconsin elected officials held a press conference this week in front of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Post Office to challenge the proposed closures of five Milwaukee area post offices. Mayor Tom Barrett, Alderwoman Milele Coggs and others joined State Senator Spencer Coggs in the fight against closing these post offices.
State Senator Spencer Coggs first wrote about this issue two weeks ago in The Courier, following a letter that he had written calling on the U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to reconsider the proposed plans to close five central Milwaukee post offices.
Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Senator Herb Kohl wrote a letter jointly, and Mayor Tom Barrett has written a letter as well questioning the decision.
Alderwoman Milele Coggs, Ald. Willie Hines, Ald. Willie Wade, and State Representative Barbara Toles all participated in the press conference.
All agree that this decision needs to be reconsidered, and in addition to that, why were these post offices selected? In their letter Cong. Moore and Senator Kohl point out to the postmaster general that the 5 post offices under consideration for closure are all clustered within a few blocks of each other in a portion of Moore’s district that is 80-90 percent African American. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in this area has a range of $0-$28,419. This raises concerns as to whether or not the USPS is fulfilling its mandate to provide affordable, secure, and dependable service to all Americans, especially when a city with 26 post offices has 5 of the proposed closings concentrated in a few specific neighborhoods.
All the elected officials acknowledge that the USPS continues to face financial challenges and that it is working to cut costs. However, as the national debate has continued, “Where is the shared sacrifice in cutting costs?” All agree that this proposed plan is not fair, and the USPS has yet to provide an explanation on why these particular post offices were chosen.
“These post offices are all busy. They have plenty of walk in traffic, and stop and go by car. The post office box rentals for all five of these offices range from 86 percent-95 percent fully rented. The total box rentals impacted if these offices are closed will be 3400 box holders.” Ald. Coggs stated.
Ald. Willie Hines stated that if these post offices close some 192,000 residents will be effected, and in addition to lost jobs, and services, closed abandoned buildings will impact the community in negative ways in the realm of real estate and property loss value and safety concerns.
“This particular area in years past had various business anchors, breweries, department stores, and utility companies now all gone. All we have left as a stabilizing anchor in this area is the post office”. Sen. Coggs stated.
Mayor Barrett said that when he first read about the USPS having to close offices he was not surprised, but it blew him away when he learned that all five were in Milwaukee. Again he asked the question, “Where is the shared sacrifice?”
In their letter to Donahoe, Cong. Moore and Sen. Kohl had the following concerns that they wanted answered:
- What is the criterion for the closing of a USPS Post Office?
- Will all Alternate Access Points be open and providing service prior to the closing of a Post Office?
- What steps are being taken to ensure that no postal employees lose their job and how many employees do you estimate will lose their jobs as a result of these closures?
- Will this increase the contracting out of any postal service currently done by postal employees including any adjustments to letter carrier routes as a result of this proposal?
- Please provide me with the mail volume data for the past 4 years for the post offices that are under consideration for closing along with a comparison of volume decline for the other 21 Milwaukee Post Offices.
- Please provide my office with the unit facts and revenue trends for the last 4 years for all City of Milwaukee post offices.
- Where does the USPS project cost savings come from by component (labor, facility, energy costs)?
- Does the cost saving assume and include estimates of lost revenues? (All current P.O. Box users may not migrate to the Village Post Office, other customers may no longer choose to use USPS.)
All of the elected officials are waiting for a response to their letters and questions.
Cong. Moore also stated that a request for a face to face meeting is also a consideration.