Editorials

Closing Pasco mail center counterproductive move

There may be a tip-off as to what's really going on with the U.S. Postal Service in the announcement that Ben Franklin's post office in Philadelphia -- site of the first one in the nation -- is on the list to be closed.

You'd think the nation's first post office, run by the nation's first postmaster general, would be safe.

You would be wrong.

It may be the site's significance that makes it a target.

We are all familiar with the technique.

When a city administration has financial troubles and needs an influx of taxpayer cash, it threatens to layoff police officers and firefighters.

Junior assistant traffic engineers are never mentioned.

These cynical manipulations have gone on throughout government for decades.

The transfer of some of the duties at the U.S. Postal Service's Pasco Processing & Distribution Center to Spokane is another thing altogether. It seems to be a poorly thought-out proposition on economic grounds, but probably has some political advantages that recommended it.

A very significant number of the 535 members of Congress will have constituents upset by closings and -- as noted below -- service changes contemplated.

After all, the U.S. Postal Service is before Congress, asking for a ton of money to bail it out ($20 billion), and wants a change in the federal Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, which requires the agency to pre-fund 75 years of retiree health benefits during a 10-year period.

The agency wants to move quickly to close 252 mail processing centers and slow first-class delivery next spring, citing steadily declining mail volume.

Nationally, first-class mail volume is off 20 percent. At Pasco, it is down only 4 percent.

These initial cuts are part of $3 billion in reductions aimed at helping the agency avert bankruptcy in 2012.

The cost of postage would go up, and the delivery would be delayed. No longer would your stamped local letters arrive the next day.

The plant closures are expected to result in the elimination of roughly 28,000 jobs nationwide. Only two of those jobs would be from the Pasco move, if it comes about.

But the cost would be excessive, the savings incremental and the logic flawed.

We've had several letters to the editor on the topic, and there are more waiting to be published.

One, from Boyce Burdick of Richland, suggested relocating the Spokane mail processing center to Pasco. He argues Pasco is more centrally located to Yakima, Walla Walla and even Pendleton than is Spokane.

And, he says, there is rail service from Spokane to Pasco at times convenient to postal delivery. We haven't verified the train schedule, but Pasco's access to rail, interstate highways, air service and offshore shipping make it a distributors dream.

USPS says closing the Pasco distribution facility would save $800,000 and eliminate two jobs. Two.

It could also mean a good number of Tri-City postal employees either moving to Spokane or being out of work.

The $800,000 savings is said to factor in the $2 million costs for moving mail between Pasco and Spokane.

The bottom line is huge disruption for minimal, theoretical, savings.

There was a time when a newly elected member of Congress could pretty much count on getting to open a new post office in his or her district. It was a reward for winning, so to speak.

No more.

But the policy is in reverse these days. Pretty much every member of Congress has been set up to feel the heat as post office executives look to decrease expenses and increase revenue.

We are not saying U.S. Postal Service doesn't need changes.

We're merely pointing out that its consolidation plan includes some irrational proposals, and trotting out all the old political tricks won't change that.

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