Upham's Corner Online

Occupy! The Upham's Corner Post Office

Posted: December 10, 2011     Nancy J Conrad

As of December 10 the age of the Occupy Boston movement came to a close but the ideas will live on.  In Upham's Corner there was no encampment, no tents and no people's mic but there was one community coming-together that rivaled Dewey Sq.  That was the Upham's Corner Discontinuance Meeting held on November 17, 2011.

Since then the community has continued to rally for the Upham’s Corner Post office with thousands of signatures obtained in its support. 

Is it enough?

Moneyed interests in the federal government, not the foundation of service upon which the post office was originally founded, may ultimately determine the fate of our beloved Upham's Corner Post Office.

This article has been indexed for easy access.  It includes a detailed report of the meeting - what Post Master Jim Holland said, what the residents said and UC News Editorial Comment.
  1. Overview of the meeting
  2. The discontinuance process explained
  3. Paul Kilduff, American Postal Workers Union Local 100 explains
  4. Why meeting notices went out only in English
  5. Negative effect on local business community
  6. Profitable services not offered at Upham's Corner PO
  7. Is the Post Office offering a service or trying to make a profit?
  8. Proximity to other post offices
  9. Has the decision already been made?

Overview of Meeting
Discontinuance Meeting - Upham's Corner Post Office
Jim Holland, Postmaster of Boston, Wanda Santos-Dwyer, Manager of Marketing and Michael Foley, Discontinuance Coordinator led the Upham's Corner Discontinuance community meeting on November 17, 2011 held at 594 Columbia Rd. 

Over 60 residents came out in support of the Upham's Corner Post Office, sounding a lot like “Occupy Wall Street.”  Attendees were clearly part of the 99% and very vocal about the impact closing the post office would have on the community, on themselves..  Postal Service reps looked and acted like they belonged to the 1%.

As the comments and discussion heated up (and it became obvious that the community did not want the post office closed), Post Master Holland underscored the fact that no final decision has been made, that the overall community response will determine the final outcome.

Mr. Holland began by saying: 

“This is the last place the Postal Service wants to be here tonight in this room discussing the possible discontinuance of the Upham's Corner Post Office.”

Then he talked about the financial problems of the Postal Service including the volume loss of 43 million pieces of mail since 2008.

Discontinuance Meeting - Upham's Corner Post Office Discontinuance Meeting - Upham's Corner Post Office
Discontinuance Process Explained

“We are looking at every facet of the operations of the post office - post offices, mail processing facilities and transportation costs.  We will do whatever is necessary to drive down costs to get ourselves on a better financial footing.”

 going through the same process as the Upham's Corner Post Office. 

The Upham's Corner Post Office review was initiated on November 8 and is open for a period of 60 days, closing on January 9, 2012 with 3700 post offices across the United States going through the same process. 

These are the criteria to be put on the 'Discontinuance List.'
  1. Generating revenue of less than $600,000 annually
  2. The average revenue for 2010 is less than the average revenue for fiscal years 08 and 09
  3. Five or more active post offices within a two-mile radius of the Upham's Corner Post Office
We do not take any tax dollars at all for the Postal Service.  Our revenue needs to call cover all of our expenses .  Post office revenue is generated by the sale of postal products.

What drove the decision to put Upham's Corner on the list was the number of post offices close by.  The following steps are being taken during the 60 day period.
  1. We will hold a community meeting which is what were doing here today. 
  2. All residents that live in ZIP code 02125 will receive a questionnaire from the Postal Service.  It is the opportunity to voice your concerns on how the closing of the post office may affect you. Note: Questionnaires will also be available at the Upham's Corner post office and at the Roxbury Main Post Office. 
  3. At the end of 60 days information gathered from the questionnaires and through comments made here this evening will become part of the official docket which will go down to Washington DC.
One of three decisions will be made.
  1. Remand the docket back to the district because the documentation was not complete
  2. Leave the post office open
  3. Close the post office
If a decision is made to close the post office, a statement will be posted in the post office lobby of the Upham's Corner Post Office for 30 days during which anyone can appeal the decision to the postal regulatory commission and the post office will not close earlier than 60 days after that 30 day posting.

Paul Kilduff First Speaker

The first speaker Paul Kilduff, President of American Postal Workers Union Local 100, clarified the fact that “cost cutting” did not include the postal employees but rather was aimed at decisions that affect the local communities.  Discontinuance Meeting - Upham's Corner Post Office

“I represent every window clerk that you know here in your community and in the cities.  This decision is not about the postal workers.  Whatever decision is made, they are guaranteed a job.  They will be paid.  They will not be laid off.  This decision is not about them.  This decision is about you - the customer and the community - how you are being affected.

You may get the impression the post office is going to save money by not paying salaries of the window clerks.  That is not true.  They are guaranteed to continue to be paid no matter where they are. 

Yes the postal service is under a deficit because of an event that took place in 2006.  Congress put us in this mess back in 2006.  Congress can get us out of this mess.  Currently there are several bills pending, and I believe we will have released very shortly hopefully by the end of the year.  If that happens, we should be well on our way hopefully where we have millions of dollars in the black there will not be a need to close any post offices.

If the Postal Service were to close every single post office of the 3700 today, the post office would save one third of 1% of their operating budget.  It doesn't make sense. 

What they could do instead of hurting the working people in communities like this, they could raise the price of the big mailers and make them pay more.  They would not have to close one single post office.  The community post offices of the Postal Service are there to provide service for you.  It would be a mistake to close the post office.

The post office in Upham's Corner made over $150,000 in profit.  It doesn't make sense to close a post office that has a huge profit.  It is a disgrace that anyone would even consider closing this post office.  The people who want to do this should come down here and look at everybody's face they are affecting. 

If this community post office closes down, this community is going to take a step backwards.  The Upham's Corner community has made progress recently.  There are four post offices in Dorchester and are planning to close two of them.  It doesn't make sense.

I know people who use the post office to cash their checks, get money orders to pay their bills.  They can't go to a bank because they are on a fixed income.  They can't afford to pay five or six dollars for a money order at a bank.  That's wrong. 

Congress made this mess.  It's up to you, to the community voices here tonight.  Call your congressman and tell them your stories.  'I have an elderly parent who can't walk a mile.'    This community does not deserve that."

Editorial Comment

In contrast with the Upham's Corner Post Office, the Grove Hall Post Office owns building.  The Upham's Corner Post Office pays rent.  How high is the rent? 

Perhaps the community could sit down with the landlord and the Postal Service to find out if lowering the rent would make a significant difference in the decision to keep the post office open.


Meeting Notices in English Only

A resident spoke out: 

I'm a resident of this community for 15 years.  I was very disappointed to see that the announcements for this meeting were done only in English.  It left out of huge part of our community.  In our community the post office is very important to us.  My neighbors use the post office to keep track of their paperwork.

Mr. Holland replied: 

The question of signage has come up multiple times.  Why is it only in English?  This program is run nationally.  There are very specific guidelines. 

We do it in English only for a reason.  We do not want to alienate any ethnic group.  Whatever languages we pick out, there could be other groups that would be offended that we did not reach out to them.  It is a national program so they say English only.

Another resident commented:

Take a look at the people in this room.  How many people are white in this room?  You can count them on one hand.  How many people here do not speak English as their primary language?

Take a look at the people sitting at the front table.  Take a look at the Washington bureauocrats who have come up with decisions that affect our community.  They don't know what they're doing.  What is happening here in Upham's Corner is wrong.


Editorial Comment

"We do not want to alienate any ethnic group.  Whatever languages we pick out, there could be other groups that would be offended that we did not reach out to them. "

That the Postal Service could make such a statement is a true indication of how far away they lie from the realities of life in small communities like Upham's Corner. 

Schools, banks, churches, non-profit organizations, our city government - all of us acknowledge the need to communicate multi-lingually.  It would have taken very little effort to sit down with each affected community (a total of 30 in the Boston area) and ask the question:  'Into what languages should we translate the notice?'

Why is the process so "top down"?  Let the community decide.  Work in partnership with the community.


Effect on Business Community

Max MacCarthy, Upham’s Corner Main Street, spoke up for all the small businesses in the business district. 

What do you tell small business owners who close their stores for a short period during the day to go to the post office and handle business if the local post office closes?  That is a regular habit with our businesses. 

They open on time and take small breaks during the day to go to the post office.  If they had to go to Dudley Square, they would have to have the businesses closed for an hour or two.

Mr. Holland proceeded to explain that many postal services are available via the internet.  Mr MacCarthy explained that many of our local businesses DO NOT use computers. 

Editorial Comment

Post Master Holland stated that the Postal Service is not in the business of offering computers to business owners.  In other words if the small businesses want to take advantage of postal services online [for example, if the UC Post Office closes], they will have to "computer-up" themselves.

That is NOT the point.  To be in business there is no requirement for a smalll business to either use a computer or be computer savvy.

Who is it in our society that is pressing everyone to automate towards the computers and the internet?  Obviously, the businesses that will profit based on creating a growing dependency on pay-for-technological services. 

This is another indication that the Postal Service and our Federal Government are not in touch with how Small America operates.

Profitable?  If you can't sell Profitable Services?

Not all postal services are profitable.  "Express" services help a post office to make money.  Stamps, money orders and standard mail services do not add to their profitability.

Resident:

Why is the Upham's Corner Post Office not granted the sale of postal items that are profitable such as passport services?

Editorial Comment

The Roxbury Post Office offers passport services but Upham's Corner does not and passport services help make a post office profitable. That this service would be useful in Upham's Corner is indicated by the fact that Amado Enterprises offers international services such as passport services and our community is heavily first-generation immigrant.

Fair Game

Is it fair that a post office would not be provided the opportunity to offer profitable services and then would be judged unprofitable?

Proximity to other Post Offices

The Postal Service has identified 4 other post offices within the one to two mile service distance that would be available if the Upham's Corner Post Office were closed.

A resident commented.

When you use the criterion of a one or two-mile distance, you are obviously assuming the use of personal cars.  If you drive, then driving an additional mile to get to a different post office is inconsequential.

Here in Upham's Corner, many people predominantly use public transportation.  If the Upham's Corner Post Office is closed, how long will it take to get by bus to Fields Corner?  After waiting for the #15 or the #17, and traveling by bus to Fields Corner, at least a half-hour if not 45 minutes will have passed.

The same is true for the Main Post Office in Roxbury.  Furthermore, the level of service at the Dudley branch is TERRIBLE.  There is one clerk, the lines are long and no one working there seems to care.

Getting to the other "nearby" post offices is even worse with a requirement of using more than one bus to get there. 


Postmaster: 

The people who set the criterion of a $600,000 in revenue do not understand the issues that are being raised here tonight.  So when it comes to having to cart a package across town with children in tow, they don’t understand that unless it becomes part of the record. 

Editorial Comment

The shift in urban areas is away from automobiles and towards public transportation. 
The shift is also away from the "suburban" model where people live outside the city and travel into it for services. 
The shift is towards a sustainable village model with all local services present to minimize the carbon footprint.

In urban settings we're trying to get away from the use of automobiles.  Using a car-centric standard for urban areas does a disservice not only to the community but the entire country. 

Based on a public transportation infrastructure you need to recalculate proximity and measure that distance through access time and not miles.


Which is more important? Offering a Service or Making a Profit?

A resident asked a poignant question:

Who started the Postal Service and what was the main driving force - making a profit or offering a service?

If you are putting money before service, consider the many elderly we have around the corner.  We also have our businesses here that are not in the wealthy category.  Many of them are struggling to survive.  If you are just looking at the postal service from the question of money, then as a poor community a decision will be made to remove the service to our community because it's all just a question of money. 

If you're making a profit, why are you closing the post office?  You didn't answer the question. 

If the post office is making a profit even if it is redundant, why would you consider closing it?


Another resident spoke up:

We need to have an Occupy Upham's Corner movement.  We need to have that now! 

All we have heard this evening has been "money, money, money."  What has been left out of the equation is exactly what Marty said - it is the people who live in this community that have been left out. 

What we need to look at is how the people in our community operate and what the post office means to us in our way of life.


Editorial Comment

The United States is currently on a shift towards the "business" model in all aspects of our lives - big businesses making big decisions about everything:
  • How we grow food (non-local and non-sustainable)
  • Healthcare (big insurance and pharma deciding how healthcare is run)
  • How to run a school
  • Whether we get the basic services we have always come to expect from the Federal Government (if it doesn't make a profit, ...).
What are the foundations here in Upham's Corner for a reasonable society?  Might that include the local grocer, hardware story, bookstore, and POST OFFICE??

Has the Decision Already Been Made?

According to the Post Master,

The discontinuance list was generated from their national headquarters.  It wasn't generated locally. 

A resident responded:

The list was made by people who didn't care about the demographics of the various locations around the country.  What will be different this time if all the notes that are being taken in effect are going back to the same place?

How do we know the next time around the decision-makers will be paying more attention to the people issues?


The Post Master replied:

When the post office generated the list of 3700 post offices scheduled for closing, they did not know anything about the demographics of those post offices.  That's why we're here tonight so we can hear from the community on why the post office should not be close. 

We have been contacting folks at the federal level and on the local level - the local politicians.

He encouraged the community to continue to gather responses, that the decision has NOT yet been made.  However, the nature of the community response will determine if the post office stays open.  It is ALREADY on the discontinuance list.  The only way to get it removed is to show an overwhelming response to why it should be kept open.

Here are examples of what we have received from some of the other post offices on the list. 
  • We have 1500 businesses that have come in and become part of the official docket. 
  • We've had letters written from elderly complexes from elderly who could not make it to the meeting.
  • We met with the local officials representing their cities and towns and that has become part of the official record. 
  • We had congressmen come to us and submit documentation stating that they are in support of keeping a post office open. 


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