U.S. Postal Service should save the best from closing


Let’s stipulate that if 258 post- al processing centers in the United States are slated to be closed, there are 258 communities arguing that their facility should be saved.

That means that as impressive as Wednesday night’s turnout at Boardman High School may have been — especially for a night midway between the Christmas and New Year holidays — it’s going to take more than passion to save downtown Youngstown’s mail-processing and distribution center from closure.

Just as it’s going to take more than turning out at public meetings to save any of the other nine processing facilities in Ohio that the U.S. Postal Service wants to eliminate. Those are in Akron, Athens, Canton, Chillicothe, Cincinnati, Dayton, Ironton, Steubenville and Toledo.

It should also be clear that playing the pity card is not going to have much of an effect — no small city or town can afford to lose hundreds of jobs, and even big cities can’t absorb such losses in this economy.

It’s going to come down to two things: what makes the best business sense for the post office and, to an extent no one can really be sure, who has the strongest political pull.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the Postal Regulatory Commission has concluded that some of the data used by the U.S. Postal Service is questionable. “In many cases the selection process ignored whether an alternate post office was nearby and which closures would reduce costs the most and lacked sufficient data and analysis to make the best decisions, the Postal Regulatory Commission said,” according to the Post.

Accentuate the advantages

That’s certainly a good starting point for Youngstown boosters who want to make an argument that the postal service has overlooked some obvious advantages to keeping the downtown mail processing and distribution center open. The postal service “had a simple screening process, but it did not optimize the choices. They don’t have really good data that tells them which post offices will continue to grow or be on a downhill path,” the commission’s chairman, Ruth Goldway, told the Post.

That’s enough to make anyone wonder whether postal service officials considered some of the points Dominic Corso, president of Local 443 of the American Postal Workers Union, made Thursday at a Mahoning County commissioners meeting. Corso noted that the Youngstown facility is well equipped, including a biohazard detection system. But even more important, it is not subject to the traffic jams that occur in Cleveland or Pittsburgh, and it has access to a network of highways that is equal to or better than either of those cities. And we’d note that while the postal service doesn’t own airplanes, it contracts with various carriers, and Youngstown would have the quickest access to an airport that can handle any cargo plane that any contractor owns.

The postal service says it has to change to survive. And that’s doubtless true. But the changes should be constructed in a way that allows the service to do more with less. The postal service has a unique charge: It must service every household in the United States. And while there are those who are quick to claim that the post office is an anachronism in this electronic age, the letter carrier remains a vital link to hundreds of millions of Americans.

The marvel is that what is likely the best, quickest and cheapest mail service in the world, finds itself with so many targets on its back. In its eagerness to assuage its critics, it may be rushing toward an ill-advised restructuring that will do more harm than good.

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