Politicians are notorious for insisting that the US Postal Service be run “like a business”, and then complaining bitterly when an office or plant in their constituency is downsized or closed. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski has taken it a step further now with a letter to the Postmaster General demanding the replacement of an individual employee who’s retiring this month. When Anchorage-based Network Operations Specialist Steven Deaton leaves on May 31, the USPS plans to shift his duties to the Western Area office in Denver. Murkowski says that’s unacceptable.
The Senator claims that “Alaskaâ€™s mail service is more complicated than the majority of systems nationwide”, which is true- the state enjoys a subsidized air freight system called “Bypass Mail”, which allows remote communities to ship in things like groceries for far less than it would cost in a free market system. (Yes, many fiercely individualistic Alaskans claim they can’t get by without help from a federal agency!) It seems the Senator, and the small air carriers who make a profit providing the service fear losing the special treatment they’ve received if they have to call someone in Denver when there’s a problem. Here’s the press release issued by Murkowski’s office:
WASHINGTON, D.C. â€“ Senator Lisa Murkowski today sent a letter to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, warning him the impending restructuring and relocation of Alaskaâ€™s Western Area Distribution Networks office to Denver without a transition period is short-sighted. â€œAlaskaâ€™s mail service is more complicated than the majority of systems nationwide,â€ said Murkowski. â€œI understand the United States Postal Service needs to rethink everything to keep its costs under control, but this position has a steep learning curve.â€
The United States Postal Service plans to shutter the Western Area Distribution Network office in Anchorage and transfer those duties and responsibilities to its Denver office. The Network Operations Specialist, Steven Deaton, who has run this office is retiring after twenty-five years of service â€“ taking with him an extensive understanding of Alaskaâ€™s unique mail transportation environment and the complexity of federal laws that regulate how mail is moved in Alaska. The USPS plan does not include a hand-off or phasing-in plan for the new Denver specialist.
â€œI am extremely concerned to learn that there does not appear to be any transition or training plan for transferring this knowledge and experience to the Denver operation,â€ Murkowski continued. â€œPlacing the responsibility for intra-Alaska mail and bypass mail service in the hands of untrained personnel two thousand miles and two time zones away without a clear sense of our Alaskaâ€™s routes and challenges may help the Postal Serviceâ€™s bottom line but will impact our vast stateâ€™s economy and connectedness.â€
Senator Murkowskiâ€™s letter (attached) encourages the United States Postal Service to engage in a two-to-three month transition period in order to give the new director a more robust sense of the Alaska postal systemâ€™s unique challenges â€“ and track record.