Los Angeles Times (December 7, 2013) "When the postal service announced plans to sell Berkeley's 1914 main post office, decorated in New Deal-era art, the town rose up." read more

Wall Street Journal (December 3, 2013) "New Route to Stop Sale of Berkeley, Calif., Post Office Zoning Measure Would Keep Facility Public, Chilling Its Market Value" read more

We must organize to win!

1. The Zoning Overlay Ordinance to save Berkeley’s Historic Civic Center District and our historic Post Office has gained national attention. Let’s make it the law. Contact our Mayor and your City Council Member by Phone or Email, and ask him/her to vote YES.
We expect the Zoning Overlay to be on the Council agenda on January 21st or 28th, 2014.

2. Respond to the killing of the Letter Carrier, Tyson Jerome “T.J.” Barnette, after dark on November 23, 2013 in Maryland. He would never have been delivering mail after dark but for USPS mismanagement, under staffing, and the mass closings of mail processing centers. Monetary reasons are the why of after dark mail delivery.
The USPS must never again “lose a life to save a dollar.”

3. Protest the privatization of retail postal services in Staples stores. The USPS is out
to bust the union and take away the postal workers’ living wage salaries, so they’re making
Staples employees do the work. By using underpaid and under-trained workers,
USPS is putting the security and safety of our mail at risk.

4. Deteriorating services at our downtown post office are affecting our community. Some patrons can no longer pick up their mail at 2000 Allston and must travel to a post office that is farther from their home. And extra driving is required by letter carriers’ picking up their day’s mail from distant post offices. All this increases the burning of fossil fuels.
Documenting how the cutbacks hurt us will strengthen our legal actions. Mail to NPOC,
PO Box 1234, Berkeley, CA 94701. Or email to savetheberkeleypostoffice@gmail.com
 
 
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Tyson Jerome "T.J." Barnette

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Singing on the Steps of the Berkeley Main Post Office -- 2000 Allston Way

Twenty-six year old Tyson Jerome "T.J." Barnette was shot and killed at 7:20 p.m. on November 23rd while delivering
mail in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Barnette would never have been delivering mail after dark but for USPS mismanagement, understaffing, and the mass closings of our mail processing centers.
The manufactured USPS financial crisis is the why of after dark mail delivery.

Hali Hammer, Dave Welsh and Anna DeLeon will lead us in song.

On Tuesday, Tuesday, December 17th, 2000 Allston Way, Berkeley from 12 noon to 1:30 pm, join with us on the post office steps to honor the memory of “T.J.” Barnette.

Never again can we allow the USPS to “lose a life to save a dollar.”

Click "Read More" for Tyson Jerome Barnette's obituary in the Rock Hill, SC, Herald and for the letter from Eleanor Holmes Norton to Postmaster General Donahoe.

 
 

Connect the dots...STOP THE SALE!
11 a.m. 2000 Allston Way

Meet at the Berkeley Post Office, with signs and banners. Hear speakers and sing with the music.

12 Noon March to Connect the Dots...between FedEx...UPS...and the Blum Center at U.C.
and protest those who want to privatize our public postal service and eliminate union jobs.

We will then march back to the Berkeley Post Office.

...Save Our Post Office!

 
 
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Gray Brechin (photo credit Bill Woodcock)

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Click to read Gray Brechin's comments to the USPS OIG audit on the disposal of historic properties. (updated on 12/31/2013)

Sale of main Berkeley post office building means loss of rich history

by Grey Brechin

Students, like others who pass by the tents pitched on the steps of Berkeley’s century-old Downtown post office, may well wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, we’re all using the Internet now instead of popping letters to Mom in those disappearing street mailboxes, and the lines at that post office and many others grow irritatingly long as the clerks who used to staff them vanish as well. A recent article in The Daily Californian attributes U.S. Postal Service spokesman Augustine Ruiz as explaining that as a result of a decline in mail volume, the Postal Service only needs to retain 4,000 of its 57,000 square feet of space and that keeping ownership of the entire building would not be economical. Disposing of a tax-exempt property one holds to lease space elsewhere doesn’t make long-range economic sense, but doing so doesn’t enter into the accounting of current Postal Service management. That the public paid for Berkeley’s post office also goes unmentioned in the service’s press releases. Indeed, the very notion of the public good represented by the ennobling architecture of the Downtown post office as well as the buildings at the center of the UC Berkeley campus has faded in tandem with the right of every American to have quality and tuition-free education along with a cheap and efficient postal service mandated by the Constitution.

Take a look at the materials, craftsmanship and design of buildings such as Doe Library, Wheeler Hall, the Campanile and Hearst Gym. Equivalent to those of expensive Ivy League colleges, those buildings and others at the heart of what was once simply the state university represent that taxpayers and wealthy individuals previously believed students from even the remotest parts of the state deserved to to become fully-rounded citizens. They were elements of two Hearst-sponsored plans that sought to create an ideal City of Learning on the hills facing the Golden Gate Bridge. By 1914, the treasury allotted a generous bonus to erect a post office in Berkeley worthy of the nearby university. It was modeled after Brunelleschi’s famous Foundling Hospital in Florence, Italy. During the Great Depression, the Treasury Relief Art Project further embellished the post office with both a mural and a sculpture at the same time that the Works Progress Administration set female artists to work laying mosaics on the university’s brick powerhouse east of Sather Gate. Those mosaics celebrate the expansive power of the humanities.

The language of the public good is neither spoken nor understood by those who now run both our postal service and once-public universities. Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe let Mayor Tom Bates know that he feels Berkeley’s pain, informing the mayor that “the Postal Service is the first to acknowledge how important it is to preserve our historic buildings, which is why we are going through a lengthy and transparent process to assure their protection before they are sold.” Three months later, Tom Samra, vice president of facilities, wrote that though he was “sympathetic to the concerns raised by (the city, elected officials and numerous other parties),” he was denying their appeals so that there “is no right to further administrative or judicial review of this decision.” Though listed on the National Register and paid for by the public it serves, Berkeley’s post office and others don’t represent a trust to those such as Donohoe and Samra but simply real are estate assets to be flogged by their exclusively contracted agent CBRE, the broker chaired by UC Regent Richard Blum, husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Although not for sale yet, the decay of the classically inspired buildings at the core of the UC Berkeley campus suggests that those who run the university ever more like a business, rather than a public trust, regard them as plum sites of opportunity for more profitable ventures. While they have recently poured hundreds of millions of dollars into new sports and biotech facilities, buildings such as the magnificent women’s gymnasium designed by Julia Morgan and Bernard Mayberk as a memorial to UC benefactor Phoebe Hearst slouch toward ruin.

The physical decay and outright sale of what their builders intended as monuments of unaging intellect represents not just a betrayal of the public trust but also the loss of an ethical language that created a world-class university and universal postal service. We must recover that language to understand what is being taken from us and to whose advantage it is taken at our collective loss.

This article originally appeared in the Daily Cal on August 5, 2013
 
 

“If it is enacted, this bill will lead to the demise of the Postal Service.”  -Cliff Guffey, American Postal Workers Union President

Corporate Coalition Endorses Issa's Bill

FedEx, Pitney-Bowes and the National Association of Advertising Distributors are among the 37 corporations and trade associations that make up the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service. In their own words, "the Coalition broadly represents the $1.3 trillion industry, mailers and their suppliers, employing 7.8 million private sector workers, which relies upon USPS."

Issa satisfied the corporate "vital concern" by maintaining the CPI-based indexed ratesetting system.  Unlike first-class mail which covers "attributable costs" by 202 per cent, the Postal Service lost 1.5 billion dollars last year on periodicals and standard mail flats. That $1.5 billion is over sixty per cent of the Postal Service's operating loss in FY 2012.

Right wing trifecta: Degrade Services, Attack Unions, Push Privatization

In a jarring example of the ascendancy of corporations and decline of democratic government, on Wednesday, July 24, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted along party lines to approve a postal bill introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa. All 22 Republicans on the Committee voted to advance the bill while all 17 Democrats on the Committee voted against the extreme proposal.

This bill would spell disaster for the Postal Service and customers who rely on it. H.R. 2748 would close post offices, stations and branches; consolidate plants; privatize operations, and degrade service standards. It also would harm workers by prohibiting postal unions and management from negotiating protection against layoffs; increasing health insurance costs, and limiting collective bargaining rights.

Deprive Customers of Vital Services
  • Impose a two- to three-day delivery standard for first-class mail;
  • Close post offices, stations and branches;
  • Consolidate plants;
  • Reduce door delivery and end Saturday letter delivery.
Punish Workers
  • Prohibit postal unions and management from negotiating protection against layoffs;
  • Increase health insurance costs for employees;
  • Limit workers’ collective bargaining rights;
  • Reduce compensation for injured workers with dependents and force them to retire.
Privatize Operations
  • Establish “competition advocates” to promote contracting out;
  • Prohibit customers from appealing decisions to close post offices, stations or branches if a “contract postal unit” is opened within two miles;
  • Establish a “temporary governance authority” whose broad powers would end only after the USPS achieves two consecutive years of profitability.


Some House Bills that protect the USPS and serve the common good

  • Postal Service Protection Act of 2013: S.316 in the Senate and HR.630 in the House. The Sanders-DeFazio offers true comprehensive postal reform. It's co-sponsored by 165 members of the House and by 28 Senators.
  • Postal Service Stabilization Act of 2013: HR.961 was introduced by Stephen Lynch (D-MA) and addresses pension overpayments by the USPS to the Federal Employees Retirement System. The bill is co-sponsored by 133 members of the House.
  • Protect Overnight Delivery Act: HR.2459 was introduced by Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). The bill directs the Postal Service to restore the December 31, 2011, delivery standards. The bill is co-sponsored by 73 members of the House.
Darrell Issa's bill has two co-sponsors in the House: Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Dennis Ross (R-FL).


 
 

The Office of the Inspector General of the United States Postal Service is currently conducting an audit on the "Disposal of Historic Properties." 
They ask the question:
"Do you think the Postal Service follows proper procedures when disposing of historic buildings? Also, considering its financial constraints, what should the Postal Service’s role be in maintaining historic assets?"
You can comment on your experience with the USPS on the OIG web page: click here.


Or, email the Office of the Inspector General directly at auditprojects@uspsoig.gov
with “Disposal of Historic Properties” in the subject line.

Bronx Congressman José E. Serrano
places a provision in the annual spending bill that protects historic post offices

Washington, DC – July 19, 2013 – Congressman José E. Serrano today announced that he had succeeded in including a provision in an annual appropriations bill moving through the House of Representatives that would ensure that the Postal Service’s proposed sale of the historic Bronx General Post Office receives extra scrutiny.

“I feel strongly that the US Postal Service’s plan to sell the Bronx General Post Office is ill-considered, and perhaps did not follow the requirements of the laws governing such transactions,” said Congressman Serrano. “With the inclusion of this provision in the annual spending bill guiding parts of the USPS budget, Congress now shares my concerns, and we are going to ensure that all laws and guidelines have been followed.

“These actions follow on the heels of an ongoing investigation--undertaken at my urging--by the Inspector General of the Postal Service into whether the Postal Service has followed all relevant laws in the sales of historic post offices, and whether they have followed those laws in the case of the Bronx General Post Office. My provision in the bill calls for the suspension of the sale of historic properties like the Bronx GPO until this investigation is complete, and all the laws and guidelines have been satisfactorily complied with.

“It should go without saying that we expect the Postal Service to follow every single requirement if they are determined to sell the Bronx General Post Office. It is too important of a building to our community, especially with its historically significant murals, which were created by artist Ben Shahn in the Depression, and have been enjoyed by Bronx residents for generations. They should not be given to a private party never to be seen by the public again.

“We cannot have the gems of our communities, often landmarked and
protected, sold by the USPS to the top bidder in a wanton and careless manner. These properties have unique circumstances and deserve great care and thought if the USPS can truly no longer use them. I am concerned that this is not happening in the rush to reduce costs, and I am glad that my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee share this concern.”

click for a copy of Congressman Serrano's Press Release

The Serrano amendment to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill

The Committee is concerned by reports that the Postal Service is attempting to sell off many of its historic properties without regard for the preservation of these buildings. The Committee is particularly concerned that the Postal Service may not be following Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act in the relocation and sales process of these historic properties. The Committee notes that the Office of the Inspector General is currently conducting an investigation into whether the Postal Service is complying with its statutory and regulatory requirements in the relocation of services, closure, and sale of these types of properties. Until such an analysis is complete, the Committee believes the Postal Service should refrain from the relocation of services from historic post offices, and believes the Postal Service should suspend the sale of any historic post office.

 
 
In a July 18, 2013 letter, United States Postal Service Facilities Vice-President Tom Samra affirmed the USPS facilities decision of April 19, 2013 to relocate retail services located at 2000 Allston Way.
In the letter Mr. Samra used the familiar financial justification: "In reaching this decision, I considered all of the public input received , but the concerns expressed do not outweigh the dire financial circumstances facing the Postal Service."
Click here to read Mr. Samra's letter.
Please comment. And check back for further analysis of the decision.
We have just begun to fight.
 
 

Senator Boxer is developing a policy on the Postal Service and on protecting historic town center post offices.

On Wednesday, May 29, 2013, representatives of Save the Berkeley Post Office met with Jennifer Tang, Senior Field Representative in Senator Boxer's Oakland office. After brief introductions, we presented Ms Tang with letters from over 270 of Senator Boxer's constituents asking Senator Boxer to co-sponsor S.316, the Senate version of Sanders-DeFazio (the Postal Protection Act of 2013), and take immediate action to stop the sale of America's historic post offices. We also gave Ms Tang a petition for Senator Boxer.  The petition was signed by over four hundred California residents and demanded that the Downtown Berkeley Post Office remain in the public trust and that the USPS not sell the building.

Brian Turner, Senior Field Representative for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, along with Gale Garcia, Annie Hallatt, Ying Lee, Mike Lonergan, Harvey Smith and Margot Smith of Save the Berkeley Post Office, answered questions from Ms Tang and Maria Henderson, a constituent services representative from Senator Boxer's staff, on the current manufactured financial crisis of the US Postal Service and its affect on historic town center post offices like Berkeley's downtown post office.

On behalf of the Berkeley community, we again asked Senator Boxer to join twenty-seven of her Senate colleagues and sign on as a co-sponsor to Senator Bernie Sanders' Postal Protection Act of 2013. Further we repeated the need for protections for historic post offices that are not in Sanders-DeFazio and because of the imminent loss of many historic post offices we asked that Senator Boxer lead her colleagues in a call for a moratorium on the sale of historic post offices.

We also included in our package and discussed letters from State Senator Loni Hancock and labor leader Dolores Huerta urging Senator Boxer to support the Sanders-DeFazio bill.

National Trust representative Brian Turner stressed that historic post offices are frequently an anchor for traditional Main Street commercial and civic centers and that their loss has a broad affect on the health of historic districts. Currently, the Postal Service is not protecting historic post offices with a consistent, sensitive and transparent process that follows established federal preservation law.

Ms. Tang advised us that Senator Boxer is aware of the issues confronting the Postal Service and that Senator Boxer's policy on the Postal Service is still developing.  Ms Tang assured us that our concerns will be made known to Senator Boxer. 

S.316 needs Senator Boxer's support.  And Senator Boxer needs to hear from her constituents that we demand a Postal Service that serves the public good and insist on preserving America's historic town center post offices. 

Please take the time now to contact Senator Boxer.

112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-3553

(202) 224-0454 fax

email Senator Barbara Boxer

click for a sample letter

As of June 19th, 28 Senators have signed on to Sanders-DeFazio as co-sponsors and 162 Members of the House, including 31 members of California's Congressional delegation. Below is a map of support in the House of Representatives.
 
 
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The Bronx Post Office belongs to all Americans
The deadline for appeals on the Bronx General Post Office was April 13, 2013, or about 40 days before the deadline for appeals on Berkeley's Main Post Office.

Click here to view or download a copy of the Bronx decision letter from Tom Samra, USPS Facilities Vice-President.
In a five-page letter dated June 3, 2013, USPS Facilities Vice-President Tom Samra denied all appeals received on the relocation and sale of the Bronx General Post Office.
Samra's letter groups the appeal concerns into six categories: impact on historic resources (including the murals), failure to follow historic preservation rules, failure to follow community relations rules, failure to follow environmental law, access to postal service, negative impact on the community.
Samra dismisses all concerns with "the objections expressed do not outweigh the financial exigencies facing the Postal Service."
The entire decision and appeal process has taken place inside the Postal Service Facilities Department but the letter concludes: "This is the final decision of the Postal Service with respect to this matter, and there is no right to further administrative or judicial review."

Click here for background on the murals, the Bronx General Post Office, and the fight to keep this national treasure open serving the public good.
 
 
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The threatened Redlands post office at sunset
If you are opposed to the sale
of America's historic post offices,
please ask Senator Dianne Feinstein
to take action.


Click here to send an email


Click here for a sample letter

Report on Tuesday, May 21st Meeting in Senator Feinstein's
San Francisco office

Senator Dianne Feinstein recognizes that Congress must act to restore financial stability to the U.S. Postal Service. 

John Murray, Senator Feinstein’s field representative for the East Bay, met with Annie Hallatt, Ying Lee, Mike Lonergan, Sharon Maldonado, Harvey Smith and Margot Smith in Senator Feinstein’s San Francisco offices last Tuesday, May 21st. 

We were there to ask Senator Feinstein to join with twenty-seven of her Senate colleagues and become a co-sponsor of Senator Bernie Sanders Postal Protection Act of 2013.  We also asked Senator Feinstein to sponsor an amendment to protect historic post office buildings and their art, and to lead her colleagues in calling for an immediate moratorium on the sale of our historic downtown post offices.

But first we presented Mr. Murray with a stack of over 250 letters written by Senator Feinstein’s constituents and a petition list with over 400 signatures.

Mr. Murray advised us that as a matter of policy Senator Feinstein does not intervene on behalf of an individual community that may be adversely affected by a U.S. Postal Service decision.  Harvey Smith, president of the National New Deal Preservation Association, pointed out to Mr. Murray that in this case we are asking Senator Feinstein to act to help a broad number of California communities and to save what is a national heritage of historic town center post offices and New Deal Art.  

At least seventy per cent of USPS financial losses are due to a Congressional mandate to prefund retiree healthcare.  Mr. Murray assured us that Senator Feinstein not only supports changing the current formula for funding retiree health care but voted to do exactly that in a previous session of Congress.  Unfortunately the bill did not pass the House and Mr. Murray cautioned us that, in his opinion, the passage of postal reform remains more difficult in the House than in the Senate.

On an encouraging note Mr. Murray assured us that Senator Feinstein pays close attention to the concerns of her constituents and that the senator is briefed every week on all meetings with constituent groups.