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Should the USPS close Iowa City’s downtown postal substation?

BY DI EDITORIAL STAFF | APRIL 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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YES

Does Mailboxes of Iowa City have a second branch within walking distance of its downtown one?

The answer is “no,” because the owners have at least an inkling of common sense.

To a fiscal conservative such as myself, this is a no-brainer; it’s honestly hard for me to think of a more obvious thing to cut than the downtown post office. That is prime real estate. If the downtown post office closes, people can go to the other downtown shipping service, and for those who have some intrinsic hatred for local businesses, there’s a Postal Service post office across the street from the Johnson County Courthouse. If we’re serious about cutting spending, we should let this one go.

Most, if not all, government officials in the United States are looking for ways to cut spending. The voters who elected them want to cut spending, and the dire state of the vast majority federal, state, and local governments support it entirely.

But it seems like each time some government asset or service makes its way to the budget chopping block, the same electorate that wanted to alleviate budget deficits cries foul. Education cuts are perhaps the most widely disputed, and for good reason: They can lead districts to lay off teachers, cut key programs, and drop Advanced Placement and remedial programs. Removing the downtown post office, on the other hand, will either make people walk a few blocks more or just go to the other downtown postal service.

The Postal Service is trying to become more efficient. It’s competing with FedEx, so that makes sense. The Postal Service lost $8.5 billion last year; FedEx more than doubled its profits in 2010. These are the kind of statistics that people point to that advocate privatizing the Postal Service.

As for pedestrians who are elderly or disabled, I can only hope someone will point them to Mailboxes of Iowa City (a great business, I might add), located next to the futon shop and near the residential end of downtown. For lazy college students, some might assume you’d be making frequent stops at Cheba Hut, which is right next door.

As a marketing student, my advice to Mailboxes of Iowa City: It’s time to start advertising in both The Daily Iowan and AARP Magazine.

— Chris Steinke

NO

While the amount of mail sent through the U.S. Postal Service has decreased annually, there is no negating that some things just can’t be sent via e-mail.

That’s where the downtown Iowa City branch comes in: For college kids sending off applications before they head to the coffee shop to study, for proximal businesses that ship out orders on a daily basis, for downtown shoppers sending a Mother’s Day gift — at one point or another, everyone benefits from the downtown branch.

Yet in the coming six months, the friendly little substation on Washington Street may face the ax. It is one of 60 that is being considered for closure to help rein in costs, according to acting manager of post-office operations Rory Sullivan. But Sullivan must take one fact into consideration (along with the public backlash that met his visit on Wednesday): Is the downtown post office, small as it may be, turning a profit? If so, why close it?

It is regrettable that the Postal Service is under such financial duress that it must close its doors across the nation — but in the interests of effective cost-cutting, it should seek out those offices that lose money, see few customers daily, and are not integral to their neighborhoods. It is rare to walk past the Washington Street location and not see people, often a whole line, waiting for service.

Additionally, closing this facility would strike yet another blow to area businesses. Already paying sky-high rent for prime downtown space, many stores rely on the post office to conduct their daily business and ship out goods.

Furthermore, who is going to provide accessible mailing services to the elderly and handicapped residents of the Washington Street Ecumenical Towers if the downtown substation closes? Will international students receive the same amount of customer service and patience at the larger branch? It would appear that until the Postal Service can drum up some hard statistics on the use and profitability of the office, it should set its sights elsewhere.

— Kirsten Jacobsen


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