Our Opinion: Mail processing plan should be scrapped

A mail carrier loads a mail truck with mail on March 1 in Lake Tahoe, Calif.

A mail carrier loads a mail truck with mail on March 1 in Lake Tahoe, Calif.

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President Ronald Reagan expressed what many Americans felt in 1986 when he said in a speech “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'”

The horror of those words spoken by the 40th president have resonated with Americans for decades, and lately, now with a proposal to shift the U.S. Postal Services processing operations from Reno to Sacramento.

Definitely, this will not be smooth traveling over the golden brick road — Interstate 80 — that crosses over the Sierra Nevada.

At issue is the postal service’s plan to move its packaging and letter processing to Sacramento. If anything during the past year has united both Nevada’s state and congressional representatives, it’s this proposal.

Nevada Secretary of State Francisco “Cisco” Aguilar sees a major problem with the proposal as do our U.S. senators, Catherine Cortez-Masto and Jacky Rosen, and Congressman Mark Amodei.

They all express concern at Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s muddled transparency by repositioning the processing center, which is not only a Nevada problem but also elsewhere in other states. The USPS says the Sacramento plan will save $4.5 million annually.

Cortez-Masto, Rosen and Amodei shot off a letter to DeJoy faster than you can say Pony Express.

“The USPS standard for local Reno mail received and delivered is two days, a standard which USPS has really struggled to meet. Sending Nevadans mail to California does not seem like a promising way of improving deficiency,” the letter said.

While the proposal could affect mail service between Reno and Sacramento, we must also bring into the equation the outlying communities of Carson City, Gardnerville, Winnemucca and Fallon — all areas Amodei represents. It hasn’t been said, but this plan could add an extra day to send mail from the rurals to Reno via the Sierra to Sacramento and back again.

This plan also would add significant delays and financial impacts to mailing of Nevada News Group publications — including this one.

Another problem in DeJoy’s plan is weather. Nasty wintery weather that sweeps over the Sierra with snow and wind periodically closes the main artery, I-80, sometimes for days, and the situation will add to the misery of western Nevadans receiving mail in a timely manner. Amodei said the proposal was made with little care or understanding of the ramifications it could pose for his constituents.

 “Just days after the rushed comment period for this proposal ended, Donner Pass on I-80 between Reno and Sacramento was closed in both directions for days on end,” Amodei pointed out. “It was a stark example of the negative impacts this proposed relocation would have on our communities. I will continue to do all that I can to oppose this misguided plan.”

Gov. Joe Lombardo said the state has serious questions about the plan, citing how the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Motor Vehicles and the Division of Child and Family Services rely on timely mail. Lombardo also feels sending mail to Sacramento will cause at least an extra day or two before its delivered to an address back western and northern Nevada.

Although weather is one of the major culprits for not approving DeJoy’s plan, the possibility of highway closures could affect mail-in voting, especially in early November when a snowstorm could batter the Sierra.

“There is also the matter of Nevada’s mail ballots being taken to California for processing before being returned to Nevada and their voters,” Aguilar said in a protest letter.

Aguilar said if the USPS is successful in moving its processing operations, ballots mailed from central and Northern Nevada on Election Day may not be postmarked the same day.  

Rosen also expressed concern medicine and Social Security checks could be delayed for seniors, military veterans and families. That’s a wide swath of residents who live in rural Nevada.

“Having local mail processing operations remain here in Reno is critical for the families that rely on the U.S. Postal Service for timely mail service, the seniors who receive life-saving medications through the mail, and the local jobs the Post Office supports,” Rosen said.

To recap our position:

• The proposal says more than $4 million will be saved annually, yet the breakdown is muddled.

• More transparency on the proposal needs to be offered by DeJoy and the USPS.

• This proposal is flawed. Concerns have arisen it will take longer than two days to receive local mail if the processing operation relocates to Sacramento.

• Concerns have arisen over mail-in ballots and the timeliness of them being received by each county clerk’s office.

We strongly back our congressional delegation and governor for calling an end to this proposal to relocate the processing operations from Reno to Sacramento. The negatives outweigh the positives.

The USPS must re-examine its priorities and service to its constituents and fully vet any additional proposals to relocate the processing plant. We don’t see where this latest attempt will be beneficial.

Finally, remember those infamous words from President Reagan: “'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'

This editorial is the viewpoint of the Nevada Appeal & Nevada News Group.


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