By Jim Smith
Venice has always risen to the challenge when an outside force has threatened our community. Over the years, we have prevailed numerous times against developers and the city of Los Angeles.
During the past six months a broad coalition has been built to oppose the US Postal Service plans to close our historic post office. Unlike our battles with local developers and the City, the USPS has been a shadowy monolith 3,000 miles away. There has been no human face to focus on and apply pressure. How do you fight something that has no concept of negotiations or compromise?
Nonetheless, we have collected petitions, filed appeals, held meetings and rallies (another is scheduled for Nov. 5), and in general, raised hell. A broad coalition of Venice organizations and individuals has been formed that includes the Free Venice Beachhead, SPARC, Venice Arts Council, Venice Neighborhood Council, Venice Peace and Freedom, Venice Stakeholders Association, and Venice Town Council. Other organizations and individuals are welcome to join.
Even so, the only break in the monolithic face of the USPS occurred on Oct. 31, when about 40 of us met with Ruth Goldway, Chairperson of the Postal Regulatory Commisssion (PRC). Goldway is a Venice resident, former Mayor of Santa Monica (as Ruth Yannatta), and is in sympathy with our desire to save the post office.
The PRC is the body that oversees the operation of the Postal Service. A number of Venetians have appeals of the closing pending before this body. Unfortunately, Goldway has to recuse herself, or abstain, from participating in the deliberations because it concerns her local post office.
Goldway made it clear that she cannot snap her fingers and make the USPS leave our post office alone. She started our meeting by telling us that her Commission has three Republicans and two Democrats (including her). If this majority was reversed we might not be facing the closing of more than 3,000 post offices and the layoff of 120,000 workers.
It could have been reversed, Goldway told us. President Obama made an appointment to the Commission, but he appointed a Republican! As a result, there is no internal mechanism to stop the self-destruction cycle of the Postal Service. Goldway also told us that the House of Representatives is not likely to be much help because of its domination by Republicans. Perhaps this is why the USPS paid little attention to Rep. Janice Hahn when she wrote on behalf of our post office.
It wasn’t all bad news. Goldway also pointed out some possible ways to get our case heard in Washington, including:
1. Contact our Senators, Feinstein and Boxer. Please make a call or send an email. Boxer: (202) 224-3553 www.boxer.senate.gov/en/contact/ Feinstein: (202) 224-3841 www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-me
2. Make it difficult to sell the Post Office. Venice already has a reputation for being feisty. Let’s hold more rallies and protests that may frighten off prospective buyers. Just because the property is on the market doesn’t mean it will be sold.
3. Make sure that we have the strongest historical preservation restrictions possible. The same goes for the Biberman mural. Public access to the mural must be guaranteed.
4. Make the case that the transfer of services to the annex amounts to a partial closure. The USPS claims it is not closing the post office, merely relocating it. However, the number of customer service windows in the annex would be two, compared to the current five windows. This amounts to a partial closure. The willful lack of maintenance, including a dirty entry way, a graffiti covered FedEx box, and sidewalks that haven’t been sandblasted for years shows that the USPS has disdain for its customers. The Postal Service is trying to shoehorn everything into a small building. According to Architect Michael King, the Post Office building is 23,700 square feet, while the Annex is only 15,890.
In addition, please help with legal expenses by making a contribution by paypal on the the VSA website (venicestakeholdersassociation.org) – there is a separate “button” for Save the Venice Post Office – or by sending contributions directly to our attorney, John Henning, with a notation on the check that says “Venice Post Office”, at: 125 N. Sweetzer Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90048. There is a separate trust fund for this project.