By Pat Sherman
Congressman and La Jolla resident Scott Peters (D-52) reintroduced the Community Post Office Relocation Act with Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-53) on March 7.
The bill is a slightly updated version of legislation introduced by Davis during the previous Congress that gives communities across the country the right of first refusal to purchase post office buildings that are subject to closure.
“We’re changing some of the timelines to make it a lot easier to execute,” Peters told the La Jolla Light. “It’s pretty similar.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is continuing to reduce its services and sell off its assets — including the proposed sale of La Jolla’s Wall Street post office — due to a decline in revenue and ramifications of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. That law, passed by Congress in 2006, requires USPS to pre-fund its future retiree health care benefit fund for 75 years, within a 10-year span. USPS, which last fall reached its $15 billion debt limit and is barred from borrowing more money, has already defaulted on those payments.
Should La Jolla’s post office be sold, Peters’ legislation will allow a nonprofit community organization, such as the La Jolla Historical Society, the right to purchase the post office building at fair market value.
If La Jolla’s post office and its services cannot be preserved as they are on Wall Street, the Save Our La Jolla Post Office Task Force has a plan to have a community nonprofit purchase the Wall Street building, and lease a portion of it back to USPS to keep postal services in place. (USPS has said the building is too large and impractical for its current usage.)
Peters weighs in on pre-funding of USPS retirement benefitsAs more people push Congress to repeal the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, or at least modify the law to remove the retiree healthcare pre-funding mandate, Peters said he is instead considering measures that give USPS the ability to be more competitive with package delivery services such as United Parcel Service (UPS) and FedEx.
Peters told the Light he is cautiously considering whether he will support the Postal Service Protection Act of 2013 (HR 630), which would eliminate the requirement that USPS pre-fund its retiree health benefit fund, place restrictions on the closure of postal facilities, and create incentives for innovation within USPS (including the formation of a “chief innovation officer”).
While Peters said he supports the portion of HR 630 that would allow USPS to ship beer and wine (as UPS and FedEx already do), and establish an innovation officer to “help USPS be more competitive with ways to generate more revenue,” he was less enthusiastic about rescinding the pre-funding of retiree health benefits.
“While the current formula puts too great of a burden on USPS, we should not eliminate the plan entirely, rather adjust the formula,” Peters told the Light, via e-mail. “It is important that we make sure retiree health benefits for the hardworking men and women at USPS are adequately funded now and into the future.”
Last month, Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe announced his decision to end Saturday mail delivery, starting in August.