President Bob Rapoza addressed NAPUS members Monday morning, March 18, during the Leadership Conference’s general business session. He pointed out this is his fourth and final year as NAPUS national president.
He acknowledged that issues he has been dealing with since last year have been very frustrating; these issues still remain this year: consolidations, DUOs and POStPlan, to name a few. And there still exists a divided Congress—as long as it remains divided, these and more issues will continue to come NAPUS’s way.
“We need to stress to our congressional representatives to come together and pass meaningful postal reform this year,” he urged. He told Postmasters when they visit Capitol Hill, they need to let their lawmakers know how frustrated they are with the inaction of Congress. “That’s the message you need to take to Capitol Hill,” he said, “and that’s the message I gave them during my testimony in front of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.”
Rapoza said kicking this can down the road has damaged Congress’ image. Postmasters and the communities they serve have made painful sacrifices with the implementation of POStPlan, the reduction of full-time Postmaster positions and the reduction of hours at more than 13,000 post offices, the majority in rural areas.
In his testimony, Rapoza warned that, if Congress chooses to do nothing to resolve its fundamental differences, the integrity of our nation’s universal postal system will be irrevocably compromised “This week,” he stressed, “we must deliver this same message on the Hill.”
Congressional lawmakers must be reminded Postmasters and the communities they serve have made compromises. Congress must do the same: settle their differences. “Get out of the way and let us serve the American public,” he said.
Postmasters always have been the ambassadors of the Postal Service and NAPUS has been in the forefront of representing NAPUS’ best interest. “On our watch,” he vowed, “NAPUS and the Postal Service will not go away.”
Nanci Langley, commissioner with the Postal Regulatory Commission, told NAPUS members she is motivated by their dedicated commitment and resiliency. She commended NAPUS, saying it is well known throughout Congress, the administration, the mailing community and L’Enfant Plaza.
“This is your time to reacquaint your representatives as to what the Postal Service means to their communities,” she said. “This is an opportunity to discuss all the issues of concern; foremost is resolving the prefunding issue.”
Langley declared the Postal Service a cornerstone of the economy; addressing the agency’s financial problems is critical. Hard-copy mail continues to bind the nation by providing universal and affordable service. And the Postal Service broadens access for senior citizens and others who depend on its services.
She commended NAPUS for being in the forefront to call on Congress to allow the USPS to offer new products and services. Postmasters understand what is being considered on Capitol Hill; the USPS is prevented from offering products that are outside its core mission of processing and delivering the mail.
“As Postmasters,” she said, “you understand the relevancy of the Postal Service and the social value of the mail. You have challenges, but also an opportunity to let Capitol Hill know what’s going on in your individual areas, as well as your state.”
Langley recounted how when she worked for former Sen. Daniel Akaka, he always appreciated visits from NAPUS Postmasters. “His advocacy on behalf of Postmasters was guided by these meetings,” she stressed. “Having the opportunity to sit down and let lawmakers know what is happening—that they need their communities’ post offices open—is critical to finding solutions.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), senior member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, commended NAPUS’ work to help kill last year’s House postal reform act. He said, as a result, Congress now must take the time and think through this issue and not have bad judgment. “Congress first must clean up its own act,” he declared to loud applause.
He referred to the 2006 postal reform bill and said the prefunding requirement from that legislation must be fixed. And it essentially put the Postal Service in a straitjacket so options for alternative models cannot be explored. “A post office can have a certain centrality in a community,” he explained. “If Starbucks wants to pay the Postal Service to have a branch in a post office, what’s the problem—the DMV, local government, Hallmark? Let’s see what works so we can develop an alternative business model. I don’t agree that we don’t have options.”
Connolly is skeptical of the PMG’s claim going to five-day delivery will save $2 billion a year. “He hasn’t provided analytics and what revenue you would lose: pharmaceuticals, newspapers, will it damage rural delivery? You want to make it better, not kill it.”
He said Congress now has a fresh opportunity to craft a new business model for the agency. “And all is not terrible,” he declared. “Last quarter, take out the prefunding requirement and the Postal Service made $100 million in operations.”
Connolly talked about the growing package delivery segment, pointing out technology deconstructs some lines of business, but also can provide new opportunities. “We need to plan a new model for the future,” he suggested, “and allow you to experiment—what works in Hawaii won’t work in Boston.”
Connolly believes there is an opportunity in the 113th Congress for postal reform. He told Postmasters they have a golden opportunity to educate their lawmakers and make sure they understand what is at stake.
“You have a chance to recalibrate and re-educate and push my colleagues on a more thoughtful course to make the Postal Service more successful in the future,” he said. “Working together, I think we can have great success with the 113th Congress.”
NAPUS Director of Government Relations Bob Levi told convention attendees they need to be incredible advocates for NAPUS this week as they visit Capitol Hill. They must fight for Postmasters and post offices and—most importantly—be credible.
“We’re here at a very important time in the history of the USPS,” he said. “It’s facing a crisis—a large part not of its own making.”
Levi discussed that not enough attention has been given to the revenue side of the ledger. “Every time you reduce service,” he explained, “you lessen the brand. In President Bob Rapoza’s testimony before Sen. Carper’s committee, that’s what he focused on: how to build postal revenue and how we can use our infrastructure to become innovative.”
Carper and his committee have yet to present a bill, as well as Rep. Darrell Issa and his committee. They both have indicated they are in the red zone as far as crafting a comprehensive, consensus piece of legislation, but not in the end zone. “As they approach the end zone,” Levi pointed out, “we want to be very involved and have a constructive role in determining what that bill will be. As the bill develops, we will take a strong role in promoting what is in NAPUS’ best interests.”
He said this is not about posturing; this is about working behind the scenes to craft a legislative package to work for NAPUS’ members. “We don’t need glory,” he said, “just the final product. And if it benefits Postmasters, we’ve succeeded.”
Levi reminded Postmasters that Congress respects NAPUS members. “You are the strongest advocates for your fellow members and the Postal Service.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) also urged Postmasters to talk to their members of Congress. He said it is important to impress on them Postmasters are an army of people watching what Congress is doing.
He thanked Postmasters for what they do for their customers and recognized the fact the American public trusts the Postal Service—a tribute to Postmasters who manage the post offices. “We need to make sure you continue to have the tools that allow you to do that work on behalf of your customers. Your brand is a whole lot better than the brand of members of Congress,” he admitted.
Van Hollen said the one thing that won’t help the Postal Service to stay competitive in a very competitive environment is to reduce services. In fact, one reason why the Postal Service brand is so good is because it provides reliable services. “When we start chipping away,” he said, “people will lose confidence in the reliability of those services and you will lose customers. And we cannot violate your obligation to universal service; we need to make sure that service remains top-quality.”
Van Hollen said Congress needs to provide the Postal Service with greater flexibility with respect to finances and eliminating the prefunding requirement. And it needs to be done quickly. “That is why people are so frustrated,” he declared, “the gridlock and inability to get things done when there are common-sense solutions.
“Thank you for what you do for people in my neighborhood and communities around the country. You are part of the backbone of the American economy; we would not be successful without the kind of work you do every day.”
NAPUS Postmasters Retired President Jack Wilkins told convention attendees he loves being president of the retiree organization. He acknowledged the unsettling times in which Postmasters and retirees find themselves.
Wilkins earlier had asked the Postmaster General if retired Postmasters could serve as Postal Service trainers. “Having a better-trained, better-informed work force would enhance customer service,” he said. The Postal Service is considering this proposal.
He urged everyone to be strong in their faith and have confidence in their daily lives and support each other. “Be strong in your support of NAPUS so Postmasters’ voices will continue to be heard in Congress and in the Postal Service,” he counseled.
NAPUS Secretary-Treasurer Mike Quinn said 2012 was not one of NAPUS’ better years. POStPlan has affected everyone—some still are suffering—and it has affected the organization. He said NAPUS will continue to work to resolve differences and find positions for those affected. “We still have an obligation to those who want to work for the Postal Service,” he stressed.
POStPlan also has had an impact on NAPUS’ finances and how it does business. But, under President Bob Rapoza’s leadership, changes and adjustments have been made that continue to keep NAPUS’ finances strong.
“My goal for the next two years is for the organization to be fiscally strong and put into place measures for the future,” he pledged. “We need to survive and the only way to survive is to change. But with that change, we need to be aware of what we had in the past and continue to provide services to our Postmasters.”
Quinn commended the Executive Board for their work this week. “We understand the challenges we face in the future. We want what’s best for NAPUS.”
“Tomorrow,” he declared, “we do our real business—going to the Hill.” He recognized Director of Government Relations Bob Levi and his ability to open doors with Congress. Levi arranged for Quinn to talk to Rep. Stephen Lynch earlier this year in a face-to-face meeting.
“Tomorrow,” he said, “get to know the people you’re talking to; some of them have a lot of humility and most of them have the right idea for what’s right for our country. It’s up to us to inform them so they can make the right decisions for us and the Postal Service.”
Despite the challenges facing NAPUS, Postmasters and the Postal Service, Quinn still believes the future is bright. “Thank you for your support you’ve given me and making me feel part of the NAPUS family,” he said. “And I look forward to helping you transition into a brighter future.”
NAPUS Director of Government Relations Bob Levi presented two panelists to discuss the status of postal reform legislation for the chapter legislative chairs Sunday afternoon at the NAPUS Leadership Conference. John Kilvington, deputy staff director of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, chaired by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), and Jeff Post, professional …Continue Reading
President Bob Rapoza opened the Executive Board meeting Friday morning, March 15, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott. He thanked board members for their work the previous day and commended USPS Chief Operating Officer Megan Brennan for meeting with them and taking their questions. He said NAPUS has a great working relationship with Brennan—she always answers …Continue Reading
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