May 28, 2010
Charles Mapa, President
There are some tremendously important legislative issues coming up that have not yet reached the stage of being introduced as bills, but are nonetheless, receiving plenty of attention in various places in Washington DC. On the one hand, some of the legislative movement is promising in what is being considered, while, on the other hand, there are some rather disturbing developments afoot. First of all, there appears to be a genuine desire amongst most of the congressmen the League has been in contact with to find some permanent relief for the Postal Service’s obligation to prefund future retirees’ health benefits. As you know, that obligation costs the Postal Service about $4.5 billion a year, and, of course, that is not chump change. This obligation puts the Postal Service in a financial stranglehold that it has, thus far, been unable to break. That being said, no permanent solution has yet been put into any sort of bill, and we may again find ourselves scrambling at the end of the fiscal year to find a money bandage to staunch the bleeding. The League is working with all of the unions and management associations in an effort to come up with a solution to this huge problem.
One potential source for a solution is still out there and that, of course, is the possibility that, for years, the Postal Service has been overfunding Civil Service Retirement. The Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General ran the numbers and contends that the Postal Service has overfunded by about $75 billion dollars. If the OIG’s numbers are correct, it seems logical and right for the Postal Service to be able to access this overpayment to fund its obligation to pay for its future and current retirees’ health benefits.
As you all know, PMG Potter has been pushing hard for more than a year to get Congress to allow the Postal Service to go from six day delivery to five day delivery. While some postal leaders talk as if this move is a done deal, the mood in congress is not so optimistic. The Postal Service has done a bang-up job in spinning a scenario in which it claims that if we don’t go to five day delivery, we will have a deficit of $238 billion by the year 2020. Many have questioned that colossal number and are unconvinced that it is a true representation of what will really happen. Some of the doubters are in Congress and are adamantly opposed to the move to 5 day delivery.
Closing Post Offices
One particularly disturbing development is the thought that the Postal Service is overstaffed by 30%. That is a fascinating idea as almost universally, Postmasters are running offices that are seriously understaffed. Certainly, there are still plants out there that have hundreds of extra employees, but, by and large, associate offices do not have that luxury. Along with the thought that we are overstaffed by 30%, is the concept that we have 30% too many post offices. While it is an established fact that closing the 10,000 smallest post offices would save only about a half of one percent of the Postal Service’s operating budget, the thought persists that we need to close these offices because they are unprofitable. There are congressmen who favor forming a commission to look at large numbers of post offices for closure, much in the same way that the government closed many military bases a couple of decades ago. The fact is, most of these offices, along with thousands of their larger cousins, have never
been profitable. The smaller communities that these offices represent have already been marginalized by modern society; any move by Congress or the Postal Service to close rural post offices will further erode the quality of rural life. Fortunately, the League has likely found an ally in Congress in the Congressional Rural Caucus, headed up by Nebraska Republican, Adrian Smith. It is our hope that the Caucus will aid us in our fight to protect America’s rural post offices. The League will keep you up-to-date with changing developments in postal legislation.
I have briefly come off a round of attending branch conventions across the country. Most recently, I was able to join New England Postmasters in Massachusetts at the convention put together by Tracy Bygate, the Massachusetts branch president. This high quality convention had much of the training that districts no longer give, and National Vice President, Kelly McCartney, was on hand to provide presentations in at least two important subjects. This weekend, it was gratifying to return to my home state convention in California (which I missed last year). Branch President Steve Tomlins presided over a super convention put together by Pacific Area Coordinator, Norma Powell, and Branch Treasurer, Lorri Meza. This time, it was National Vice President, John Olson who displayed his knowledge and expertise in provided presentations on eCareer and the Automated Form 150. Also there to make things even more special were 20 first timers! Thanks to convention chair who worked so hard to present wonderful conventions and to each of your National Board Officers, Jack, Deb, Bob, John, Kelley and Shelly who have brought added value to each Branch Convention.
As we pass from our State Branch Convention season, we’ve got time to seriously consider supporting and attending our upcoming National Convention in gorgeous San Diego, California. If you have not yet registered for this great educational and fun event, do so today. There are still plenty of rooms at a very reasonable rate left. Much has gone into planning this convention just for you and you will gain much by joining Postmasters from all over the nation as we gather in San Diego to celebrate all that is good about being Postmasters! Our League training workshops will likely be the best available anywhere, our networking opportunities valuable, and the fun that you and your families will have will create lifelong memories. Join us this July for the Postmaster highlight of the year at your National Convention in sunny California. Register this weekend at www.postmasters.org. See you in San Diego!
My convention travels were punctuated by a trip I made back to California to attend a memorial service for my Uncle Johnny, or USAF Major John S. Mapa, retired. Uncle Johnny had reached the ripe old age of 92. Somehow, he survived his childhood growing up during the Great Depression doing farm work in the agricultural fields of Central California in the company of my dad, Al and older brother, Mickey. When the United States entered WWII, Johnny was quick to sign up with the United States Army with the dream of becoming a fighter pilot. Instead, he was taught to fly B-17 and B-24 bombers and flew some 40 missions over strategic targets in Europe. Narrowly escaping death on more than one occasion, John survived the war. Later, he put in a distinguished career with the newly formed U.S. Air Force, and retired with the rank of Major. I remember arriving at my first Air Force Air Traffic Control assignment at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, California. As I was introduced around to the crew on duty in the control tower, one Master sergeant, graying at the temples, stepped forward to shake my hand and asked if I was related to Major Mapa. When I answered, yes, I was, he told me that Major John Mapa was the greatest man he had ever known. What a wonderful introduction to the other man I had always known as my humble Uncle Johnny!
Perhaps the true measure of Uncle Johnny came after his Air Force career when he served as a probation officer near his home in San Jose California. Uncle Johnny was always quick to seek out the good in people and working with ex-convicts gave him plenty of opportunities to seek out that good. He made it his life’s mission to do all that he could to get these men back on the right track in their lives. Many of them, as well as his wife, my Aunt Phyllis, his children and grandchildren would have agreed with my Master Sergeant that John Mapa was the greatest man they had ever known.
A tradition sprang up between my Dad, Lt. Colonel Al Mapa, and Uncle Johnny. Every year on Pearl Harbor Day, in commemoration of a phone call made by my dad on that day in Pearl Harbor in 1941, my dad would call Uncle Johnny to order him, “Johnny, get back to the base!” to let him know that something big was up. When my dad passed away, my sisters and I continued the tradition, each of us calling Uncle John to implore him, “Johnny, get back to the base!” At my Uncle Johnny’s memorial service, I was able, one last time, in the words of my dad who I strongly believe to be in a much better place, to order my uncle, “Johnny, get back to the base!”
This Memorial Day, just about every one of you has friends and loved ones and Uncle Johnny’s who have put their lives on the line for us and the freedoms of our nation. In the midst of the camping trips, the BBQs and the baseball games, give some thought to those who have served this country and to the many that have made, and are still making the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live free lives. It is my ardent prayer that they have all made it safely back to the Base.
National League of Postmasters