Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Bring back the Pony Express

Posted 7/28/15 (Tue)

Two weeks ago we received a news release from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND about rural mail service. The headline read “Heitkamp introduces new bill to improve rural mail delivery and standards.”

OK! So Heitkamp introduced a bill. That’s nice, but is it going to do any good? Will Congress have the spine to act upon this bill which calls for increased protection for rural post offices and make sure postal employees are treated fairly.

For as long as I can remember, newspapers have fought with the post office to get the next edition delivered on time.

That’s no secret. The problem was mostly in the snowbird states. We get calls all the time “didn’t get my paper again,” “I got three issues today,” “My Kenmare News was delivered all torn to shreds.”

As many of you know, newspapers are sent as second-class postage, and by the number of calls we’re getting from Arizona, Texas, California and Arizona, the post office is treating it like second-class postage.

Lately, we’ve been getting reports of first-class mail being delayed, getting lost, you pay a bill and it doesn’t get to its destination or you continue to get someone else’s mail.

It all seems like a serious problem that continues to spiral out of control and it doesn’t appear that anyone wants to step in and stop it.

There’s no doubt, this is an interesting problem. The Postal Service has been cutting and deep cutting and cutting some more from its budget to make it work.

We’ve recently heard about streamling sorting centers and people getting laid off in numerous others. News releases we’ve received said the consolidation will make postal operations more efficient.

I’d like to see the Postal Service quantify that remark because announcing something doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. So, this weekend, I’m going to Anaheim and buying the California Angels!

Another part of this interesting issue is with the local postal employees. Their hands are tied by corporate red tape. They can only do what they can do.

We talk, mail letters, get stamps, etc., and it’s always a cordial conversation and that’s how it should be. Customer service is paramount in any business and we, the customers, appreciate what we get locally. I’ve been in post offices in Kansas, Florida, Wisconsin, South Dakota and Nebraska and the only one outside North Dakota that provided good customer service was the one in Valentine, Neb.

Some of us are of the opinion that the problem is at the top and that’s where heads should roll. There’s may be some kind of an intimidation factor going on that has to be rectified.

Several weeks ago I ran into a retired postal employee in Minot. He was retired about a week then went to work for a beer distributer.

He said he doesn’t have anyone breathing down his neck, they aren’t threatening to fire him on a daily basis, he goes to work, he goes home and he goes back to work. There is no stress.

That could mean one of two things, either this guy was a poor employee or he was being intimidated.

I would place this in the same category as the recent news of the Minot Air Force Base firing a number of officers in the nuclear missile field because there was a lack of leadership culture that should have never been accepted by the Air Force.

But it did and it spiraled out of control until the big Air Force brass stepped in and nailed it.

That’s what’s going to have to happen soon with the Postal Service or these examples we keep hearing about are only going to escalate.

Congress has to do its due diligence and fix this problem. No favoritism, no lobby efforts to the contrary. Congress is going to have to swallow a bitter pill and turn Heitkamp’s news release into reality.

This all makes me think about watching Bonanza. Joe Cartright joined the Pony Express to help get the mail to California.

In historical reality, the Pony Express was a route from St. Joseph, Mo., to Sacramento that began in 1860. There was a station every 10 miles and horses weren’t allowed to ride more than 10 miles although riders were.

It took 10 days to get the mail from St. Joe to Sacramento, 1,700 miles, despite no real roads.

There are times now it’s taking up to 10 days to get a letter to Langdon, 190 miles. Must be a lot of hostile Indians along the way.