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Cutbacks At The Marcus Foster P.O. Branch Confirmed

April 8, 2015

Last week, I wrote that “apparently,” the counter staff at the Marcus Foster Post Office branch in the heart of Deep East Oakland (92nd Avenue and International) had been reduced to one person, forcing the closure of the branch for more than an hour every the afternoon while that single employee took her lunch.

This week I confirmed that there is, indeed, only one employee at the branch now, down from the three that used to staff the location not that long ago. I don’t have access to the usage numbers at Marcus Foster, but the population surrounding has certainly not declined, and regular observation shows that the numbers of people going in and out of the branch every day does not appear to be significantly lower than it was when three staff members were needed to keep up with the work. Meanwhile, the word out of local postal service management is that they are planning to bring in another clerk. We will see if this actually comes to pass, or if this is just merely a bureaucratic promise to keep hopes up while the postal service is actually planning a permanent cutback of staff and services at Marcus Foster.

The official service cutback, in fact, has already occurred.

Seven months ago, the postal service eliminated both package and certified and registered mail pickup at the Marcus Foster Branch for everyone who does not have a post office box at the branch. If you have a post office box at Marcus Foster, you can still pick up those items at the branch counter. To pick up mail that cannot be delivered to their homes for one reason or another, local residents in the area surrounding Marcus Foster can no longer go to their local post office branch, but must now go out to the regional post office branch down near the airport. While that may or may not be a great inconvenience in terms of distance—depending upon how the resident gets around—it certainly appears to be a gradual ending of the type of local post office branch service that we grew up on.

It may also be the reason why postal management can get by with only one counter clerk at Marcus Foster, as the clerk does not have to spend so much time in the back and away from the counter looking up packages or other  pickup mail for customers. It may be an indication that the post office is trying out a one-clerk system for a bit at Marcus Foster to see if it might be feasible to turn it into a permanent situation.

Why is this issue important?

The Marcus Foster Branch sits in the middle of one of Oakland’s “Forgotten Lands,” those depressed neighborhoods where city officials, the media, and the rest of the city’s resident tend to look when bad things happen.

This, one might remember, is the branch where Oakland city officials allowed a dead dog to remain on the sidewalk for several days last year after being informed of its presence by post office staff members. That’s about as good an example of neglect as I can come up with. That’s about as good an example of official neglect of a community as I can come up with. There are many others, in case you're not convinced.

Anyways, one way to begin to turn around these “Forgotten Lands”—turn them around for the folks currently living in them, not simply to make them attractive to more affluent people to move in and replace the current residents—is to rebuild the infrastructure and fabric of those neighborhoods. That means repairing existing neighborhood services and bringing in ones that have disappeared. It doesn’t help the process of reconstruction and rehabilitaiton if, in the meantime, government entities are stripping away the few amenities and services that remain.

Contrary to popular belief, the neighborhoods surrounding Marcus Foster are not merely a zipcode (94621) or a police beat (33X). It’s the Elmhurst District, a name that goes back long before the city of Oakland moved south of Lake Merritt and annexed the various small towns that lay along the road towards San Leandro. Elmhurst is a neighborhood made of many good people attempting to raise their families and build a community that’s better than the various government, business, and criminal elements has abandoned them to. Retaining and rebuilding the services at the Marcus Foster Post Office Branch is one small step towards reaching that goal.

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