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Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back—The Continuing Problems At Marcus Foster Post Office

April 26, 2015

A number of things have happened at the Marcus Foster Post Office Branch in Oakland’s Elmhurst District since I last wrote, earlier this month, about the problems that are being manufactured over there. I call the problems “manufactured” because they result from a long-term sabotage of the U.S. Postal Service’s budget by our conservative Republican friends in Congress, combined with decisions by local postal management as to which cities and neighborhoods will be hit hardest by these budget cuts, and which cities and neighborhoods will suffer less or be spared altogether. The Marcus Foster Post Branch—sitting at the corner of 92nd and International in the middle of one of Oakland’s most-neglected communities—is clearly one of the prime candidates for hardest-hit.

Anyway, in the weeks since I last wrote about the Marcus Foster Branch, it looked for a brief moment that the publicity had done some good:

* Postal management brought in a reserve counter clerk to supplement the postal clerk who had been working by herself at the branch for several weeks.

* Postal management put up a new drive-up mailbox in the parking lot to replace the two outdoor boxes it had previously removed.


* One week after the reserve clerk arrived, postal management removed her again, and she hasn’t returned or been replaced by anyone else. The Marcus Foster Branch is back to a single clerk, who must leave the counter for long stretches of time to take care of necessary work in the back, and who is forced—once more—to close the branch entirely for an hour and a half in the middle of each day in order to take her lunch. This is a hardship both on the clerk and on the postal customers the branch is supposed to be serving.


* One week after the new drive-up mailbox was put in, postal management removed it again, and it also has not returned. Once more, there is no way to mail anything at the Marcus Foster Branch location during its daily late afternoon closing, or after hours.

And finally

* For a week in early April, the Marcus Foster Branch had a sign on its door reading “No Money Orders.” Purchasing postal money orders is one of the necessary services at a post office branch, particularly in a low-income neighborhood which has no bank branches, and where many residents have no bank accounts at all. How does a post office branch not provide that service, even for a short time?

For my part, I still think all of this may simply be a test run to see how much neighborhood or local government opposition results, a possible prelude to limiting the branch to automated and post office box services that do not require a full-time clerking staff, or eliminating the branch altogether. But even if that is not true, the severe service cutbacks in place at Marcus Foster make it that much more difficult for residents of a city-abandoned Oakland neighborhood to live their lives and conduct their daily business. It also helps turn them against government altogether, leaving the feeling that government—whether it be local, state, or federal—is both totally inept and totally uncaring about communities like the Elmhurst District and the people who live within them.

I guess that’s what some of our conservative Republican friends would call a two-fer.

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