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<nettime> The (Letter-) Post Office's last stand ... in Florida (WSJ)
Patrice Riemens on Fri, 30 Mar 2012 10:38:50 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> The (Letter-) Post Office's last stand ... in Florida (WSJ)


Back in the late 90s I wrote a piece praising the then almost defunct (and
by now dead and burried?) telegraph system (*). Looks like the letter post
is headed the same way, as the digital empire is conquering the whole
communication realm. The whole communication realm? No, in Florida a small
village is resisting! ...

Cheers, p+4D!

(*) http://www.ljudmila.org/nettime/zkp4/07.htm


Original to:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304636404577297673148816412.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

(March 28, 2012)
In Florida, These Retirees Deliver a First-Class Protest
Town of Former Letter Carriers Strives to Aid Post Office; Shunning Email,
Dogs
By JENNIFER LEVITZ

NALCREST, Fla.?Lots of folks are fretting over how to save the U.S. Postal
Service, but retirees here in central Florida's citrus country are really
pushing the envelope.

A retirement community in Florida caters to retired mail carriers with the
U.S. Postal Service. WSJ's Jennifer Levitz finds many prefer mail to
email, and no dogs are allowed.

There is heavy pressure in Nalcrest, a rambling retirement community that
is its own little town, to use the U.S. mail, rather than email or
competing shipping companies, to pay bills and mail parcels to the
grandkids. "We say?it's got to come through the U.S. mail or we don't want
it here," said Matty Rose, 67 years old, manager of Nalcrest.

One can't blame the town. Seventy miles east of Tampa, it's the nation's
only haven solely for retired postal service mail carriers.

The attachment to mail runs deep. Residents joke that Nalcrest, which
stands for the National Association of Letter Carriers Retirement,
Education, Security and Training, is actually short for National
Association of Letter Carriers at Rest. It has its own mailing address and
post office. A mailman statue graces the village square. There is a stamp
club, and a minigolf course, where the obstacle on the first hole isn't a
windmill but a blue mail collection box.

Carriers who spent years pounding the pavement relax under palm trees in a
kind of mail carrier bliss: no ice to tumble on, no snow to slosh through,
and best of all, no furry foes.

"This is a no-dog community," said Mr. Rose, a retired mailman from
Hollywood, Fla. "That's because if you're a letter carrier, you've had
experience with dogs. In my career, I was bit twice and chased about 100
times."

Now the 700 residents are fighting a new menace: the crisis enveloping the
236-year-old postal service, which is bleeding cash as technology erodes
volumes of first-class mail?and raising questions about whether
traditional mail is going the way of the buggy whip.

"It stinks," said Robert Riley, 89, a former mailman from Wrentham, Mass.,
resting in a golf cart parked in Nalcrest's sun-drenched village square.

Congress is debating multiple proposals to revamp the agency, including
dropping Saturday delivery and closing thousands of post offices that are
unprofitable. A perceived assault on their beloved profession has Nalcrest
in a tizzy.

"Why? Why? Then they got to make some 80- or 90-year-old woman go two or
three miles to the next post office," said Frank Wright, 70, who carried
mail in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. "The post office was originally meant to be a
service to the people, not a profit-making operation."

Posted on the community bulletin board, by bingo announcements, are alerts
about the postal service's recent proposal to pull out of federal health
plans and run its own less-costly one?an idea that has retirees anxious
about their benefits. March's "Nalcrest Monthly Bulletin" touted softball,
horseshoes, a coming party?"our past winner of musical chairs just had a
hip replaced so everyone has a chance this year"?and invited everyone to
the auditorium to discuss the postal service and "get on board" to save
it.

They sent a 600-signature petition to Washington, by first-class mail,
against dropping Saturday delivery, and raised $350 to send to their
national union's lobbying arm. "That's the money we buy off the
Congressmen with," cracked John Alversa, 72, a retired mailman from
Flushing, N.Y.

Bill LaFrana, 69, and retired from carrying mail in Lexington, Ky., has
written to Congress and his local paper back home against the postal
service's proposal to slow delivery of some mail to save money. "That just
wasn't acceptable when I had to work," he said.

His girlfriend, Ellen Hollon, 72, said all the talk about the postal
service is no fun.

"Every time a news blip comes up, it occupies even a barbecue?the wives
and girlfriends will finally say, 'hey,'" she said, making a timeout
gesture with her hands. "We don't want to hear this mailman stuff."

The retirees acknowledge the postal service must make changes to stay
afloat. They?and the postmaster general, and some members of Congress?say
one solution would be to ease an unusual requirement imposed by Congress
in 2006 that the agency aggressively fund retiree benefits decades ahead.

Supporters of the pre-funding, including U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, (R.,
Fla.), say it will insure the agency can provide benefits for
retirees?like the ones in Nalcrest?far down the road and that the tab
doesn't fall to taxpayers.

Nalcrest residents picketed outside Mr. Ross's local office last fall.
They had hoped for a bigger crowd, "but a lot of the snowbirds weren't
here yet," said Janet Russo, 63, a retired postal clerk whose late husband
carried mail in Medford, Mass.

Mr. Ross said changes he is proposing won't likely affect Nalcrest
retirees, but that he isn't surprised they are mad at him. "Change never
comes easy," he said.

The community, where the modest mint-green cottages start at $395 per
month, broke ground in 1962, the brainchild of William Doherty, a former
Ohio mail carrier and union leader, who envisioned a low-cost retirement
haven entirely owned and funded by letter carriers through union
dues?which long ago paid off the mortgage. The postal service contributes
no money toward the town.

Nalcrest has its own ZIP Code. "We had a little pull with the post
office," says Mr. Rose, the manager.

The village has a barber shop, cafe and market. Each morning, residents
head to the busy and profitable post office to retrieve mail from their
boxes?no door-to-door delivery here?yelling to the clerk, in mailman
lingo, "is first-class up?"

Shipping by United Parcel Service Inc., or FedEx Corp. is frowned upon.
"Never used them," said Greg Stratton, a tanned and bearded retired
mailman from Sauk Prairie, Wis., as he bought stamps.

Email? "Nope," he said. Write letters? "Yep."

He chuckled and nodded toward the door. "My dinosaur is right outside."

Write to Jennifer Levitz at jennifer.levitz {AT} wsj.com


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