Tonda Rush
National Newspaper Association

The National Newspaper Association ended 2014 celebrating the continuation of Saturday mail delivery through the federal fiscal year ending Sept. 30 but lamented the passage of another congressional session without postal reform.

Association President John Edgecombe Jr. called on publishers to attend NNA’s Leadership Summit March 19 in Washington to urge quick action in the next Congress.

“If common sense had prevailed, a reform bill would have been completed,” said Edgecombe, publisher of The Nebraska Signal (Geneva, Neb.). “We had a solid proposal that provided USPS with financial relief, preserved service and implemented health cost reforms. It should have been accepted.”

But disputes among Senate leaders stalled the progress.

Congress finally adopted a government funding resolution for 2015 that included a continued mandate for Saturday home delivery.

Other reform provisions, including preservation of service standards and reasonable guidelines on the U.S. Postal Service’s use of negotiated service agreements to market its advertising mail, never reached the Senate floor.

Edgecombe said NNA was disappointed, but he applauded President Obama’s signature of the funding resolution that continued six-day delivery.

He said NNA would highlight declining rural mail service in 2015.

The Postal Service is on track to close more than 80 mail processing plants in smaller U.S. cities. It has said it wants to concentrate mail sorting in urban areas, where declining mail volume has left urban plants with idle time.

NNA Postal Committee Chairman Max Heath said the changes in mail processing ahead would be the next wave in shrinking rural service.

Although USPS has a genuine problem keeping its plants busy, the error was in overbuilding during the fat times, he said.

“Trying to fix it by carrying the mail further and further down the highways so those big plants can stay busy is simply going to accelerate the problems we have already seen,” Heath said. “There is only so much you can do to improve efficiency when you are faced with the reality of miles of asphalt.”

Postal Service manage­ment believes it must focus on urban areas in the hope of improving its revenue, Edgecombe said. But that pits the Postal Service against private-sector competition in over-served areas, he said.

“It abandons the essential needs in smaller towns and underserved rural areas where the service is most critical,” Edgecombe said. “Reports of declining mail service in NNA-member towns continue, and I frankly see little change on the horizon unless Congress acts.”

Edgecombe said he was gratified that key senators supported universal service and had tried to broker a bill in the final days of Congress. He thanked Sens. Roy Blunt, R-MO; Jon Tester, D-MT; Tammy Baldwin, D-WI; and

Bernard Sanders, D-VT, in particular for leading the effort to wrap up a bill.

“The 114th Congress will be our fourth Congress where we fight for universal service,” Edgecombe said. “We believe legislation can be passed that preserves mail delivery and sustains the Postal Service,” he said.

Tonda Rush is chief execu­tive officer of the National Newspaper Association, a nonprofit trade association representing community newspapers.

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