Chicago’s pathetic mail delivery the latest sign Postmaster General Louis DeJoy must go

It’s hard to totally blame Chicago’s own postmaster when her boss, DeJoy, has spent the last year derailing the nation’s mail service.

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U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy

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It’ll be good to see Chicago begin to come alive again after spending the last few weeks in the deep freeze.

But one thing that’s unlikely to thaw anytime soon is the frustratingly glacial pace of mail delivery in Chicago — particularly on the South and Southwest sides, home to the four worst-performing post offices in the city, according to a new report from the postal service’s inspector general.

Across the city, customers have reported that letters and packages are delayed or outright missing. It’s so bad that a group of local elected officials, led by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, last week called for Chicago Postmaster Wanda Prater to step down or be fired.

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But how can we possibly judge Prater’s competency when her boss, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, has spent the last year effectively derailing the nation’s mail service by yanking sorting equipment from postal facilities and cutting overtime?

As long as DeJoy is the postal service’s top shot-caller, we have no confidence that shaky mail delivery in Chicago — or across the country — will improve, no matter who’s Chicago’s postmaster.

‘Absolute, epic failure’

Chicago mail delivery failures, as outlined in the postal service’s inspector general’s report, are startling. And the audit singled out four stations as the worst offenders: Auburn Gresham, 8345 S. Ashland Ave.; Grand Crossing, 7715 S. Cottage Grove Ave; Henry W. McGee, 4601 S. Cottage Grove Ave., and Ashburn, 3639 W. 79th St. 

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More than 62,000 letters and packages from those facilities were delivered late from September 2020 through February of this year, the audit found. Letters and other flat mail could show up two days late. Packages were up to 19 days tardy.

The audit also uncovered an assortment of other issues, including customer service problems, improper mail scanning and even unsecured postal delivery vehicles.

That translates into everything from birthday cards to crucial checks to medical test results to medicines being delivered late due to incompetence.

This would be absolutely unacceptable in more routine times. But now, with Chicago slogging through a pandemic and many residents dealing with economic uncertainty, it’s an outrage.

“People who depend on the postal service — seniors, families, other people depending on the postal service day-in and day-out — it’s an absolute, epic, total, undeniable failure,” said Rush, who called for the audit.

More delays, higher postage

Once the envy of the world, the U.S. Postal Service today struggles under a long-standing law that forces the agency to pre-fund billions of dollars in health care benefits each year for future retirees. No other federal agency is required to do this.

A veritable fortune that could have improved and expanded operations has been sapped from the postal service because of the law. The agency was $8.8 billion in debt in 2019 — and that was before the pandemic.

Then along comes DeJoy, who was appointed postmaster general last June by a postal board of directors more eager to do then-President Donald Trump’s bidding than serve the public.

And Trump, who called the USPS a “joke” but offered no plans to improve it, found the perfect henchman in DeJoy, a GOP fundraiser with no postal experience.

Under DeJoy, delivery times have slowed enough to alarm Congress. And it certainly looks likes the postmaster tried to do his boss a solid by attempting to neuter the agency in order to hamper mail-in voting — which favored Democratic candidates — in last November’s elections.

And now in 2021, what’s DeJoy planning for an encore? He wants to increase postage prices and eliminate the first-class mail category.

The result would be letters, magazines and other first-class mail that is supposed to be delivered in two days — or would be, if not for delays — would arrive in three to five days. At best. And we’d pay more for the privilege.

We’ve previously argued that DeJoy isn’t fit to serve as postmaster and should be replaced by someone who will stand up for the agency.

But only the postal service’s board of governors — not President Joe Biden — has the power to show DeJoy the door. Biden can ditch the board, however, and appoint new members who can pick a new postmaster general, and we’ve recommended he do so.

That’s the only real way to solve the postal woes across the country — and certainly in Chicago.

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