Rep. Lynch: Communal Mail Delivery Proposal ‘a Luddite Idea’

By Melanie Arter | May 22, 2014 | 12:05 PM EDT

FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, file photo, packages wait to be sorted in a Post Office as U.S. Postal Service letter carrier Michael McDonald, gathers mail to load into his truck before making his delivery run, in Atlanta.  (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

( – Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) said Thursday that a proposal by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to replace door-to-door delivery for 15 million addresses over the next 10 years with 1.5 million steel communal boxes placed in neighborhoods is “a Luddite idea.”

“Putting a steel box in the middle of a neighborhood and telling senior citizens, ‘Okay, you can walk a quarter of a mile to get your mail,’ that’s not—it’s disruptive in a way, but that’s not innovation. That’s a Luddite idea,” Lynch said at a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Federal Workforce and Postal Service. (A Luddite is a person opposed to increased industrialization or new technology.)

The full committee debated the bill Wednesday. Issa said door-to-door delivery costs $380 per address each year, while curbside delivery would cost $240 and $170 for centralized methods, the Associated Press reported.

Issa said less than one percent of all addresses would be changed each year. He said communal boxes would provide a safe, locked location for package delivery – instead of carriers leaving packages on porches – and would be a better alternative to theft or bad weather.

In the first three months of 2014, the Postal Service reported a $1.9 billion loss, despite cost-cutting measures, a 2.3 percent increase in operating revenue and increased employee productivity, the AP reported.

“What the chairman of the full committee has in mind is putting out about 1.5 million of these steel boxes in neighborhoods all over America – in urban areas and towns. He wants to change 15 million door delivery addresses to cluster boxes so that we’ll have to—even if there is 100 addresses in a box, it comes to 1.5 million,” said Lynch.

“If you make them bigger, you can put 200 in there. You can drop that to maybe 750 thousand, but that’s a … huge expense, even where it’s feasible. And once we have 750 thousand or 1.5 million steel boxes out there all over America, how much flexibility do we have in light of the technological changes coming?” he asked.

Lynch said the idea “is going backward in time” and is “extremely costly and inefficient.”

“Come on out and walk down to a steel box and get your mail. That’s not creative. That’s extremely costly and inefficient, and it reduces our flexibility, I believe, in terms of what we’re doing next,” he said.

“Will the gentleman yield so I can respond to be called a Luddite?” Issa asked.

“No, I have to leave. You can talk about me when I’m gone,” Lynch said.

“With pleasure,” Issa said.

“I’m sure it is, Mr. Chairman,” Lynch responded. He also criticized the proposal of cutting mail delivery down to five days a week, an idea that Issa, President Barack Obama and other congressional leaders support.

“Most innovation tries to tie in with what society’s doing. It tries to answer a need that’s out there, and where I live, and which is common in America today, we operate on a 7 day schedule. All the stores that used to be open 5 days, long ago, they’ve gone to 7 day. So now, the Post Office in a spirit of innovation is gonna close for 2 days every week? I just think that’s the wrong direction,” Lynch said.

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