November 2, 2011

A Vital (but Undervalued) Part of the Milwaukee Infrastructure

Last week, Milwaukee concluded its third and final discussion on the potential closure of five post offices in Milwaukee’s central city. Among 41 possible shutdowns across the state, the United States Postal Service would reduce the number of Milwaukee’s post offices from 26 to 21—depleting mail services in the city’s predominantly black and low-income communities. While it’s not surprising that the Postal Service, like any institution fighting to survive into today’s parched economy, has decided to eliminate and consolidate branches across the state, I am outraged that the allocation of shutdowns target Milwaukee’s African American residents.

According to a Milwaukee Community Journal editorial, the neighborhoods that would be most affected by these closures—Martin Luther King, Teutonia, Parklawn, Mid-City stations and Villard Square—report an income rate ranging from a mere $0 to $28,419 and an office mailbox rental rate that uses from 86 to 95 percent of post office boxes. With income being so low and post office use being so high, I shouldn’t have to explain why postal services in these areas are extremely important to local citizens.

We absolutely cannot assume that all residents, especially from low-income communities, have regular access to a telephone, computer, the Internet or an e-mail address in order to conduct personal and money-related business. Although the United States continues to see a drop in mail volume as more and more people are migrating online, we can’t forget the older and less affluent generations who lack the resources needed to go digital. That said, many individuals living in the five areas where USPS might shutdown will, in consequence, have to find new ways to get a hold of their Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid checks. It goes without saying that residents living in these communities depend on the postal service for not only personal and family correspondence but for resources and information that help them live day-to-day.

Yes, times are tight and yes the United States Postal Service needs to respond to gaping budget cuts, but before they run around slashing services they need to do their research. Eliminating five offices in Milwaukee’s predominantly black neighborhoods drain communities of vital public resources and fails to diversify cut allocations to different districts throughout the city. If these plans are allowed to proceed, we will lose jobs, significantly reduce consumer spending and a severely displace postal services in cities that need them the most.

That’s why I applaud city alderman for speaking out against these shutdowns and encouraging local support in public forums. Cutting these institutions goes against my mission to increase services and resources in Milwaukee’s low-income communities. It’s important that, together, we continue to fight for opportunities despite the current economic downturn. I will continue to make my voice known in this concerning situation and as always I’m here to serve.