(Originally featured in Arizona City Independent Edition, November 29, 2006)
Citizens of Arizona City, we can pat ourselves on the back! We’ve done it! After years of schlepping all the way to the Post Office and back six days a week just to collect mail, we’ve finally got the attention of U.S. Postal Service officials. They’re even offering us a chance to have our mail delivered closer to home. Still, we have to wait and see exactly what that will mean in the long run.
For this, we can thank everyone who wrote the many letters and articles, especially those that appeared in this paper, making our wishes known. This is a perfect example of the Power of the Press!
By now the deadline has passed, the votes are in, and a decision is being made. But no matter how things turn out, the manner in which the vote was conducted still leaves many of us with questions about the legitimacy of this election.
When a government agency makes a decision that affects any citizens, they’re supposed to set aside a reasonable amount of time before that decision is made so everyone who might be affected can ask questions and comment on the issue. Government agencies are legally required to provide “full and material disclosure” of all the facts, not merely a few details that are skewed in order to affect how people vote on the issue.
Arizona City residents had only partial information and a mere two weeks to vote on whether we want street mail delivery. No announcement was made before the vote commenced, so we had no time to discuss the issue in depth. And the vote was timed to overlap with the period when citizens of Arizona City, like all Americans, were preoccupied with an important national election.
During the short time the mail-delivery vote was conducted, we had no chance to offer public comment or query Casa Grande Postmaster Jo Lea Quintana in a public forum. When we did receive answers to some of the questions posed in this newspaper, we were not told everything. For instance, when Postmaster Quintana revealed last week that if we opt for street mail delivery, carriers would attempt to deliver packages and accountable materials, she failed to add that if we aren’t available for the original delivery attempt, we can request a second delivery of the items.
This newspaper has been our most effective forum, during both the mail-delivery election and the months that led up to it. Before we began discussing the issue here, postal officials paid no attention to letters and comments they received on the issue. If we hadn’t used the press to our advantage, nothing would have happened. But even if the majority of us like the outcome of the vote, we’ll still need this newspaper to help make sure any changes are implemented correctly and in a timely manner.
Meanwhile, we should keep two important points in mind for the future:
The manner in which this vote was conducted--with no chance for a public discussion of the issue and a lack of full disclosure of the facts--provides Arizona City residents with sufficient reason to ask the USPS Phoenix District Manager to set aside the results of the first vote and implement a second vote. Then we can make sure everything is done according to Hoyle, so we can actually make an informed decision in the second election.
USPS officials whose decisions affect Arizona City residents owe us a chance to discuss the issue with them in person. We should, as a unified community, request that these people come to our community center for a town meeting that should be both well-planned and timely scheduled to allow the most people possible to attend. We should accept nothing less.
Only after we’ve been able to fully discuss the issue with Postal Service representatives can we make an informed decision about the future of mail service in Arizona City.