The community members that populate the Third Ward and Midtown areas came together Thursday evening, February 13th at the Third Ward Multi Service Center with the sense that the United States Postal Service has said, we got your letters and phone calls, thank you very much but we are moving forward any way.
Norma Bradley, President of the Third Ward Super neighborhood and Kofi Taharka, leader of the National Black United Front (NBUF) Houston, held a meeting to keep community members updated on the status of the Southmore postal station that is under review for relocation/closure. The meeting also served as a continuous push to have elected officials on all levels to stand up for their constituents.
The community began to band together in January once they learned about the notice given during a public hearing at Houston’s City Council in December 2013 by that Real Estate Specialist for the USPS, Sandra Rybicki. There have been ongoing meetings and protest any modifications to the Southmore Station.
“Most people didn’t know in the community including myself that this had been done. But the word started to travel after the holidays and New Years and we had several activities that took place,” said Taharka. “One was a rally outside of the post office taking signatures; some people were here from different organizations, there was some representation from political offices that this post office cover. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee held a meeting at the Judson Robinson, some of us were there, United States Postal officials were there and they got read the riot act and didn’t have too many good answers.”
After the meeting at the Judson Robinson, everyone was commissioned to write letters and send them to Rybicki in Dallas, TX. The public was told by USPS officials that their letters would be taken into consideration for it was not a done deal as far as relocating/ closure.
“We took several hundred signatures on a petition to the United States Postal officials. They sent someone down who is a liaison between elected officials and the post master to receive them, “said Taharka. “We showed them that we care enough about this to actually come to Washington D.C. There are federal guidelines to tell them what they have to do when they want to sell or relocate a post office. The first deadline was January 17 and I was in Washington delivering that petition.”
After the petitions were delivered, letters sent and calls made, a letter was still sent out and posted onto the door of the Southmore Station that caused alarm and discontent amongst the community. Within days of posting the letter it was quickly removed.
The letter stated, “ In accordance with the procedures set forth at 39 C.F.R. 241.1, after consideration of the comments received from the community and upon further assessment and review of postal objections, the Postal Service has made a determination to proceed with the relocation of retail services,” signed by Sandra Rybicki.
With the pressure on, the Congressional members are the strongest ally the residents have. The questions fell to Tonya Williams who came to represent Congresswoman Lee.
“The congresswoman is going to have a personal meeting with the post office manager this evening. The issue with the letter going up is it was put up prematurely,” said Williams. “Because there is an appeal process, once the Congresswoman heard that they had put the letter up she immediately contacted them and that’s why it was taken down. It was prematurely put up. There is still an appeal process being made and the Congresswoman has written several letters to them and they are responding to those letters. So that is why she is having a meeting with them tonight via conference call.”
Williams also explained that this move by the post office was a long time coming for they have been considering the closure of the Southmore Station for almost two years.
“They have actually been planning on doing something like this for about 2 years now. Congress actually asked the Post Office to tighten their budget and this is their way of tightening their budget,” said Williams.
Bradley urged Congresswoman Lee’s liaison to please provide updates as soon as possible as they continue to ask for support from elected officials. State Senator Rodney Ellis sent his representative to show his solidarity and commitment.
Beyond the elected officials community members who specialize in law and can provide research on the matter were called upon.
“This is a fight. We know that that is valuable real estate right there and it is no mistake that it’s the real estate department of the USPS that seem to be handling it,” said Taharka. “What are we doing if we can’t stand up and stop this? We are asking for transparency in some of these meetings. This is not a press conference fix and if it is we need someone to call and say you can’t put our hands on this particular post office.”
The next round of appeal is open and is over on March 10, 2014. Comments should be addressed to Vice President, Faculties
Sandra A. Rybicki, Real Estate Specialist USPS Facilities
PO Box 667180
Dallas, TX 75266.