BERKELEY -- Activists working for more than a year to save the historic downtown post office got good news Monday when they learned that the 2014 omnibus Appropriations Bill and its accompanying report provide support for saving the beleaguered U.S. Postal Service.
The bill, focused primarily on funding $1.1 trillion for government services, mandates continuation of six-day mail delivery and prohibits further closing of rural post offices. And a committee report that accompanies the bill calls for slowing down the Postal Service sale of historic properties.
The USPS is not taxpayer-funded. Post office funding in the bill is minimal, covering only free mailing for the blind and overseas voting.
"If this is a way out of this dysfunction, it could be wonderful," said Harvey Smith, a member of community group Save the Berkeley Post Office. He added that it is the responsibility of Congress to save the post office from attempts at privatization, which he called "a heist of our heritage."
The Appropriations Committee report that accompanies the bill was of particular interest to local activists, since it addresses sales of historic property.
"The Committee is concerned by reports that the Postal Service is attempting to sell off many of its historic properties without regard for the preservation of these buildings," the report states, suggesting that the sales might not adhere to provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act.
It calls on the postal service to "suspend the sale of any historic post office" pending the results of an investigation now underway by the Office of Inspector General into "whether the Postal Service is complying with its statutory and regulatory requirements in the relocation of services, closure, and sale" of historic post offices.
Berkeley Councilman Jesse Arreguin, whose district includes the downtown post office, has joined the mayor and other council members in working on ways to stop the sale of the landmark building. He said he was happily surprised the provisions made it through the Republican-controlled House committee.
"It shows the impact (of closures and consolidations) on people throughout the country," Arreguin said.
Both houses of Congress are expected to vote on the bill this week.