Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monthly Archives: June 2012

United States Postal Service closing Redmond’s downtown post office in July

Redmond’s downtown post office will be closed and its operations relocated to a mail processing facility in the eastern part of town, the United States Postal Service confirmed this week. As of a month from this Saturday – July 30th – the current location will no longer be open for business.

In a letter dated June 25th and delivered June 27th (today), USPS tersely informed post office box customers (including NPI) of the pending closure and advised that boxes would be moved and be unavailable to customers from July 26th until July 28th. A copy of the letter, printed in larger font, has been tacked to the wall inside the Redmond Post Office adjacent to several rows of post office boxes. The letter does not provide any background about the closure or explain why it is taking place on July 30th. The full text is as follows:

June 25 2012

To Redmond PO Box Customers:

On Monday, July 30, 2012 the Redmond Post Office will relocate to 7241 185th Ave NE, Redmond WA. This location is only 2.2 miles from the current office.

The PO Boxes will be moved and unavailable to customers July 26 -28. During this time the box mail may be picked up at the retail window in the current location, 16135 NE 85TH ST. For your protection, Identification will be required for pick-up.

To minimize any inconvenience you may experience between July 26 — 28, you may consider picking up your mail at the new location on July 30th. The PO Boxes will be installed. The retail hours will remain the same, Monday — Friday 8:00 am — 6:00 pm and Saturday 9:00 am — 3:00 pm.

Please direct questions to the USPS Consumer Affairs Office, at (253) 214-1800. We do apologize for any inconvenience you may encounter during this transition period and appreciate your patience.

The below Quick Read (QR) barcode is provided to identify the new location on your smart phone. The QR also provides directions to the new facility.


The Redmond Postmaster

USPS previously announced in October 2010 that it had sold the property on which the current downtown post office sits and was looking for a new location nearby. A couple of months later, then-local Postmaster John Logan sent a letter to Redmond Mayor John Marchione announcing that USPS would be opening a smaller new downtown post office only a few blocks away.

But late last year, those plans were scrapped, and after initially claiming it still was looking for a building downtown to lease, the public was told the Post Office would probably (but not definitely) “relocate” to USPS’ mail processing facility in east Redmond, near Cedar Lawns Memorial Park. Since then, the Postal Service has kept quiet about its plans – until this week, that is.

The “relocation” has the potential to inconvenience a significant number of Redmond residents, particularly those who are used to having the post office within walking distance of their apartment. It will leave the city without a downtown post office where people can send packages, buy stamps, or pick up mail.

And it will happen only one week before the last day of Washington’s 2012 “Top Two” winnowing election. I imagine there will be at least a few people in Redmond who will try to drop off their completed and postmarked ballots at the current facility after July 30th, only to discover to their irritation that the Redmond Post Office they have known and used for ten, twenty, or even thirty years is gone.

Whatever happened to the new downtown post office the people of Redmond were promised? Back in 2010, Postmaster John Logan said USPS wanted to develop a new location because it wanted “to provide the community with an upgraded, modern facility that offers a safe working environment for our employees and a level of service expected by our customers.” Well, so much for that.

Instead of a new downtown post office, those of us who live and work in the Bicycle Capital of the Northwest will now have to get used to walking, driving, or biking over to Redmond’s commercial and industrial district just to send a parcel or check a P.O. box. And USPS is doing nothing to ease the transition. Post office box customers are just hearing about the move, and apparently we’re the first ones to know. We got all of a month’s notice. A month!

The city’s quarterly “Focus on Redmond” magazine just went out to residents, and it doesn’t say anything about the post office “relocating”. The city’s website doesn’t yet have an announcement either. It seems the city has been left in the dark about the transition along with the people of Redmond.

USPS is in dire need of new management. The current Postmaster General and his “executive leadership team” seem more interested in weakening the Postal Service than strengthening it. They’re closing post offices, removing curbside collection boxes, laying off workers, and calling for the elimination of Saturday delivery (which would be a stupid move). The austerity measures they are implementing are leading to a decline in the quality of service USPS provides, which is bad news for everyone.

Many conservatives and libertarians have suggested that the death of the Postal Service would be a good thing, wrongly believing that private carriers like UPS and FedEx could fill the void. What they don’t seem to understand is that UPS, FedEx, and other carriers are for-profit companies that deliberately occupy a niche. UPS and FedEx have no interest in establishing and maintaining a postal system that uniformly serves all of America’s communities.

Though it is somewhat independently operated these days, the U.S. Postal Service is still a public service – as its name implies.

Cheerleaders for the death of the Postal Service also forget that the Constitution of the United States explicitly empowers Congress “To establish Post Offices and post Roads”. That’s from Article I, Section 8. Our founding founders thought that having a postal system was so important, they explicitly mentioned it in the plan of government they gave us. Electronic communication may be growing more predominant, but it doesn’t mean we don’t or won’t need a postal system.

The United States Postal Service needs to be modernized and strengthened, not weakened. The people currently in charge don’t seem to have the interest or wherewithal to take on that challenge. They should be replaced – immediately.

And Congress needs to unshackle the USPS from the stupid, senseless pension obligations that it saddled it with in 2006, so that the media stops wrongly reporting that the Postal Service is bankrupt.

LIVE from Providence: Netroots Nation news roundup for Friday, June 8th, 2012

As of this evening, we are now more than halfway through Netroots Nation 2012. Here’s a roundup of some of the articles the traditional media has published about the convention since yesterday:

Tomorrow will be the convention’s third and final full day. Three keynotes and three sets of panels are scheduled, including Revitalizing State and Local Blogging, which will be facilitated by yours truly at 12 PM Pacific Time. The panel will be livestreamed – please plan on tuning in from home if you can.

LIVE from Providence: Saving Public Transportation: A Matter of Social Justice

Although it seems like the early afternoon (still on West Coast time), it’s as good a time as any to talk about the national pattern on defunding public transportation and transit’s place as a social justice issue. This panel was a reminder about work which is being done back in Washington state by the Transit Riders’ Union, who have done similar presentations.

One panelists describes how transit makes higher education cheaper, how it helps pedestrian and bicycle safety, and how these issues aren’t being paid attention to. The local president of the Amalgamated Transit Union detailed how service has been cut, resulting in full buses and a lack of service which affects the elderly, the disabled, and the students. Ridership has also increased, but so has fares, making it difficult for the optimal use of this necessity.

Concerned residents of Rhode Island have engaged in coalition-building for not just increasing bus services, but also for bike paths and rail. This coalition has done legislatively advocacy and community organizing to ground public transportation as valuable to the fabric of American life. Larry Hanely, the president of the international Amalgamated Transit Union, interestingly enough, cast transit fares as taxes and transit drivers as “curbside tax collectors”, making fare increases a “tax on the working poor”. This was an interesting conception, but true, and it would make sense to make transit fares as progressive as possible, lest we add more regressive taxes to Washington state’s already most-regressive tax system.

The most important message from the panel was to start transit groups, start transit coalitions, because these groups are able to be effective in their advocacy, where as people whose jobs depend on the transit funding are less so. The people who use these services every day and have the ability to cast their vote to show its importance are those whose voice can have the greatest effect, and all the panelists were very eager to motivate people to join this organizing effort.

Economic equality was also brought up, impressing the intersectionality of issues and how fighting for one form of social justice can lead to gains in other areas (this was brought up by a resident of Rhode Island and urging their Assembly to raise the income tax to help fund, among other services, transit). “Efficiency” was another justification for cutting Rhodes Island transit, and in comparison many services in Washington state have been cut in the name of the same diety, when efficiency has been achieved and further cuts actually damage that ideal.

Many residents from Rhode Island came to this panel, many residents concerned about public transportation. Public transit seems to be an issue, one of many, that Washingtonians and Rhode Islanders can connect with.

LIVE from Providence: Educational Opportunity & Economic Dignity

How is educational equality linked to the economic situation on the ground? I came to this discussion between the American Federation of Teachers and Ilyse Hogue of the Nation. Like many of the panels so soon after the Wisconsin recall, conversation started out about the attacks which have been made against unions, and the fact was once again emphasized, once out of many, that 60% of Wisconsin voters felt that a recall should only be used for official misconduct. Randi Weingarten, the president of the AFT, dispelled the reasons for these attacks and talked about concessions which were made by the union and how removing their collective bargaining was not about balancing the budget, as Scott Walker continually claimed.

Talk turned to social movement unionism (rather than business unionism which only services its members without a focus on organizing), and how the problem is not collective bargaining, but economic inequality, and how unions need to present a broad economic agenda in order to both help unions and the country. Economic inequality is linked to education because it is both harder for a child to learn and a teacher to teach when the child can’t sleep because their roof is leaking, as was exampled by Ilyse. In order to make things better, work needed to be towards revitalizing the whole community.

Weingarten talked about the need to provide comprehensive services, whether it is sex education, after-school services, or healthcare, which only cost the school district the salary of the coordinator for these services. She talked about the complex solutions that are needed and the discussion which needs to be done around these issues, and how if we continue to talk about “one-word solutions”, children will lose. Seeing as one-word solutions are paid attention to a lot easier than complex, sometimes obtuse debates, reframing might needs to be less than complex but in a way which communicates the value of teacher unions to providing educational excellence at school and economic stability at home.

Conversation ended around the need to go into these communities, the need to build trust, the need to build state and local power. This has been a trend this Netroots Nation, talking about focusing not just federally, but in our very communties and perhaps a hyperlocal level. I would not be surprised if this is the trend of progressive powerbuilding, and more attention and funding for local and state organizations at least in Washington state would provide a lot of returns for progressive policymaking. Building state and local power is exactly the type of conversation we are trying to start in NPI’s panel on Revitalizing State and Local Blogging tomorrow afternoon.

There will be a variety of ways that you can stay up-to-date on the proceedings of our panel, including a live stream which will be posted on The Advocate and a Twitter feed at #usnetroots. If power is going to be built through state and local organizing, communication strategy and content creation is going to be a key to its success.

LIVE from Providence: Organizing Outside the Lines: Reaching Hard-to-Reach Communities On and Offline

“These are not the only people working on these issues”, the moderator emphasized at the beginning of the panel. In a packed ballroom hall, this panel attempted to talk about ways to genuinely engaged groups that are not traditionally engaged. The moderator had to emphasize that “hard-to-reach” was in quotes, as communities which might be hard for some people are everyday friends and neighbors for others. This reminder was very pertinent, as too often it is easy to take people as the voice of their community and movement, and the tactics which worked for some may not for others.

The first panelist, working with DREAMers, spoke to their victories, and continuing struggles (with President Obama deporting more immigrants in three years than Dubya in his entire term) and then showed a video about United We Dream and their community engagement.

The second panelist was from Planned Parenthood, and talked about how they defeated the personhood amendment in Mississippi, by accepting the religiousity of the voters (especially when voters had to “pray on it”). By utilizing the faith and values component, they were able to win in Mississippi while other conservative issues passed on the same ballot.

The other panelists talked about their campaigns with the Troy Davis case, the Trayvon Martin case and raising awareness of people who have been unjustly murdered by police and vigilantes.

The moderator opened up to the audience and let us connect the themes of the stories of the panelists. Different themes included unconventional political organizing, focusing on the community instead of a face and a leader, and the merging of online and offline organizing. A major focus was also increasing civic engagement through helping a community realize its own power.

Audience discussion also included how to convert from responding to a crisis to pushing for a better world, which was developed through the response which talked about the work which was done beforehand and developing email lists afterwards, which included being sensitive to how people came into contact with the organization and inviting them to join. Another response was to say that that you can’t push for better if the crisis is continuing to occur, such as high incarceration rates and the stop-and-frisk policies which need to be dealt with lest it continues that “the house is on fire”.

In the last round of questions, importance was place on targeting those decisionmakers who will help an organizaton get what it wants, and also how to target Obama “without electing Mitt Romney”. The biggest answer was that by targeting Obama the progressive movement will actually help the campaign because by getting the Administration to do what we want it will energize the demoralized base and get people out to vote, citing the strategies used to get Obama to support marriage equality.

There is much to connect with the last comment, because many people have been disillusioned to Obama the President,and much of what have been said in previous Netroots Nations by representatives of the Administration was to hold their feet to the fire and ensure their accountability to progressive policy. The panelists made it clear that by not being overcautious due to fears of a red November we will reelect a President of the caliber we need to make a better country and world, because a non-progressive Obama will make the voters stay home and usher in a Romney Administration.

LIVE from Providence: Opening Day at Netroots Nation 2012… in pictures!

Good afternoon from Providence! We have had a busy day so far here on the first day of the seventh annual Netroots Nation, as you may have noticed if you’ve been following our morning convention coverage.

Though we try to be as descriptive as we can when we’re covering panels, keynotes, and special events, a picture is worth a thousand words, as the old adage goes. So, for your enjoyment, here is a short photo essay depicting the first morning of Netroots Nation 2012. All the photos were taken by me and curated by Patrick.

A view of the foyer at the Rhode Island Convention Center on the first day of Netroots Nation 2012

A view of the foyer at the Rhode Island Convention Center on the first day of Netroots Nation 2012 (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The Rhode Island Convention Center, which is hosting us for the weekend, is one of the best venues we’ve ever been in. It is nicely laid out, with plenty of comfortable seating in the open space, lots of water stations, . The walk from the exhibition hall and main hall to the panel rooms is appreciably short, and because the walk involves ascending or descending a series of escalators, you always get a view when you’re moving from one place to another.

Max Berger, Matt Browner-Hamlin, Peggy Mears, and Lenore Palladino discuss the need for a concrete plan to break up oversized Wall Street banks like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Two sets of panel sessions were held this morning (the first at 9 AM, the second at 10:30 AM). I attended a panel called The Heart of the Beast: How the Grassroots is Taking on Big Banking in a rather spacious ballroom which had seemingly a zillion chairs set out for people to sit in (many of them were filled due to high interest in the panel). The photo above is of that panel.

Attendees gather in the Exhibition Hall to visit booths and talk to other conventiongoers. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The exhibit hall is adjacent to the main hall, as it was last year, and includes a blogger lounge (sponsored by Daily Kos, as seen above) and dozens of booths staffed by progressive organizations, campaign vendors, and socially/environmentally conscious businesses.

Winning Smarter: Using Data to Transform Elections

One of the second sessions on Thursday morning included a panel discussion led by Darcy Burner about the importance of using data to campaign effecitvely (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The panels we’ve been to so far have been well-attended. We understand from the Netroots Nation organizers that we may set a new record for registrations this year, which would be pretty cool. The second panel I went to (Winning Smarter: Using Data to Transform Elections) was held in one of the smaller ballrooms and there was hardly an empty seat in the room due to high interest.

LIVE from Providence: Collaboration, Not Co-Option: Labor, Community Organizations, and Occupy Wall Street Working Together

Welcome to my first post from Providence! Now it’s 10:30, and I’m sitting in a panel about how the Occupy movement and more traditional progressive groups can work together, in order to better create positive change. Panelists first described where they were when they first heard about Occupy Wall Street, and stories emerged from the panelists about checking out and then becoming friends with Occupy LA, having friends who participated in the taking of the Brooklyn Bridge, and taking part directly in the actions of Occupy.

“Backscratchers for rich people made out of ivory tusks” was how one panelists described the message of those pushing against the Occupy movement, in a counter to the criticisms that Occupy doesn’t have a coherent message, when for many of the people it was their first introduction to activism, and the counter-message against Occupy is one that is overwhelmingly bad for the American public.

Conversation moved then to discuss more about the actual collaboration, starting first with the Teamsters organizers reaching out to the Occupy movement (somewhat surprising, considering the traditional conservatism of the union) in order to take joint action against Sotheby’s in equal part energetic and creative. These joint actions provided the solidarity needed to make the projects successful, and the Occupy movement was able to take action that more institutional groups couldn’t. This was despite many fears that many groups were using the movement for their own purposes,  and speaking in public about those fears, but behind the scenes these groups were able to provide benefits to Occupy as well, including running interference in order to help them keep Zucotti Park as long as possible.

The panel provided a perceptive look into the actual workings of Occupy Wall Street, the flurry of phone calls, how an extra 72 hours to organize an event can make all the difference, and the strategy between the Occupiers in the park and organizations such as and international labor unions.

As was articulated by one panelist, Occupy allowed groups that had been working on similar issues take much more radical action on these issues and be much more explicit in the demands they were making. Even though they are not longer physically occupying, he continued, they were able to create a space which is still inhabited and where work is still being done.

While a lot of talk was about the collaboration part of the panel, not much was discussed about the co-option issue, as one audience member pointed out. As a panelist answered, everyone, including the Occupiers themselves, needed to take a step back and reevaluate their struggle. Suggestions were made about looking at it from a solutions-based perspective, not to look at it as who the person is with, but what they want to get done, what resources they have, and how they can work together.

The panel provided a first-hand look into what the Occupy movement has done, how they did it, and what work they’re looking at doing in the future (partially displayed by one panelist’s inability to make it because she was working with different groups to stop Mayor Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy). Even though they may not be as physically prevalent, the work from those in the panel, and the very least, are going to continue to keep Occupy relevant for months and years to come.