Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, city councilmembers and two state legislators vowed today to do everything they can to stop the U.S. Postal Service from closing down the historic main post office in downtown Berkeley.
The Postal Service has said it plans to close the downtown Berkeley post office and hundreds of other post offices across the country because it is in poor financial shape due to the bad economy and a steady decline in mail volume.
Speaking at a news conference on the steps of the 57,200-square-foot building, which was built in 1914 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, Bates said, "We are opposed to closing this building and will do everything we can to stop this."
He said, "We won't go gently."
Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who is Bates' wife and formerly was mayor of Berkeley, called the building "a treasure" and said the only reason the Postal Service is having financial problems is because of what she called a "ridiculous" requirement by Congress that it pay its employees health benefits 75 years in advance.
Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who formerly served on the Berkeley City Council, alleged that the plan to sell the downtown post office and other post offices across the nation is "part of a right-wing plan to privatize our public services."
City Councilwoman Susan Wengraf said, "This idea is stupid and shortsighted."
Bates and the other elected officials who participated in the news conference signed a letter that will be sent to Postal Service officials that appeals the sale of the post office and calls for a moratorium on the sale of all historic post offices across the country.
Bates said there also are other efforts to try to save the post offices, such as possible lawsuits based on the National Historic Preservation Act and a bill sponsored by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, that would change how the postal service is required to fund future benefits and better compete with private postal services.