In a time of historic distrust in government, the United States Postal Service has accomplished something extraordinary: it remains a universally beloved federal agency. Second only to the Parks Service in public favorability (a jaw-dropping 77% approval rating, per Gallup), USPS is arguably also the most frequently-interacted-with component of the federal government: packages and letters are delivered to Americans’ mailboxes six days per week. But these warm feelings – already under threat by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s continued destructive leadership – could quickly chill if the Postal Board of Governors has its way.
At least four times per year, the Board (the governing body that votes on DeJoy’s agenda and has the sole power to fire him) holds an open session meeting, its sole formal contact with the public. In recent years, these meetings have concluded with a well-attended public comment period, where in-person and virtual attendees have excoriated DeJoy for embracing a privatization-friendly agenda. Just this year alone, public commenters at Board meetings have decried the mail slow downs and price hikes, demanded changes to DeJoy’s gas-guzzling and union-busting fleet plan, raised serious concerns about transparency of DeJoy’s facility consolidation plans, and pushed DeJoy to expand community services offered at the post office.
But when the Postal Board of Governors met this week for their final open session of the year, there was one major difference from its previous quarterly meetings: virtual and remote public comments were, without explanation, banned. This abrupt new barrier to public accessibility led the number of public commenters – which in recent meetings has been a double-digit tally – to drop to 4. The decline in attendance was also likely compounded by an unexplained shift in the meeting time: whereas past meetings have been held at 4:00pm ET, Tuesday’s session was held at noon – the middle of the workday.
The Board’s decision to not allow virtual comments at the November 14th meeting follows another alarming recent attempt to suppress public input. At the August 2023 meeting, each public commenter was allotted only 25 seconds to speak, in sharp contrast to the typical 3 minute time limit. And past meetings were not beacons of accountability, either. The Postal Governors never responded to any comments raised by the public, and the comment period itself was always excluded from the official publicly available USPS recording of the formal session.