And the band played on

The problems with the Skagway Post Office have been played out in these pages for more than two years now.

Well, not really. We have not been able to cover the full story, and it is frustrating.

What we have discovered from trying to cover the situation is that the truth behind every postal service disruption – long-time postal workers leaving, postmasters leaving, new postmasters not working out, more postal workers dismissed, suspended or quitting – is being hidden behind a bureaucracy that seems more intent on protecting itself than its real mission of serving its customers and the community.

They bring in Juneau or other Southeast postal workers to get the backlog of mail out, and the postal public relations department says there is no problem.

What does that tell you?

Then, when the public complains and reporters ask questions, they are not sent to the source who is allegedly dealing with the situation. That person or persons in Anchorage or DC deflects the complaint or question to consumer affairs or the public relations department. They say they will look into it, but they can’t say much.

Complaints and questions go unaddressed until a member of Congress steps in, but even they are stalled. And the band plays on.

And the problems don’t get addressed.

And it doesn’t take much for the situation to start over again, and get worse. It all blew up last week, again, just as the Christmas rush was starting.

Certainly every personnel case is different, but what we do know is that what is happening now is not a “Skagway problem.” Our post office last summer and fall was running pretty well, held together by a couple of new local workers and some temporary supervisors from other Southeast communities, while a new postmaster was being sought. We were getting back to the friendly, courteous and efficient service that the postal service used to be known for.

In fact, our post office once, not so long ago, was the envy of the system: busy in the summer, a nice and easy pace in the winter, as long as it was well-staffed and the work got done. Jobs at the Skagway PO were some of the best in the community. Our locally grown postmasters and postal workers were some of the best in the state.

Certainly the postal service’s budget problems trickle down to the workplace, and they have fewer people having to do more work. However, the prospect of a year-round job in Skagway with decent pay should be enough to keep good people employed in those jobs. The kind of people who will come in early after three days without mail planes to deal with the backlog of mail, and stay late until it is all out. Often without pay.

So, when a person like that is forced to quit or is dismissed for not doing exactly what the supervisor – whether a temporary one that just showed up, or someone 800 miles away – tells her or him, what does that tell you?

It’s not a Skagway problem.

But the band plays on.

The problem is clearly coming from the top down, and there needs to be an investigation conducted by an independent party at the behest of the Alaska Congressional Delegation. Until that happens, the lies and deceit will continue and we will never get back to having the post office we once admired. - WJB