Postmaster General Anthony Frank departs his position on March 10 and leaves behind a bizarre trail of behavior and priorities.
Last year, viewers watching the Dave Letterman show were treated to the sudden appearance of Mr. Frank on the edge of the stage set. Letterman introduced him and kept him standing on the sidelines while he made fun of him. Frank: stood there and grinned.
About the same time, Frank played a bit part as a letter carrier in a Sunday night CBS mystery program.
Soon thereafter he became personally involved in the contest over what picture of Elvis Presley will become a 29 cent stamp next gear. Fifty pieces of artwork were narrowed down to two pictorials — one a slim Elvis, one a stouter Elvis. For the first time in 152 years, the public will be able to select the winning design. Cards with the two color photographs will be available in most of the country’s 40,000 post offices. Anybody can place as many 19 cent stamps on these cards and vote their choice.
This lets the American public become involved in a very unique way,” asserted Frank. This is the same man who spent his time in office excluding participation by citizens in Postal deliberations and rejecting a proposal to establish a residential Postal User Association through a twice-a-year delivery to households by letter carriers of invitations to membership.
The time, hoopla and expense surrounding the Presley stamp is really drawn from Frank’s strange thirst for publicity and celebrititis. His Postal Service provided satellite transmission of Frank’s news conference to television stations from the Las Vegas Hilton. Joining him at the news extravaganza was Milton Berle, Barbara Eden, Nicky Blair and Kathy Westmoreland. You paid for all this diversionary inflation of Frank’s ego.
All this is part of a larger bizarre concentration by Frank. He is issuing a record number of special stamps in all directions. Many stamp collectors are upset with what they believe is an almost mindless proliferation. But Frank is in the stamp selling business to generate revenues for a deficit-ridden, mismanaged Postal Service where the bosses at the top drink deeply of lavish perks while the workers in the trenches receive no leadership by example or by any vision of an expanding Postal system.
Most Americans would rather than Frank focused on selling service instead of selling new stamps every week. Or selling T-Shirts, caps and buttons. They wan an end to the dreary contraction of services — fewer pickups and deliveries, slower delivery times, almost no weekend service between 1 p.m. on Saturday and Monday morning and long lines in some cities.
Millions of Americans in housing built after 1979 have to go to cluster boxes, rain or shine. They receive no at-the-door delivery. Many of these people are elderly or handicapped. Mail requiring receipts, other than express mail. must be picked up at the nearest Post Office.
Frank first said that raising the first class stamp from 25 cents to 30 cents was “too much too soon.” Yet he fought to raise it from 29 cents to 30 cents a few months ago when the usually compliant Postal Rate Commission told him that they would not approve more than 29 cents.
Issuing different stamps and closing more and more post offices has been a Frank theme. He has Closed 225 post offices in the past two years, thereby cutting the link between these communities and the federal government. Run it like a business, run it into the ground, run it against Benjamin Franklin’s dream of a universally binding communication network regardless of population densities and distance.
In his three years in office, Frank managed to run it like a deficit business, waste many of the Postal Systems revenues, reduce and delay its services and bring worker morale to a new low. He achieved these conditions in spite of record increases in stamp prices and service fees.
It has been rumored that Frank may return to the Savings and Loan industry from whence he came. He’ll sure feel at home there. (Interested readers who wish a more detailed description of Frank’s tenure at the Postal System may send a self-addressed, business-size, stamped envelope to POCAG, P. 0. Box 19312, Washington, DC 20036).