The U.S. Postal Service, faced with increasing amounts of mass mailings from Congress, has decided to establish 170 special "congressional mailings coordinators" around the country "to resolve any congressional mailing problems," according to the latest edition of the Postal Bulletin.
The move will mean additional responsibility for existing management personnel at 73 division and 97 management sectional center offices, but no new costs, a Postal Service spokesman said yesterday.
"There have been a couple of instances" of problems recently, the spokesman said without identifying them. However, he said, the decision to identify a specific individual in these offices "was made as part of a general updating of the postal operations manual."
As part of the updating, local postmasters and the new coordinators are instructed on how to prevent congressional constituents from receiving mass mailings too late or getting more than one of the same notices, which could embarrass the legislator involved.
They "must keep documented records of any congressional mailings received at their offices, with particular attention to those received too late for timely delivery," the bulletin advises.
The coordinators will have to keep for six months a detailed record of how they handled each congressional mail problem brought to their attention, according to the new instructions.
"Town meeting notices," calling attention to district or home-state appearances by House and Senate members, have recently become the most popular form of congressional mass mailings. In a debate last month, Rep. Bill Frenzel (R-Minn.) said that one member of the House had sent "town meeting notices to every person in his district four times" within the first five months of this year. Last year Congress limited to three the number of newsletters that could be mass mailed each year by members at taxpayer expense, but there is no limitation on notices.
To be effective, however, the town meeting notices must get to constituents before the meeting. So the new Postal Service instructions direct that "managers must give immediate attention to any delayed time-value congressional mailings, such as town meeting notices."
Local offices must notify the newly designated coordinators of any delayed mailings and those officials must pass the word on to the "appropriate government relations representative" at Postal Service headquarters in Washington.
The Postal Bulletin outlines how expedited mail, so-called orange bag service, sent from Washington back home is to be handled to guarantee timely delivery. Congressional staff members put presorted mass mailings in these bags and send them overnight to local post offices for immediate sorting and delivery. House members spent $2.7 million on orange bag service in the first three months of this year.
The Postal Service will make "every effort to provide overnight delivery" of similar pouches of material destined for a member's state or district office, the bulletin states.
The Postal Service also keeps up-to-date figures on its computers of the numbers of residential, business and post office box addressees in each congressional district or state so that senators and congressmen know how many copies they must produce for mass mailings they wish to make.
If a post office receives too many pieces, the postmaster must not deliver more than one copy to any household. Instead, the extra copies are to be held at the post office and the coordinator called. "Instructions for disposal of the excess must be received from the congressional office," the bulletin advises.