By Donna Barstow

The U.S. Postal Service, hammered just like government postal services throughout Europe and North America by a massive drop-off in snail mail caused by the Internet and email, is deciding the future of 19 Post Office branches in Los Angeles.

No word which ones will get shuttered. But signs of consolidation started last spring, when corner mail boxes began vanishing from Silver Lake to Woodland Hills to South Central. Even though the Post Office has raised postage prices four years in a row, it's been groaning about its huge fiscal losses. Corner mailboxes were the first casualties.

They've also cut pickups from corner mailboxes, from two a day to one. And a lot of those boxes can't be opened more than a few inches for a package; they jammed the openings tighter after 9-11.

What does it mean, if you lose your longtime community post office in sprawling Los Angeles?

We've called the new Postmaster of Los Angeles, Mark Anderson, over 20

times since he took office in August, 2008. He's never returned a single call, which we find, well, incredible.

But we did talk with Richard Mayer at the P.O., and asked him

what's going on in L.A. postal operations.

Carriers start work at 6 AM, so if you get the mail delivered after 2

PM, they're on overtime, and you're not. The

managers of several offices say 5 PM is the latest delivery allowed, but 

Maher won't confirm even this tidbit, saying, “We'll

just keep going, as long as we have mail that's sorted to be delivered.”

He says there are 3,326

collection boxes in Los Angeles; 849 were removed in the past year.

In hilly Silver Lake only 23 boxes are left  and 26 were removed.

Oh, and if you've been feeling virtuous by mailing early in the day,

or frenetically speeding to the P.O. to make the first pickup, you can stop that pointless behavior now.

All mail from mailboxes, the Post Office, and

trucks goes to the Los Angeles Network Distribution Center, where it's

sorted starting at 8 PM, and is sent out by 2 AM.

Once a day it leaves

LA. That's it. They couldn't tell us this?

Maher explains, “Mail volume is down over 14 percent compared to a year

ago”–this after huge drops in each of the previous years–“and the Postal Service is facing a $5 billion deficit. The USPS is

undertaking some very aggressive cost-cutting actions nationwide.”

So we've got higher postage prices, fewer collection boxes and pickups, and mail delivery is later than ever. The Weekly asked Mr. Maher how many

employees had been laid off in Los Angeles in these tough times.

None in 2009. Apparently, in the USPS, everything changes, and yet remains the same.

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