Life in Baltimore isn’t supposed to require constant suffering as in the Book of Job with a protagonist mercilessly tormented by forces beyond his control. Yet sometimes it feels that way. People work hard to improve schools, yet outcomes are often discouraging. An army of volunteers fight daily for better access to nutrition and health care, yet people still often lack both. Meanwhile, the homicide rate remains ceaselessly high even as well-meaning individuals fight the good fight, whether that involves city police risking their lives to track down a murder suspect in a shopping center or an intrepid civilian devoting himself to de-escalating conflicts in Cherry Hill only to be shot and killed himself. Guns flood our streets, the wicked go unpunished, abject poverty and long-standing racial antagonisms limit opportunities for a better life. As another biblical figure of note might say: God, why hast thou forsaken us?
These are difficult problems, with no easy solutions. But every once in a while, some added challenge manifests itself — one that is, in fact, wholly unnecessary and has a relatively easy remedy, and yet it persists. And to which the only rational response is to scream at someone or something whether the sky, a higher power or, in this event, a faceless bureaucrat: Seriously? You’re piling more disadvantages on Baltimore? Have you no shame?
Such is the case with the U.S. Postal Service, which, for reasons still not completely understood, has forsaken Baltimore in a big way. Perhaps there are worse things than having the worst mail delivery in the nation — a title Charm City earned for the first quarter of this year. But when added to the other woes facing Baltimore, it feels deliberate and cruel. Perhaps we’re mistaken. Maybe it’s just an accidental bureaucratic misstep or two. But given that Baltimore’s postal woes started under Donald Trump, who admitted to underfunding USPS, at least in part, to suppress mail-in ballots from people living in Democratic-leaning cities like Baltimore, this doesn’t sound like an accident.
So what’s happening? During a Senate subcommittee hearing chaired by Maryland U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen on Tuesday, the problem was made clear but not reason for it, nor the cure. Baltimore mail frequently does not get to its destination on time, according to the USPS inspector general. The chance of it showing up on time is about 25% for 3-to-5-day deliveries. You can find better odds at Pimlico. Investigations are under way to find the cause, USPS representatives testified, but it may take months yet to have a full picture.
Here’s what ought to happen in the interim: Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, the former Republican fundraiser and Trump appointee, ought to be marched down to East Fayette Street and given the task of hand sorting mail, preferably without benefit of air conditioning, until Baltimore has the top on-time rate in the country. Or else he needs to resign. He’s certainly welcome to return sorting machines, hire workers and do whatever needs to be done, but he ought not be allowed to escape culpability or, frankly, avoid whatever physical labors are required to right this particular wrong. This is not rocket science; it’s the mail.
Some of us don’t have much need of “snail mail” anymore. But a lot of people and businesses still depend on it for income, medicine, gifts and greeting cards. Not everyone can switch everything to the internet. Not everyone has a phone. Not everyone has a car. What Baltimoreans deserve, however, is to have the same level of mail service they had before Mr. Trump showed up in Washington. Not perfect. Not always punctual. But how about decent?
Something is clearly broken that was not broken before. It needs to be fixed. And if Senator Van Hollen or U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger or anyone else who represents the interests of Maryland residents in Congress wants to prove they can hold the collective feet of the U.S. Postal Service to the fire, now is the time to demonstrate that skill. Baltimore may have bigger problems, but few titles are less deserved (or more ill-timed) than to have worst-in-the-nation postal service. Let’s hope that, like Job, Baltimore may yet find justice and vindication.
Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.