Sorting out postal law
Q: You were sworn in as commissioner of the Postal Regulatory Commission in June. What do you foresee the PRC achieving this year?
A: We just approved a series of competitive product filings. We're developing rules for the determination of postal vs. non-postal services. We're also developing accounting rules — that are based on the US Treasury Department report submitted to us earlier this year — on how to assign costs, and determine and assume federal tax on the competitive products fund. On July 10, we finished our fourth public hearing on the universal service obligation and the postal monopoly. We have been actively gathering comments for a study that's due to the Congress by December 19. At the end of the year, we start the process again on the annual compliance determination and, in February, we will begin work on the next rate proposals. We're busy.
Q: What challenges will the postal community face in the coming years? How will the PRC meet these challenges?
A: Declining mail volume, continued diversion to the Internet and a tough economy with high gas prices are all impacting the US Postal Service (USPS). But in my years working on postal issues, I've seen that no matter what the circumstance, the USPS has always found a way to adapt and evolve. I think mailers are going to be aided by the accountability and transparency the PRC provides and by the new rate making system [that is] in place. We're now able to review rate requests expediently, which, in turn, will help mailers better know what is coming.
Q: How did your previous position at the PRC and as a US Senate staff member prepare you for this position?
A: As director of the office of public affairs and government relations for the commission, my job entailed making sure that Congress, the mailing community, the general public and the USPS had a conduit through which they could readily access the commission. I was a staff member of the committee in the Senate that has the authority over the USPS. And for a number of years, my former boss, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), has been interested in the USPS. He was the acting ranking member while the Senate was holding its hearings on postal reform. I worked for him for 17 years and was his main [staffer] on postal issues.
Q: As a new commissioner, what goals do you have in the coming year?
A: I am delighted to be at a different vantage point, looking at the implementation of a law that I helped shape, and then helped implement. One area of particular concern to me is ensuring appropriate levels of service for Alaska and Hawaii, as well as US territories like the US Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico. We want to make sure that service is appropriate for these areas, as well as for rural areas of the continental US and urban areas that may be currently underserved. We want to make sure that no one is left out.