Patrons of Bethesda's new "post office" quickly learned that federal, state, local and postal officials had approved a site that had no parking for postal customers.
Beleagured citizens were victims of predatory towing, when attempting to park in the lot next to the building at 6900 Wisconsin Avenue. The lot seems like the logical place to park. In reality, it is only for customers of the mattress store and Verizon Wireless.
A month has gone by, and politicians have yet to provide a single parking space.
But a "mail cop" is now on duty at the mattress/Verizon lot to tell you to "get off their lawn" if you try to drop off that birthday card for grandma.
It's not Verizon's fault, or the mattress folks' by any means. That's their lot, for their customers, they pay for it, and have a right to keep others out.
It's not their fault that the USPS chose an inaccessible location for an "urban" post office.
The real shock is that USPS was able to get away with it.
I believe I was the first person to point out the problems with the site, long before it opened. That was before it was even known that the too-tiny lot was going to be off-limits.
Being a lifelong resident, such a site proposal immediately sounded crazy to me.
But local politicians apparently lack my familiarity with downtown Bethesda. They had not word one to say about it.
Local media bought into the USPS PR, even parroting the talking points that "parking will be available" and that the site was "walking distance from Metro." Just check a map!
As of today, not a single member of the Montgomery County Council has publicly commented on the postal fiasco. A post office with no parking. How do you ignore something like that? Too many steak dinners with developer lobbyists (the Post Office swap was rushed to create project opportunities for two developers on the old postal sites)? Too busy approving sales of public parking lots to developers?
And what of Chris Van Hollen? Yet to be quoted, his office claimed to be working on the issue belatedly weeks ago.
No results so far. Just Paul Blart, Mail Cop out there. Van Hollen is often touted by just about everyone for his political skills, genius intellect and command of the issues. But he didn't find anything wrong with 6900 as a postal site when it was announced. And I'm assuming closure of your constituents' post offices would be kind of on your Congressional radar.
What can anyone do? The parking just isn't there to begin with. Smart politicians would have put the brakes on 6900 immediately.
Fortunately for them, they're not taking any criticism from the local media for a blatantly obvious disaster that is - absolutely - partly their fault.
And that's going to keep the untenable postal parking situation going for quite a while. No heat? No fallout? No parking.
Ain't it cool?
Do I have any advice for would-be postal patrons trying to park, who find the advice of parking in a garage 2 blocks away to be not exactly helpful?
Uh, maybe wear pajamas, hold up your phone, and ask, "Can you hear me now?" when the mail cop "pulls you over," and convince him you're going to buy a mattress and a new data plan?
Conversely, is it time to join the "throw the bums out" movement that was in every newspaper yesterday? Meaning, vote everybody on the council off in 2014. And even if they are just 9 new Democrats, wouldn't that be an improvement over the current situation of failure, taxoholic spending and ignorance of basic issues, like where senior citizens can mail a letter? You know, the folks who pay the councilmembers' massive CEO-style salaries?
In one of the wealthiest, most-educated areas in the world, we have a post office with no parking, and no one is talking about it. Much less doing anything.
Except Paul Blart.
"Segway Parking Only."