The editors at the Tampa Bay Times must have been salivating at the news the U.S. Postal Service will begin consolidating its mail processing and distribution centers – an effort that will see USPS facilities in Lakeland and St. Petersburg close in the coming months. The editors are salivating because the decision by the USPS may involve ending the use of the “Tampa – Saint Petersburg” postmark that was agreed upon the last time the Postal Service attempted to erase Saint Petersburg off its maps.
“Instead,” writes reporter Emily Nipps “mail will be stamped with a postmark that either says “Tampa” or some other name reflecting the Tampa Bay region.”
And what better way to justify the newspaper’s recent, controversial name change to Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg Times than for a major organization like the Post Office arriving at a similar decision?
“See!” Paul Tash and Co., can say today. “Even the mailman views these disparate communities as one region.”
Except its not.
St. Petersburg is the fourth largest city in the fourth largest state. Why even have postmarks if a city of such size doesn’t have its own?
The USPS’s Enola Rice tells me that moves like this are part of a larger move to consolidating mail processing centers across the county due to declining mail volume. “With those consolidations, a facility may process and sort mail from other cities and states,” says Rice. “The postmarks often times reflect regional areas.”
Rice points to the mail processing center in Greensboro, North Carolina. The mail going through the Greensboro facility currently states “Piedmont Triad” to represent the geographical area.
If I received a letter or postcard and it was marked “Piedmont Triad”, I would have no clue from where the correspondence originated. But I’m pretty sure no one who lives in the so-called “Piedmont Triad” tells people they are from such a place. They tell people they’re from Greensboro!
See, that’s the problem with St. Petersburg losing its postmark. Pride in this city is one of, if not the, major factor in St. Petersburg’s renaissance. Twenty or thirty years ago, not many people were proud to call this city home. But as the ‘burg has been revitalized, pride runneth over.
Yet those not vested in this community or those more interested in being vested in a region, rather than a city, want to continue to strip away St. Petersburg’s hard-fought identity. The Post Office is the latest such institution to join in this “assault” as former mayor Rick Baker describes it.
But don’t think the honchos at the Tampa Bay Times aren’t smiling at the news.