Bureaucrat Beat: Leap Before You Look, Regulationitis, and Just Say No to NetZero!

Today is special. We only experience February 29th about every four years. It’s all about keeping the Vernal Equinox, or first day of spring, in about the same place. Cosmic games, you say? Hey, let’s respect the astronomers machinations. We’ve got enough to do down here on planet Earth.

To the two critics who emailed comments to our website, we would say you, too, should stick to what you know, because you clearly have a lot wrong.

“Henry” at fisherman@hotmail.com tried to accuse me of squeezing taxpayer dollars on the four-lane project north of Independence. Simply put, I’ll never recover the expense of countless hours of wrangling with bureaucrats and lawyers’ time to put together towers of paperwork, not to mention a trip to Sacramento. How many trees did we save? Every one – since we bargained for a tree replacement program for the town – no, not just for affected property owners. Might wanna check your facts before letting it all hang out, Henry.

R.Wilson emailed to ask why we “always beat up” on local post offices. Wilson says postal workers have to work too hard to put mail in p.o. boxes if it takes effort. Wilson failed to notice the praises we have heaped on Bishop Post Office, sometimes Mammoth Post Office and definitely the Olancha and Keeler Post Offices. Maybe you just felt like mouthing off to us, eh Wilson?

Speaking of the Post Office, there’s news! We’ve had many phone calls from Big Pine residents to ditto reports of trouble with Postmaster Lupita Mahoney. Pam Mallory called to say how sad it was that her daughter’s college financial aid check arrived and the Post Office sent it back since the mail was addressed to a street address, not the post office box. Mallory says she’s lived in Big Pine 37 years and the Postmaster’s children went to school with her daughter.

The frustration is deep with many. The problem, which one listener said we should point out – Often, you can’t get agencies and businesses to use p.o. boxes. Postal customers don’t have control over the DMV, colleges, insurance companies. We try, but it’s tough, and meanwhile postmasters with regulation-itis can’t seem to concentrate on customer service.

We spoke with Richard Maher of the Postal Service about citizen complaints and the fact that Postmaster Mahoney hung up on us as we tried to discuss the post office box issue.

Mr. Maher apologized and said, “We have gotten stricter with the rules.” He did admit that “there are times when postal employees know that mail is meant for a particular person, but if there is uncertainty they have to send it back.”

Okay. What we heard was if the postal worker knows where the mail goes, put it there. That’s all citizens want, plus they’d like a little kindness and courtesy. Everyone who has called us about the Big Pine Post Office stated that they were treated rudely with a high-handed dismissal.

An anonymous letter also arrived at the Bureaucrat Beat newsroom. The sender sent us a copy of a message posted outside Carroll’s Market on the community bulletin board. The posted message says this:


The following question was sent to USPS online help desk:

“If mail is delivered only to a post office box and a letter contains the correct street address but lacks the box number, is there a cross-reference that a Post Office can use to determine what the correct box number is?”

The response was:

“Thank you for contacting us about handling mail sent to a physical address when mail is only delivered to a Post Office box. If we are not able to deliver the mail as addressed, we will return it to the sender according to the return address on the mail item.”


“For decades, the Big Pine Post Office was ‘able’ to deliver mail that lacked a correct box number. Now, they are unable. What has changed?”

Enough said for now.

There’s plenty to say about NetZero, the internet service that signed up a local couple without their permission and then started to bill them. The local man called up, distraught that he couldn’t seem to extricate himself from NetZero.

He gave us the 800 number. We called and reached a man in India. We told him we wanted to know why NetZero was signing people up and billing them against their will. He put me on hold and never came back.

I hung up and dialed again. This time, the Indian man put me on hold and got his supervisor. That man looked up the account and said, “Oh, we’ve cancelled it as of today.” How convenient. Watch out, people. Don’t give information willingly.

Couple of quick notes: Ever wonder what happened to Inyo County’s quietly dismissed Water Director Tom Brooks? Looks like he’s going to contract services to the Air Pollution Control District. An agenda item says ‘Contract with Tom Brooks for hydrological data compilation and analysis.” Probably a friendlier atmosphere where they deal with air and not water.
Cudos to Supervisor Linda Arcularius for adding a second public comment period for the Inyo public at the Board meetings. The first comment period comes at the start of the meeting. The next one, toward the end for best opportunity. Great.

Ending on a humorous note, you may have seen the email going around that quotes comic Jeff Foxworthy’s one liners with the prelude, You live in Mammoth if…

You live in Mammoth if your one and only car wash is closed from September through June. If you wear shorts and a snow jacket at the same time. If you’ve had a conversation with someone who rolled down their window at the stop light to ask you for directions to “the Lodge”.

If you have more miles on your snow blower than your car. If driving is better in winter since potholes are filled with snow and finally, if you can drive 50 mph through two feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching, you live in Mammoth.

With that, this is Benett Kessler, signing off for Bureaucrat Beat where we await your word on our lives in the Eastern Sierra and beyond.

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