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USPS Not Meant To Be A Revenue Generator But A 'Public Asset,' Says Historian

Matt Rourke
The U.S. Postal Service has a long history of helping Americans stay connected to politics and politicians.


On today's program: The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh joins other organizations in a lawsuit against Pennsylvania over mail-in ballot procedures; the history and politics of the U.S. Postal Service; and a new episode of the PBS show “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” addresses the pandemic and how to talk about it with your kids. 

Urban League joins lawsuits over mail-in ballot procedure
(00:00 — 4:43)

Voters who send in their ballots by mail are required to sign their name on the envelope. This requirement is meant to increase security for voters. If that signature doesn't match one on file, the ballot is discarded. TheUrban League of Greater Pittsburgh is among those suing the state over the procedure. The group wants voters to be informed about this discrepancy and given a chance to correct any problems with their signature.

90.5 WESA’sLucy Perkins spoke with Urban League President Esther Bush who says the state should fix the problem before November. 

Postal historian says increasing difficulty of voting by mail would be“antithetical to the norms and values” of the U.S. Post Office
(4:46 — 13:47)

The Postal Service has always been an integral part of American democracy, saysRichard John, a professor of history and journalism at Columbia University and author of “Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse.” The agency wasn’t intended to be run like a business, he says, but rather a public asset.


The Post Office Act of 1792 was “a new mandate for the Post Office not simply to facilitate commercial correspondence that would generate revenue for the central government, but to make it possible for ordinary Americans to remain in touch with affairs of state,” says John.

He says while he can’t make an assessment on how recent changes to the Postal Service will help or hurt, making it more difficult to conduct the election would be “antithetical to the norms and values” the Post Office.

The Trump administration is attempting to walk back a statement President Trump made on Fox Business last week. He indicated he opposed a Democratic proposal to provide additional funding to the USPS and support mail-in voting.

“Now they need that money in order to make the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” President Trump said. “But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped to have it.”

This statement led to intense backlash from Democrats and Republican lawmakers. 

“Daniel Tiger” special helps kids learn to cope with the pandemic
(13:50 — 18:03)

The coronavirus pandemic has been scary and confusing for children. It can be difficult for parents to find the right words to explain what’s going on. The popular preschool-aged show “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” is releasing an episode today addressing the fear and change associated with the pandemic.

90.5 WESA’sSarah Schneider tells the story of the Pittsburgh-based production modeled after “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.


Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jzenkevich@wesa.fm.
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