Saturday , 20 December 2014
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Quest to create a unique Community Albeit ‘Un-ZIP’d’

Since the incorporation of Sunny Isles Beach in 1997, the leaders of the City have embarked on a mission to create a unique community easily identifiable by residents and visitors alike. As a newlyelected Commissioner, I continued the quest of seeking approval from the United States Postal Service for a unique ZIP Code for the City of Sunny Isles Beach.

The task of obtaining a ZIP Code for the City was first initiated when I was nominated to serve on the City Advisory Committee by former Vice Mayor Lewis Thaler whose idea it was to make the request. I had no idea what I would be doing once appointed to the CAC, but I immediately was directed by the former Chair of the City Advisory Committee that my task would be to undertake this request. Even then, in January 2012, the USPS was already having financial difficulties, and they just continued to get worse over time. At the time of this writing, the Federal Government is on shutdown.

I waded through the USPS Operations Manual and other materials I had and could find that would enlighten me as to what the USPS takes into consideration when considering a “request for ZIP Code boundary review” rather than simply writing a letter stating that Sunny Isles Beach wanted a new ZIP Code because it is unique and different from the other areas inside 33160. I extolled its virtues: the Beach, geographic location, tourist destination, economic status and property values (as to uniqueness), the low crime rate (for the insurance cost argument), its population and projected growth rate (to justify the cost). I always felt that it was an up-hill battle because of the financial ramifications to the floundering USPS as my research also led me to the requirements that the change had to make financial sense. I learned during the process that we also had been denied in the past on two occasions, and I had found articles on the Internet about other cities that had been turned away. But, as they, say: If you don’t ask, then certainly you don’t get, and I remained cautiously optimistic.

In a nutshell, my arguments seemed to fall on deaf ears with a reply that felt scripted and was turned around too quickly given the procedure I was originally told would have to be followed when considering the request. The denial was based on the fact that the USPS was unable to identify any operational needs, substantial savings, or service improvements that would justify their providing a unique ZIP Code for Sunny Isles Beach. At a minimum, changes to schemes and transportation schedules, directory revisions, computer software, and mail forwarding for changing addresses would be required and significant administrative costs would be incurred. It was further explained that 5-digit ZIP Codes can only be authorized if there is an operational need supporting the USPS’ mission of providing the best universal service, when an existing ZIP Code structure impedes quality service, and where there is an opportunity to substantially reduce its distribution and delivery costs. The denial also went on to explain in three paragraphs the “preferred last line” concept as though I had no idea what it is although I had stated in the request that it was inadequate. Naturally, however, above all else the USPS is a business, a separate entity not funded by our tax dollars, so all of the fiscal arguments make sense notwithstanding internal directives of the USPS which I was provided from their office in Washington, D.C., or arguments made in the request for the change.

Finally, however, there was the ultimate truth in black and white: “The USPS is experiencing significant financial challenges related to declining mail volumes, the lackluster economy and fluctuating fuel costs.” Consequently, not all of the established rules apply any longer. In fact, since the time of the application, there has been talk in Congress of the installation of post office box stations, like you might see in a townhouse project, so mail carriers no longer have to stop at individual addresses and everyone within a certain area would pick up their mail at the same location.

As much as the attorney in me wants to appeal the decision, timing is everything and now is simply not the time. With email, social media, financial difficulties, the speed of technological development, an ever-evolving global economy and necessary adaptations to all of the above, it may never be. Who knows? The ZIP Code may eventually become a thing of the past, maybe even the United States Postal Service itself. For the time being, however, not having our own ZIP Code does not detract from what Sunny Isles Beach has become, is, or will be in the future— Florida’s Riviera, a unique community, and then some.

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