AUBURN GRE­SHAM RES­I­DENTS COM­PLAIN OF… SNAIL MAIL

Rush takes aim at postal ser­vice as con­stituents say they haven’t been get­ting let­ters, pack­ages for weeks

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MANNY RAMOS, STAFF RE­PORTER mramos@sun­times.com | @_ManuelRamo­s_ Manny Ramos is a corps mem­ber in Re­port for Amer­ica, a not-for-profit jour­nal­ism pro­gram that aims to bol­ster Sun-Times cov­er­age of Chicago’s South and West sides.

Lashann Walker spent more than an hour Tues­day morn­ing pick­ing up her mail at her lo­cal post of­fice in Auburn Gre­sham.

She had to. It hadn’t been de­liv­ered to her home for three weeks.

“I’ve been ex­pect­ing a lot of mail that just hasn’t come in yet,” Walker said out­side the Auburn Park branch post of­fice, 8345 S. Ash­land Ave.

The post of­fice “didn’t in­form me that they were run­ning be­hind and if they did, I would’ve been here a long time ago,” Walker added. “Even now when I picked up my mail they still didn’t tell me when I will get some more mail. Like, will I have to come back up here ev­ery day?”

It’s not ex­actly clear what is caus­ing home de­liv­ery de­lays in the South Side neigh­bor­hood; Walker was among half a dozen res­i­dents in­ter­viewed by the Sun-Times who told sim­i­lar sto­ries.

The prob­lems have got­ten the at­ten­tion of the lo­cal con­gress­man, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, who said his of­fice has been bom­barded with com­plaints.

“A two-week mail de­lay might not seem like a big deal to Chicago’s USPS lead­er­ship, but such a de­lay in vi­tal ser­vices can mean de­layed med­i­ca­tions for our sick and el­derly, or the de­layed pay­ment of bills ac­com­pa­nied by un­de­served late fees,” Rush said in a state­ment is­sued Tues­day. “De­spite USPS’s at­tempts to blame the cur­rent pan­demic for their own in­com­pe­tence, de­layed de­liv­er­ies are a re­cur­rent prob­lem ... specif­i­cally as it re­lates to the South Side.”

Postal Ser­vice spokesman Tim Nor­man said mail was be­ing de­liv­ered in Auburn Gre­sham Tues­day; told of res­i­dents’ com­plaints, he rec­om­mended call­ing the Postal Ser­vice’s con­sumer af­fairs hot­line at (312) 983-8403.

“The Chicago District has a ded­i­cated work­force that ser­vices nearly 1.3 mil­lion de­liv­ery points daily,” Nor­man said. “We gladly work to ad­dress any spe­cific is­sue re­ported from the com­mu­nity.”

Walker said postal work­ers told her de­liv­ery de­lays might be the re­sult of the coro­n­avirus forc­ing postal work­ers to call in sick, but “we were get­ting our mail ev­ery day — and some­times early — all through the pan­demic, so that’s why I don’t un­der­stand why it is hap­pen­ing now.”

Nor­man didn’t say whether the Auburn Park branch was af­fected by em­ploy­ees miss­ing work due to the pan­demic, though the agency is “flex­ing our avail­able re­sources to match the work­load cre­ated by the im­pacts of the on­go­ing coro­n­avirus.”

Mon­day was the first day in two weeks that An­quita Ward, 35, re­ceived mail at home. Ward went to the post of­fice any­way, be­cause she was still wait­ing on a pack­age that should’ve been de­liv­ered al­ready.

Work­ers in­side Tues­day morn­ing told her “they are short-staffed and they have mail that has been bagged up since [July 9] and when they get to it, they’ll let us know,” Ward said.

“They won’t even go back there and pull peo­ple’s pack­ages and they also told us there is medicine that is in there that hasn’t been de­liv­ered.”

Ward said there’s been ten­sion be­tween postal work­ers and cus­tomers. As Ward was speak­ing with the Sun-Times, one of those work­ers stepped in to say a few words.

“No it’s not mail. These peo­ple are wait­ing for f---ing pack­ages that they can’t go to the store and get,” the postal worker said. “So if you can’t buy your cheap-ass sh-- at the store, wait for us to bring it to your house.”

The postal worker didn’t give her name but said car­ri­ers have got­ten “robbed and jumped” re­cently and the Auburn Park Branch was short two-thirds of its staff. Most con­cern­ing, she said, was the num­ber of peo­ple ig­nor­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing and re­fus­ing to wear masks.

“When I get COVID, that’s one more em­ployee down, when I give it to them ladies up there that’s three more em­ploy­ees down,” the postal worker said be­fore storm­ing back into the build­ing.

Ward un­der­stood the postal worker’s con­cerns about COVID-19, but wasn’t happy with how work­ers de­scribed the pack­ages peo­ple are wait­ing on.

“Whether a per­son’s mail is cheap or not, it’s still theirs . ... I just don’t like how they are talk­ing to peo­ple,” Ward said. “This is what we al­ways deal with” at this branch.

Rush said sim­i­lar is­sues two years ago led to a se­ries of meet­ings with Postal Ser­vice. “Prom­ises were made, but none of them were kept,” Rush said, so he’s “fin­ished with listening to USPS’s ex­cuses.”

A 41-year-old felon with a his­tory of driv­ing of­fenses told au­thor­i­ties he was high on PCP when he was speed­ing and slammed into an el­derly woman’s car in Archer Heights, im­me­di­ately killing her, Cook County pros­e­cu­tors said Tues­day.

Luis Alver­ado was trav­el­ing south on Cicero Av­enue on a sus­pended li­cense when he al­legedly went through a red light at Archer Av­enue at 76 mph around 4:45 p.m. Sun­day.

Once in the in­ter­sec­tion, Alver­ado’s black Chevro­let Mal­ibu slammed into 76-year-old Pa­tri­cia Wick­ers’ Honda Pre­lude with such force that her car “split al­most com­pletely in half,” pros­e­cu­tors said.

Wick­ers, of Gage Park, was thrown across the in­ter­sec­tion. She died at the scene.

Alver­ado’s car con­tin­ued to crash into sev­eral other ve­hi­cles be­fore com­ing to a stop, pros­e­cu­tors said. He then got out of his Mal­ibu and stood on the side­walk.

Sev­eral wit­nesses iden­ti­fied him as the driver in the deadly crash, lead­ing to his ar­rest, pros­e­cu­tors said.

Alver­ado later ad­mit­ted to smok­ing PCP, run­ning through a red light and not hav­ing a valid driver’s li­cense, pros­e­cu­tors said. He was taken to a hospi­tal for a blood draw, but re­sults were still pending Tues­day. Alver­ado is fac­ing a reck­less homi­cide charge for Wick­ers’ death.

Judge John F. Lyke Jr. called the al­le­ga­tions against Alver­ado “to­tally horrendous” and or­dered Alver­ado held on $250,000 bail.

Alver­ado’s li­cense has been sus­pended since 2016, pros­e­cu­tors said. He has also been ar­rested nine times for driv­ing with­out a valid li­cense or driv­ing while his li­cense was sus­pended, court records show. Alver­ado also has con­vic­tions for armed rob­bery, drug pos­ses­sion, gang loi­ter­ing and as­sault­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer.

An as­sis­tant pub­lic de­fender told Lyke that Alver­ado is a sin­gle fa­ther of four chil­dren in their late teens or early 20s and cares for his el­derly par­ents. He is cur­rently un­em­ployed be­cause of an in­jury, but he last worked at a Home De­pot for two years, the as­sis­tant pub­lic de­fender said.

AN­THONY VAZQUEZ/SUN-TIMES PHO­TOS

Lashann Walker stands out­side the Auburn Park Post Of­fice on Tues­day in Auburn Gre­sham. She was re­triev­ing her mail and said no mail has been de­liv­ered to her home for three weeks.

An­quita Ward says she hasn’t re­ceived mail at home for two weeks and was at the Auburn Park Post Of­fice on Tues­day try­ing to re­trieve a pack­age.

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