Former postmaster general Benjamin F. Bailar has resigned from the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, questioning the value of continuing a panel that has guided United States stamp policy since 1957.
In a letter to Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe, Bailar suggested that the committee has become overly concerned about trying to raise money for the cash-poor U.S. Postal Service and less worried about what message U.S. stamps offer the world.
Linn's obtained a copy of his July 23 letter, which Bailar had not meant to be made public.
Bailar’s nine-paragraph letter indicates that concerns raised by CSAC at a September 2013 meeting, when all members signed a letter of protest to Donahoe about their role in the stamp program, have not been resolved.
Bailar referred indirectly to that protest in his letter, but told Donahoe, “It is not my objective in this short letter to give you chapter and verse on the problems of CSAC.”
“Suffice it to say that the committee should be a first-class resource for you and the Postal Service, and I believe it is no longer meeting that standard,” Bailar said.
“In my opinion the committee bears little resemblance to what it was a few short years ago,” he said.
“Service on the committee is no longer rewarding.”
Bailar, 80, was named to the panel by former postmaster general John E. (Jack) Potter in December 2006.
A graduate of the Harvard Business School, Bailar is a well-known stamp collector who served as the 64th postmaster general.
He was the first former PMG to serve on the committee. His letter said the resignation was effective immediately.
“The time may have come to abolish CSAC,” he told Donahoe.
“Certainly the USPS does not need an expensive committee to know what will sell,” he said.
“The committee should be leavening the profit impulse with recommendations that present a program balancing that need with better representation of the best of the United States in a wide range of human endeavor.
“The money and effort that is being spent to support CSAC as it is currently configured and operating should be used more effectively.
“I realized this is probably painful to hear, but the situation has reached a point where someone has to say it, and it will likely not be said by members continuing on the committee,” he said.
“CSAC is only a small part of the task you face, but U.S. stamps have an impact on the self-image of the nation and how we are perceived by friends and enemies abroad.
“With some stamps to the contrary, we are no longer producing a program that, overall, supports that vision,” he said.
Bailar also suggested Donahoe “ask someone on your staff, or a panel with no dog in the hunt, to look at the situation.”
He said the inquiry should involve current and former CSAC members and the Stamp Services staff “about how they see the current operation.”
What seems to be one of Bailar’s major points was the priority that Donahoe and the Stamp Services staff, which supports the committee, have placed on selecting stamps that will produce growing revenues.
The former PMG said making stamps for that purpose is not proper.
“The idea that the stamp program can make a meaningful contribution at the Postal Service is not realistic,” Bailar said.
“I do not believe that the various studies of stamp profitability over the years have been very rigorous and think that much of the profit ascribed to the stamp program may be illusory,” he said, adding that “a great many of the stamps bought in quantity by collectors” ultimately are used for postage.
“In my opinion the stamp program should celebrate the things that are great about the United States and serve as a medium to communicate those things to a world-wide audience,” Bailar said.
“To prostitute that goal in the pursuit of possibly illusory profits does not make sense to me.”
Bailar also complained that appointments to the committee have “become heavily weighted to artist and designers with fewer and fewer people who can truly provide solid input on the subject matter of stamps.”
“While this may support a drive to ‘sell the product’ with abundance of pretty and popular culture subjects, the result is a program that lacks gravitas.”
“Given the apparent desire of USPS to commercialize the stamp program, I would suggest that the committee be eliminated, or at the very least be further marginalized.”
Asked if he would care to further comment, Bailar told Linns: “I have nothing to add to the letter.”
CSAC chairwoman Janet Klug told Linn’s that she and most current members of the panel would disagree with Bailar’s comments.
Bailar, she said, has not been able to attend the committee’s quarterly meetings since September 2012 and, as a result, “he has not been there to see all the changes.”
“His opinion is based on what was happening in 2012 and not what is happening now,” Klug said.
She called Bailar’s views “disappointing” and said the committee is now working as it used to work, developing stamp plans with great energy.
She called Patrick Donahoe’s cooperation with CSAC “phenomenal.”
“The postmaster general has bent over backwards to see that we have everything we need,” Klug said.
Donahoe attends the committee meetings and has been highly supportive, she said.
“We are working in the same ways again … presenting lots and lots of new work plans,” she said.
“… We are doing lots of things. We are very functional.”
Service on the committee is “so much fun and so rewarding,” Klug said, expressing confidence that her views were share by others on the panel.
When asked what might have frustrated Bailar in 2012, Klug said, “I think he was frustrated that we were doing more popular culture stamps than historical things.”
Klug expressed strong admiration for Bailar, saying she had known him for 10 or 12 years.
“He is quite a character …” she said.
“I don’t always agree with him, but I respect him.”
The U.S. Postal Service expressed gratitude for Bailar’s seven years on CSAC and promised that the issues he had raised would be discussed with the CSAC chair Janet Klug “and the full CSAC Committee.”
“The Postmaster General and CSAC members wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Bailar that ‘the stamp program should celebrate the things that are great about the United States and serve as a medium to communicate those things to a world-wide audience,’” a statement said.
“Throughout his tenure, the Postmaster General, the members of CSAC, the Stamp Services staff, and many others throughout the Postal Service have relied on his extensive postal knowledge and prior experience as Postmaster General, which was invaluable,” it said.
Published 8/3/2014 10:03 PM
Updated 8/4/2014 1:40 PM
Updated 8/5/2014 8:33 AM