Forget all the excuses framed in legalese in the U.S. Postal Service's denial of a Freedom of Information Act request by the city of Sioux City. In our view, USPS is opting to be overly difficult about the request because it simply doesn't want the city to see its feasibility study on the proposed closing of Sioux City's Mail Distribution and Processing Center.
To its credit, the city isn't throwing in the towel. City Manager Paul Eckert has appealed the denial.
For the second time in recent years, consolidation of the Sioux City center with the center in Sioux Falls, S.D., is under consideration by the Postal Service. Again, public, private and local postal union leaders are engaged in an aggressive campaign in opposition to the proposal.
In seeking to mount its defense of keeping the local center open and to prevent the negative consequences of closure for the community, it's entirely reasonable for the city to want to look at the feasibility study. In fact, its request doesn't strike us as a complicated matter for the Postal Service.
If it's concerned about public release of sensitive information in the study, the Postal Service should redact the sensitive parts, such as names and addresses of postal patrons, and let the city read the rest of it. This is common practice among public bodies in cases of FOIA requests.
We are hopeful for just such a common-sense resolution through the appeal.
Finally, a couple of thoughts on the city of Sioux City and FOIA requests in general.
By and large, the city is cooperative in turning over documents requested by the Journal through FOIA requests, so in our view it is acting in consistent fashion in expecting a similar level of cooperation from the Postal Service.
The experience of having difficulty getting what it wants in this case may, in the end, reinforce or even strengthen city commitment to FOIA requests and open government in general, which would be good not simply for the Journal, but for the entire community.