A mail carrier wearing a mask and gloves in Berkeley. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Who could have imagined it?

Who can correct it?

Therein lies the problem. If you can’t imagine the unimaginable, or prepare, strategize and correct what lies ahead, it remains unfixable.

Thus, the current mess confronting every neighborhood in every city.

Start with the Post Office.

Trump appoints his mega-donor Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General to do the unimaginable: cut overtime, remove mail sorting machines, and unbolt and haul away those blue neighborhood mail boxes.

Wait, there is more. Even if states prefer mail-in ballots, they must now pay almost triple the cost of postage—not the usual bulk mail rate of 20 cents—but, the first-class cost of 55 cents.

It’s unaffordable!

In what is now a familiar practice, Trump has led the attack (without any evidence) that mail-in ballots (in the midst of a pandemic) are riddled with fraud. He evokes images of illegal “harvesting” of ballots, “counterfeit ballots” printed by enemies, and “millions of illegal aliens.”

He insists that the election results will be possibly unknown for years.

It’s diabolically clever. Choose between the threat of COVID-19 infection (in long lines, overstuffed halls, or possible riotous confrontations amid in-person voting) or vote by mail using the Postal Service.

So, Trump opts to starve the post office. It is not a monopoly, so try to privatize it. It’s just like the effort to privatize civilian health care (by attacking Obamacare) and now attacking the Pentagon’s health care system.

The result will make the Bush v. Gore mess in Florida in 2000 look tame.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is correct. Call back the House from its August recess and focus on correcting the unimaginable. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will call back the Senate.

Then get ready for more.

Trump’s 2020 plan modernizes 1900-era practices to suppress voter turnout. His new plan requires no threats, no lynching, no destruction of ballots, no shut down of polling places or purging of eligible voter rolls.

Rather, a simple destruction of one of the last bastions of a popular American institution enshrined in the U.S. Constitution—the Postal Service.

The next “personal protection” policy to consider is the preservation of parks and open spaces.

In San Diego, as in other cities, COVID-19 has demonstrated one obvious factor. Density is now a serious health risk. High-rise condos, with more shade than sun, are not healthy. The shared elevators, super-spreader ventilation systems, and risk of grid failures magnify that risk.

Open spaces reduce the chance of spread from what will certainly be more frequent and more deadly pandemics. Parks, increasingly at risk of over development, remain at a premium, and should be protected and expanded—not become victims of “benign neglect.”

Those gems Balboa Park and Presidio Park, our expansive beaches and bays, and every neighborhood pocket park, municipal golf courses or other available open spaces, should be preserved and cherished.

These limited preserves are the lungs of the city.  Surely, it is also unimaginable that they might wither and disappear via purposeful neglect.

Then there is the Police Department.

Amid the rightful, righteous, and sometimes riotous outpouring of rage about unacceptable brutality by police, there remains one other unimaginable reality in view.

Does anyone want to live in a city without a police force? Imagine that.

Who responds to those domestic violence calls? To the robberies, the rapes, the murders, riots and car accidents?

Even in Ocean Beach, support for police is widely appreciated when they attempt to stop the large Wednesday night crowds of non-mask wearing, fire-burning, music revelers.

Small business, large business, every neighborhood and every citizen would probably prefer reforming (or transforming) not de-funding their police departments.

Transparency, body cams, better recruiting, and a proposed ballot initiative to create a Citizens’ Review Panel are all improvements. More are needed, but a major city without a police force is surely unimaginable.

Just as in every occupation, there are good, bad, and mediocre people.

Rid the ranks of those that are bad. Shore up those that are good, and do not eliminate those who answer those 911 calls—often at great risk to themselves.

We need our police force. We need our parks and open spaces. And we need our Post Office—now more than ever.

Save them. They all need funding and support.

Do what you can. Where you can. When you can.

Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.

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