WASHINGTON – Everett Alvarez has a high school, a city park and several scholarships named after him, but that apparently is not enough for members of Congress.
When the House of Representatives returned Wednesday from a monthlong summer recess, its first order of business was to rename a number of post offices around the country for local notables, including three in Maryland.
Alvarez was one of those three. He said the possible dedication of a Rockville post office in his honor is “a tremendous compliment,” but asked “do you know why they are doing this?”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, offered a literary response.
“He who gives not thanks to man, gives not thanks to God,” said Cummings, quoting Voltaire as he and Rep. Constance A. Morella, R-Bethesda, shepherded the post office naming resolutions through the House.
Morella sponsored the Alvarez resolution. Cummings sponsored measures to name Baltimore post offices after the late Judge Robert Bernard Watts, the first African American appointed to the Municipal Court, and after Flossie McClain Dedmond, an educator and longtime administrator at Coppin State College.
The legislation has to be approved by the Senate and the president before the plaques are placed on the post office walls.
Alvarez was not the only one with questions about the renaming measures Wednesday.
“I don’t want to be disrespectful, but it gets ridiculous after a while,” said William Skinner, president of the Maryland Taxpayers Association. “After you name something after one person, 10 more people show up who want things named after them.”
Skinner concluded that the members of Congress must think they are gaining votes with the “ridiculous” exercise. But he said they would probably gain a lot more votes if they spent their time working on the budget.
But Morella defended the proposal on the floor of the House.
She said she proposed the honor for Alvarez “because his life stands as a testament to patriotism, courage, and perseverance.” She said he was the “longest confirmed prisoner of war in North Vietnam.” Alvarez also served as the Peace Corps’ deputy director and the Veterans Administration’s deputy administrator.
Although it might take a life of “patriotism, courage and perseverance” to be post-office-worthy, the spokeswoman for the Capital District Postal Service said that, once Congress passes a dedication resolution, it places little demand on the post office.
“We buy a plaque and put it up in the post office,” said Deborah Yackley, the spokeswoman. “We generally have a little ceremony. It is low cost.”
But Chuck Lapinski, treasurer of the Maryland Taxpayers Association, said that even that cost is “unfortunate.”
“It is a cost in people’s time. They agonize over this,” he said, adding that the naming is “for the most part meaningless to the community.”
– 30 – CNS 09-06-00