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Address verification issues can render public messages ineffective

Richard Jones Archive

Government offices tend to invest a great deal of time and money into sending their citizens mail. Whether it's important tax information, logistical materials about issues like vehicle registration or just a friendly reminder to vote, countless messages are sent from public offices to individuals every day via old-fashioned snail mail.

Unfortunately, many of these mailings go to waste because of errors in address verification. When public messages are sent to the wrong private addresses, it becomes an enormous waste of government resources. This is a problem that needs to be addressed.

One example of this issue comes from Pittsburgh, where it's recently been noted in the local media that the city council is spending thousands of taxpayer dollars in error. Local media outlet WTAE Action News 4 reported that numerous city mailings are ending up at altogether dead addresses -  places where no one lives at all. According to the news station, these notices include everything from news about farm stands opening to messages about community meetings and hot-button political issues.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris told WTAE that she's seen "stacks" of undeliverable mail end up being returned to the city council building after they failed to reach their intended recipients.

"You do see a pile of mail coming back when someone does do a mailing," Harris said. "If you're getting a bundle back, that's money you could've saved if someone would've run through the list and was able to get some of those addresses that might not be there."

Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith agreed, and she noted that something has to be done to reverse the trend of erroneous mailings.

"Each council member has to determine what's the best use for their office, and for my office, it was just not cost effective," Kail-Smith said. "The stacks were huge, and we just thought it's just a waste of taxpayer money."

This phenomenon is by no means limited to the city council in Pittsburgh. Government offices everywhere have a great deal of contact information that they need to verify. If they fail to do so, they're likely only going to waste valuable resources.