Bates cartoons get postal reprieve

By KELLY NIX

Published: July 14, 2006

IT MAY take a few weeks, but a collection of Bill Bates cartoons will again be displayed in the main lobby of the Carmel post office.

Carmel Mayor Sue McCloud said Tuesday postal officials gave her the official news July 7 they would allow at least some of the cartoons to be rehung.

“Carlos Santiago, the postmaster, is on leave for two weeks,” McCloud said. “And he knows where they will go.”

After the sudden removal of the cartoons three weeks ago, news the Bates cartoons will soon be entertaining folks waiting in line to buy stamps drew applause.

“The cartoons individualize our post office,” said Barbara Livingston, a former Carmel city councilwoman who campaigned to get the cartoons back on the post office walls.

A government “retail standardization team” from the San Francisco Bay Area removed the Bates’ cartoons to homogenize the look of the post office lobby. The postal service said its goal was to “maintain a good environment conducive to doing business.”

In a petition drive that exceeded the spirit of most political campaigns, Bates’ supporters collected more than 1,000 signatures over two days last week to encourage the postal service to reinstate the cartoons. Congressman Sam Farr met with postal officials to stress the importance of Bates’ art to Carmelites.

Before they relented, the feds imposed a condition: Bates must release the post office from liability in case his poster-size cartoons were damaged or stolen.

“So, we prepared a one-paragraph statement and Bill signed it and we mailed it,” McCloud said. “Hopefully it was satisfactory.”

Bates has been the official cartoonist at The Pine Cone for more than three decades. The drawings displayed at the post office — famous for capturing the Carmel’s quirkiness and charm — were published in the newspaper in the 1970s.

Although the details haven’t been worked out, Bates said he’s been told postal officials will only allow space for about half of the 16 cartoons originally displayed in the lobby. That didn’t sit well with some of Bates’ supporters.

“My position is that the entire west wall of the post office should be given over to the cartoons,” Livingston said. “Spotting them here and there loses the impact of a larger group.”

Roberta Miller, another fan of the cartoonist who helped distribute the petitions, agreed.

But McCloud said even if only some of the cartoons go back up, Bates could rotate them for variety. Bates said he’s not sure if he would do that.

The petition drive last week drew throngs of Bates supporters and onlookers who crowded the sidewalk outside the post office.