At City Hall, “PELT” Means Public Employees For Lower Taxes and in Los Angeles, The Pelters Are Out to Make a Comeback!
Public Employees for Lower Taxes was a unique organization in Los Angeles. It was organized in 1977, largely through the efforts of Bill Diemer, an employee in the City’s Community Analysis Bureau. “Our primary aim,” he explained, “is to put a brake on the rising cost of City government. By working from within, we’ll try to make the bureaucracy more efficient, more effective and more responsive to the public.”
Diemer made news at City Hall when he appeared before a Council Committee and suggested that, because City revenues had been lower than expected, employee raises should be deferred for one year. He told the Committee he’d discussed the idea with a number of employees, and they agreed with him.
Diemer was thanked but his suggestion was dismissed without discussion. He began recruiting members for a yet-to-be-named organization. I signed up and was elected as its first President. Ultimately, the organization would call itself PELT. It would attract an active membership of about 100, 30 of whom actually paid dues. Some of the members provided information about conditions in their own department they felt needed to be checked out.
Over a ten year period, PELT was an active organization. We supported Charter reform but opposed a Special Tax that was intended to provide additional police officers for just one Council District. We supported Mayor Bradley’s effort to reduce feather-bedding in the fire department, and called for the replacement of certain, archaic personnel practices. We documented the top-heaviness of one department and called for the elimination of an excessive Assistant Director position in another. We wrote a series of reports that exposed waste/ mismanagement throughout the City organization and published a piercing brochure, They’re Picking Our Pockets at City Hall.
That brochure found its way into a certain Councilman’s office. He paid me a not-so-friendly visit at my workplace. He said I should be fired for what I’d done. Then, he told my Department Manager that he suspects the brochure was prepared at taxpayer expense. He said the Manager’s budget wouldn’t be approved until I produced receipts showing that I’d paid for everything with my own money.
When I retired from City Service on April 15, 1986, I was serving my tenth, one-year term as PELT’s President. I was burned out. I’d taken heat from elected officials, from appointed officials, and from union leaders. I needed to get far away from City Hall. Although several very capable PELT Directors were available, none volunteered to be President. Thus, for the next 18 months, the organization limped along with a retired employee as leader. When our 1987 elections came up in October, the President’s position had still not been filled, and a proud PELT organization was abandoned.
Now, PELT is coming back! A new Board of Directors has been assembled. Nearly all of the eleven Board members are former City employees. Together, they bring an unmatched wealth of public service experience to their new responsibilities. They also bring a fierce determination to make City government in Los Angeles more efficient, more effective and more responsive. But most significant of all, these 11 Board Members understand that, in America, government is designed to be “of the people, by the people and for the people.” They know from personal experience that, if the people of Los Angeles don’t control City government, the politicians will. This new Board won’t let that happen!