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New website opens Los Angeles' financial books to the public

City Controller Ron Galperin shows off a new website that opens L.A's financial records to the public.
City Controller Ron Galperin shows off a new website that opens L.A's financial records to the public.
Alice Walton/KPCC

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Interested in how much the city of Los Angeles pays its employees? Or want to find out how much departments pay for transportation every year? A new city website unveiled Wednesday allows the public to snoop through the city's expenditures, revenue and audits. 

Control Panel L.A., released by the office of Controller Ron Galperin, is in line with Mayor Eric Garcetti's efforts to "open up" City Hall to the public. 

"This data is not our data. It is the public's data," Garcetti said at a morning press event to launch the website. "The more tools we give to people to look at data, to track important measures, the more power that they will have to control the direction of their city government."

The website has a distinct section for public employees making more than $250,000 a year. So now you can find out that someone guiding boats into the Port of Los Angeles made a base salary of $271,000 and received another $117,000 on top of that in 2011. In 2012, a police detective took home $373,000 — significantly more than his budgeted salary of $104,000. But there are no explanations for the additional income. 

On the revenue side, Control Panel L.A. shows the city received $156 million in parking fines between July 1, 2012 and June 30 of this year. Dog pound fees netted $751,000. And what about permit fees from medical marijuana clinic registrations? Zero. 

"The purpose of this initiative isn't just to provide transparency," Galperin said.  "It's also to revolutionize the way that we do our financial reporting, revolutionize the way we do our budgeting. Because isn't just about big data, it's also about smart data."

But the new website is likely to create as many questions as answers. In part that's because the large data sets need context. Why did General Services pay $8,000 to the Rolls Royce Corporation this year? And why did the city see its heating bills spike in June? 

"I don't know the answer yet but, I'm gonna find out," Galperin said.