On July 2, 2020, City Impact Lab welcomed Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin, who shared insights on his work serving as L.A.’s auditor and chief accounting officer.
While his role includes accounting for all of the city’s assets and expenditures (tracking every glove from lizard handling gloves to welding gloves, for example), Ron also strives for radical transparency and an effective management tool for those working in the city.
The challenge of municipal finances in the year of pandemic
The events of 2020 are asking governments to look at how they are spending money in new, heightened ways. He explained that data can be useful in visualizing how the money is spent. Depending on which piece of data is examined, though, a variety of pictures can be extrapolated—this is the challenge in the conversation around spending and budgets. In examining the cost of creating housing from taxpayer approved HHH funds intended to create homes for the unhoused in Los Angeles, Ron is asking questions about the high cost of construction and how costs can come down to create more housing.
Mapping unemployment and city-financed microloans provides a picture of economic strengths and weaknesses and who is being impacted. This helps decision-makers understand where to direct resources that can make or break a community.
Ron also oversees a number of interactive online resources including sixteen categories on a COVID-19 dashboard, with break-downs in cases by demographic to tracking stimulus checks and who qualifies for the payments.
3 tactics for bringing radical transparency to city finances
Transforming the City Controller’s Office into a source of radical transparency takes leadership, which Ron revealed with these three tactics:
Tactic #1: “Set out to change the world, and keep a focus on making a difference in your own community.”
It takes a lot to change the world but we can do both. We can much more immediately change the community we live in and have influence in which will make a difference in the overall global changes.
Tactic #2: “Seek to ruffle a few feathers along the way.”
Shining a light on inefficiencies of a government will certainly do this and the work of an impact maker is no different. There will be resistance to change; it is important to space out the disruptions so progress can be made.
Tactic #3: “Go with your heart.”
Ron gets to do what he loves every day and If we look within ourselves we can see what we are most passionate about. Bring that to the work you do and you’ll be much more impactful.”
Ron also added a personal note: He is the first in his family to be born in the United States. His parents spoke very little English and he seeks to help current and future generations to succeed the way his parents did.
Watch Ron’s remarks:
The attendees then broke into smaller groups to discuss the question, “Are there feathers you need to ruffle but are afraid to?”
Thanks to all who joined us! We hope you’ll be with us online Thrusday, August 6 at 8:30 AM (PT) for the next City Impact Lab virtual breakfast. Our guest will be Hilary Norton, the founding Executive Director of FAST (Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic) and Vice Chair of the California Transportation Commission. She’ll speak about her work driving policy and infrastructure improvements for mobility, livability, and economic prosperity in Los Angeles.