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The City of LA's surprising shopping list: From frozen rats to heroin

Controller Ron Galperin shows off the city's new website, which will open Los Angeles' financial records to the public.
Alice Walton/KPCC
Last year, Controller Ron Galperin unveiled his new data website. This week, his office released details on more than $1 billion in spending by the city.

A new collection of data released by Los Angeles Controller Ron Galperin reveals how the city spends $1 billion on a wide variety of goods -  from fire hoses to helicopters to heroin.

The controller hopes that by posting the city's receipts, he can revamp the procurement process. 

The Control Panel LA website now includes details on more than 3,300 vendors used by 45 city departments. In total, the purchases represent $1 billion in spending from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2014. So far this year, the city has purchased $391 million worth of goods. 

"You name it, if you can think of it, the city pretty much buys it," Galperin said. 

Here are five pretty odd items from the city's shopping list:

  • 1 LAFD helicopter, $12.3 million
  • 30,000 mops, $161,000
  • 52,000 frozen rats, $129,000
  • Heroin and cocaine, $20,000
  • 6,670 soccer balls, $8,500

What's the deal with the drugs? "Those are used to actually calibrate the equipment that LAPD has," Galperin said, adding that the drugs are purchased from an out-of-state pharmaceutical company. 
"One can't help but wonder whether there might be some more local distributor," Galperin said. 

The controller released the data in the hopes that city employees, as well as engaged Angelenos, would help broaden the bidding process and suggest improvements to the way the city acquires what it needs. 

"We spend a lot of taxpayer money to buy things," Galperin said. "I want to make sure we’re getting the best deal that we can, that we’re getting the best quality that we can, that we’re increasing the number of bidders and ideally increasing the number of local bidders."

Control Panel LA website users can search the city’s receipts by item, department or vendor.