The office of Los Angeles County Controller Kenneth Mejia is an exception.
Mejia, elected to the office last year, has a dedicated portal at which his team shares visualizations it has created. Below is a grim example, showing the locations in the city where unhoused residents have died in recent years.
Sergio Perez, chief of accountability and oversight for Mejia’s office, explained that the visualizations were part of an effort to make the large amount of information gathered by the office more accessible. There are public-facing ones, like the map above, and ones created for policymakers that remain private.
“We think that the data should be leading public policy decisions, not assumptions or untested beliefs,” Perez told me when we spoke by phone on Friday.
That means a particular focus on housing issues, obviously a key concern for Angelenos and an issue that overlaps with homelessness. The controller’s office also has a map of affordable housing agreements enacted by the city over the last decade, essentially providing an index of places that housing is not (necessarily) egregiously expensive.
The person behind these visualizations is the office’s director of technology and innovation, 19-year-old Kyler Chen. (“I’ve never felt older than when I’m in a meeting with him," Perez told me.) He and two interns collect and organize data before creating the presentations that are shared with the public. The intent, Perez said, was to “fill public data vacuums” that exist either because data is inaccessible or out-of-date.