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译者按:
这是美国《大众利益》发布的长篇报道。我觉得这篇文章写得很好。文中描绘的贪婪的官员,狡诈的律师,无情的市政,麻木的人民,以及他们之间的互动可以作为了解美国下层社会的一个窗口。
由于文章很长,评论很多,今天贴出的是文章的主体部分。

Acash-strapped city employs punitive measures to collect from cash-strappedresidents — and lawyers benefit.

一座资金短缺的城市利用开罚单从资金短缺的居民那里收钱-只有律师从中受益



Thousands ofChicago drivers struggle with the consequences of unpaid tickets. Here are somestories of people driven into debt. We hope to start a conversation about allthe ways Chicago’s ticketing and debt collection affects people’s lives. Emailreporter Melissa Sanchez to share your experiences.

成千上万的芝加哥车主在无法付清罚单的泥潭中苦苦挣扎,本文描述了陷入交通违章罚单债务的一些人的故事。我们希望借此机会能够讨论芝加哥市交通违章罚单和逼债行业的种种细节,以及这些事是如何影响人民的生活的。本报道是由记者梅丽莎·桑彻斯通过电子邮件带给您的。

THE MANY ROADSTO BANKRUPTCY

条条大路通破产

BY LASTSUMMER, Laqueanda Reneau felt like she had finally gotten her life on track.

直到去年夏天,拉昆达·瑞努终于感到她的生活回到了正轨。

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“Those ticketshave followed me until this freaking day,” said Reneau, who is 25.

“这些罚单一直跟着我,跟到了特么的今天,”25岁的瑞努说。

Because of theunpaid tickets, the city garnished her state tax refunds. Her car was impoundedand she couldn’t pay for its release. Her driver’s license was suspended.Unable to come up with $1,000 to enter a city payment plan, Reneau did whatthousands of Chicago drivers do each year: She turned to Chapter 13 bankruptcyand its promise of debt forgiveness.

由于没有支付罚单,芝加哥市截留了她的州退税款。她的车也被扣押了,她没钱把她的车赎出来。由于连1000美元都拿不出来,她也无法加入芝加哥市分期还款计划。于是,瑞努像每年数以千计的其他芝加哥车主们一样,求助于第十三章个人破产计划以享受由此带来的破产保护。

译注:
《美国法典》第11项法律(《美国破产法》) 第十三章规定,个人有机会在法院的保护下提出破产计划,以重组其财务事宜。而且,法院有权在未经债权人批准的情况下批准其破产。 下文中提到了关于第七章和第十三章两种破产程序的比较。

“I know I’mputting a Band-Aid on the problem,” she said. “But right now, my immediate needis to get a car so I can get to work and get my son to school.”

“我知道这就像是用创可贴把问题贴起来一样,”她说,“但是我的当务之急是找一辆车,这样我才能上班,才能送儿子上学。”

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The result:more debt due to tickets.

结果是:更多违章罚单导致的债务。

Legal expertssay what’s happening in Chicago’s bankruptcy courts is unique. Parking, trafficand vehicle compliance tickets prompt so many bankruptcies the court here leadsthe nation in Chapter 13 filings.

法律专家说,芝加哥市破产法庭的案例具有相当的特殊性。罚单导致的债务促使如此多的个人破产寻求第十三章破产保护,使得芝加哥在这一领域处于全国独一无二的水平。

It’s a problemfueled both by the city’s increasingly aggressive ticketing to boost revenue —tickets brought in nearly $264 million in 2016, or about 7 percent of thecity’s $3.6 billion operating budget — and a handful of law firms that pitchbankruptcy protection as a cheap solution to drivers’ woes.

这个问题是由芝加哥市希望通过日益激进的罚款以增加收入导致的 - 2016年的罚款收入约为2.64亿美元,约占该市36亿美元运营预算的7% - 少数律师事务所甚至将破产保护当作一种能够使这些车主摆脱困境的廉价解决方案。

Advocates forthe poor say the bankruptcy statistics are symptoms of a broken city systemthat unfairly burdens those least able to afford tickets, much less late feesand other penalties. Motorists with crushing ticket debt who want to get backbehind the wheel are stuck choosing between a city payment plan they oftencan’t afford or a bankruptcy plan that’s cheaper to enter but likely to fail.

低收入人群民意代表表示,如此高的破产数字是城市管理系统的腐坏所导致的。交通罚单,更不用说滞纳金和其他附加惩罚,不公平地给那些无力偿还的人带来沉重的负担。因车祸致贫的车主们如果想要重新获得开车的机会,只能在他们常常负担不起的芝加哥市分期还款计划,或者可能会失败的破产保护申请中二选一。

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The overallnumbers of tickets had been on the decline until 2013, when the city’s firstspeed cameras came online. More citations are issued here, per adult, than inLos Angeles or New York City.

城市罚单总数在2013年引进高速摄像头以前曾是逐年下降的趋势。现在,芝加哥人均收到的罚单比洛杉矶或纽约都要多。

Ticket debtpiles up disproportionately in the city’s low-income, mostly blackneighborhoods. Eight of the 10 ZIP codes with the most accumulated ticket debtper adult are majority black, according to a ProPublica Illinois analysis ofticket data since 2007 and figures from the U.S. Census.

在该市主要由黑人组成的低收入社区,罚单债务不成比例地累积起来。根据《大众利益》伊利诺伊分社对2007年以来的罚单数据和美国人口普查数据的分析,芝加哥10个人均罚金最高的社区中,有8个的主要人口为黑人。

Thoseneighborhoods account for 40 percent of all debt, though they account for only22 percent of all the tickets issued in the city over the past decade —suggesting how the debt burdens the poor.

这些社区的债务占所有罚单相关债务的40%,尽管它们在过去十年中仅收到了该市所有罚单中的22% - 这表明债务给穷人带来了更多负担。

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The city mailsvehicle owners multiple notices to give them time to pay or contest ticketsbefore fines double, get sent to collections or land a car on a list to bebooted. Once debt accumulates, it can last forever because there’s no statuteof limitations for unpaid tickets in Illinois. Chicago motorists owe $1.45billion in ticket debt dating to September 1990.

芝加哥市会通过邮寄账单的方式向车主多次催款,当他们有没有按时偿还账单的话,后果可能是账单加倍,账单被送到讨债公司,或者干脆把车主的车拍卖处理。一旦债务累积,它可以永远持续下去,因为伊利诺伊州的未付罚款没有法定失效日期。芝加哥车主在1990年9月之前欠下的罚单债务已经在这些年通过利滚利膨胀到高达14.5亿美元。

By comparison,ticket debt in Los Angeles, where the statute of limitations is five years, is$21 million. In New York City, with a statute of limitations of eight years,ticket debt totals $238 million, according to officials.

相比之下,洛杉矶的交通罚单会在五年后过期,其未付交通罚单债务总额只有2100万美元。据纽约市官员称,纽约市罚单的法定时效为8年,未付罚单债务总额为2.38亿美元。

In addition tobooting and impounding vehicles, the city has another weapon at its disposal:It can move to suspend licenses after drivers accumulate 10 unpaid parkingtickets or five unpaid traffic camera tickets.

除了扣押车辆外,芝加哥市还有另外一种武器可用:在车主累积10张未付停车罚单或5张未付交通摄像头罚单后,市政可以吊销违章车主的驾照。

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Municipal jobs— from driving a bus to teaching in a classroom — have long been off-limits todrivers with ticket debt, unless they’re on a city payment plan or inbankruptcy. Tracy Occomy Crowder, an organizer with Community Organizing andFamily Issues, a nonprofit that works mostly with low-income women of color,said her group became interested in the issue after learning that a longtimeparent leader said she couldn’t get a job as a recess monitor at her son’selementary school because of unpaid tickets.

长期以来,芝加哥市政府一直禁止雇佣未付清罚单债务的人从事任何市政工作 - 从驾驶公共汽车到在教室教学 - 除非他们加入芝加哥市分期还款计划,或宣布破产。特雷西·欧克米·克劳德,一位“社区组织和家庭问题”的工作人员。“社区组织和家庭问题”是一个主要为低收入有色人种女性提供帮助的非营利组织,她说,在得知一位母亲说她由于无法支付交通违章罚单而不能在她儿子就读的小学获得一份监控小学休息室的监视器的工作后,她的小组对这一问题产生了兴趣。

“It seems likethe city is shooting itself in the foot,” Occomy Crowder said. “How can peoplepay the city if they can’t get jobs?”

“这看起来就像是政府正在搬起石头砸自己的脚,” 欧克米·克劳德说。“如果你不让人们找到工作,他们怎么可能有钱付清交通违章罚单呢?”

In January,COFI issued a series of recommendations to the city on how to make ticket debtless punishing for low-income families as part of the release of a reportcalled “Stopping the Debt Spiral.” Among them: make it easier for people withticket debt to get municipal jobs and licenses; make payment plans moreaccessible; and waive late penalties on ticket debt.

一月份,组织和家庭问题委员会(COFI)向芝加哥市发布了一系列关于如何减轻交通违章罚款对低收入人群造成过大负担的建议,作为其发布的名为《阻止债务漩涡》的报告的一部分。其中提到了让负有交通违章罚单欠债的人们更容易 获得市政工作和驾照,使分期支付计划覆盖更广大的群体,以及免除罚单欠债滞纳金等建议。

译注:
组织和家庭问题委员会(COFI)是一个关注儿童,青年和家庭福祉的非营利性组织。COFI于1995年成立于芝加哥,美国前总统奥巴马是其创始人之一。

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“I know whatmy stance is in this world,” she said.

“我知道我活在这个世界上应该采取什么立场,”她说。

She can relateto the residents she works with in her job as a community organizer in theneighborhood where she grew up.

她在这个社区中长大,然后又作为社区活动组者与许多居民保持密切联系 。

“I want towork on something that has to do with inequities, making sure that communitiesthat need resources are able to get to those resources, whether it’s health oreconomic development,” she said. “I just want to make sure people have theopportunities to get — what do they say? — the American Dream.”

“我想研究与不平等相关的课题,确保需要资源的社区能够获得这些资源,无论是健康保障还是经济发展相关的资源,”她说。 “我只是想确保人们有机会获得 – 大家伙经常提到的那啥 - 美国梦。“

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Each morning,Reneau took a commuter train, then a bus to drop off her son at school onChicago’s South Side. Then she took two subway trains to her job as anorganizer for a community group with offices on the city’s North and Westsides. After work, she rode another subway train or a bus to classes at DePaul.Thenshe headed home.

每天早上,瑞努乘坐一辆通勤列车,然后转乘一辆公共汽车把她的儿子送到芝加哥南部的一所学校。然后,她转乘两趟地铁到她的工作地点,即作为一名社区团体组织者在该市的北部或西部的办事处。下班后,她转乘另一趟地铁或公共汽车去德保罗上课。然后回家。



LaqueandaReneau filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy last year to cope with the debt fromunpaid Chicago parking and traffic camera tickets. (MarcMonaghan for ProPublica Illinois)

瑞努去年申请了第十三章破产保护,以应对未付款的违章停车和交通摄像头违章的罚款债务。(《大众利益》伊利诺伊分社马克·莫纳甘供图)

“He’s notgoing to bed until 11 p.m., then we have to get up at 6 a.m., and he’s tired inthe morning,” Reneau said. “He hasn’t got his full rest. I realized how much ofa chain reaction that is.”

“他晚上11点前都无法上床睡觉,但是我们必须在早上6点起床,导致他每天早上都很疲劳,”瑞努说。 “他没有办法得到完全休息。我意识到连锁反应产生了多严重的后果。“

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“You ever tryto call the city and ask for an extension, like you might do for a light bill?”she asked. “Other places, you can get an extension. But not with the city.”

“你有没有试过打电话给芝加哥市要求延期还款,或者说服他们让你少还钱?”她问道。 “如果你在其他城市,你有可能获得延期。但在这个城市没门。“

Then one day she heard a catchy jingle on the radio for the Semrad LawFirm, which also calls itself DebtStoppers. It handles more ticket-related Chapter 13 cases than anyother firm in the Northern District of Illinois, according to a ProPublicaIllinois analysis of case data.

有一天,她在收音机里听到了塞姆瑞德律师事务所发布的一首引人注意的广告歌,该事务所也自称为‘停债者·’。根据《大众利益》伊利诺伊分社的案例数据分析,该事务所处理的第十三章破产保护案件数量在伊利诺斯州北部地区是最多的。

“I stillremember the song. I find myself singing it,” Reneau said. “One of the firstthings they say is about … how you can get your license back. About the zerodollars down.”

“我仍然记得那首歌,偶然还会唱它。”瑞努说。“他们告诉我的第一件事是…你怎么做才不花一分钱把你的驾照弄回来。“

Filing forChapter 13 bankruptcy, she soon learned, was cheaper than getting on a citypayment plan.

申报第十三章破产保护后不久后,她发现这样做比加入城市分期支付计划来还债更便宜。

‘Is That ABand-Aid?’

“它是不是就只是个临时创可贴啊?”

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But there’s amore practical reason to file under Chapter 13: If you have ticket debt, unpaidtickets can be discharged under Chapter 13 but not under Chapter 7.

但是申请第十三章破产有一个更加现实的理由:第十三章破产可以免除未付清的罚单债务,但第七章破产不能。

Reneau’s debt,for example, is almost entirely tickets. Her only other debt, according to herbankruptcy filing, is a few hundred dollars in credit cards, plus about $12,600in student loans. Her student loans are in deferment and, in general, cannot beforgiven in bankruptcy.

例如,瑞努的债务几乎完全是罚单。她申请破产时, 她唯一的其他债务是几百美元的信用卡欠款,加上大约12600美元的学生贷款。她的学生贷款可以延期还款,但是一般来说,即使破产也不能被免除还款义务。

The immediatebenefit of bankruptcy is time, thanks to a legal reprieve known as an“automatic stay.” This protection allows drivers to lift license suspensionstied to some kinds of debt and keep their vehicles off the boot list for aslong as their bankruptcy case is active.

基于被称为“自动保留”的法律条款,破产所能带来的最直接的好处就是时间。破产保护期间,车主不会因为与债务有关的问题被吊销驾驶执照,并且只要他们还在破产保护期,他们的车辆就不会被扣押。

But bankruptcyis not a long-term solution for these debtors, who are poorer,disproportionately black and have fewer assets when compared with other peoplewho file for bankruptcy under Chapter 13.

但对于债务人来说,破产毕竟只是一个权宜之计。与其他申请第十三章破产保护的人相比,这些债务人更穷,黑人比例更高,且资产更少。

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One reason somany Chicago drivers file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy over unpaid tickets is toprotect their vehicles from the city impound lot. The city sends driversmultiple notices before fines double, go to collections or land a car on theboot list.

许多芝加哥车主因为未付清的交通违章罚单而申请第十三章破产保护的一个原因是为了保护他们的车辆免于被芝加哥市扣押。市政部门会首先向车主多次发送罚款通知,然后会将罚款加倍,最后将罚款交给讨债公司处理,或扣押车主的汽车。



The TicketsEach year, the City of Chicago issues more than 3 million tickets for parking andtraffic camera violations that, for the most part, range from $25 to $200.Red-light camera violations are the No. 1 type of ticket issued.

罚单: 每年,芝加哥市都会开出超过300万张违章罚单,涉及违章停车。车辆年检,以及被自动交通摄像头记录到的交通违规,罚金金额大多从25美元到250美元不等。闯红灯是导致吃罚单的最主要原因。



Patrol Vans Twounpaid tickets can land a car on the boot list. Finance department vans usespecial cameras to scan for license plates on the list. Some indebted driverssay they hide their cars in neighbors’ garages to avoid being spotted.

巡逻车: 两张未付款的罚单就足矣把某辆车送上拖车清单。财务部门使用装在巡逻车上的特殊摄像头扫描拖车清单上的车牌号。一些负罚单债的车主们说他们把汽车藏在邻居的车库里,以避免被发现。



Getting theBoot When a van passes a license plate on the list, an alarm signals the driverto stop and immobilize the vehicle by installing a wheel clamp known as a“Denver boot.”

被踢出局:当货巡逻车发现清单上的车辆时,巡逻车会发出警报,巡逻车司机就会下车,通过安被称为“丹佛皮靴”的车轮夹来固定被发现的车辆。



Getting TowedVehicle owners have 24 hours to pay fines — $100 to remove the boot, plus alloutstanding ticket debt or a down payment toward a city payment plan. If thefines aren’t paid in time, the vehicle gets towed.

被拖走:被扣押汽车的车主有24小时支付罚款 - 100美元是取掉“皮靴”的费用,再加上所有未清偿的其他罚单,后者加入城市还款计划需要支付的首付款。如果车主没有及时支付罚款,这辆车将被拖走。



Impound LotNearly 19,000 cars and trucks were towed in 2016 because of unpaid tickets.Drivers must pay a $150 towing fee and a $20-a-day storage fee (whicheventually goes up to $35 per day) — in addition to the boot fees and ticketpayments to release their vehicles from the impound lot.

在拖车场: 2016年,芝加哥共有近19000辆汽车和卡车因为车主没有付清罚单被拖走。车主必须支付150美元的拖车费和每天20美元的保管费(长时间保管费每天可高达35美元) - 再加上100美元的去除“皮靴”费和所有未清偿的其他罚单才能拿回他们的车。



Thousands ofCars Unclaimed cars are sold for scrap metal or sold at auction, the proceedssplit between the city and its towing contractor. None of the money from thosesales goes toward reducing drivers’ debt.

成千上万的没有被赎回的汽车最终被当废铁卖掉,或被拍卖。产生的收益在芝加哥市和拖车商之间分成。所有这些钱都没有被用来减免车主的债务。

A New Tactic

新的策略

OVER THEYEARS, city officials have looked for ways to stem the flood of bankruptciesinvolving ticket debt. Because drivers in bankruptcy pay creditors such as the citypennies on the dollar, and because so many of their cases end in failure, thecity recovers little from them. Of course, when bankruptcies are dismissed, thecity and its debt collectors can go after drivers, their licenses and vehiclesonce again.
在过去数年间,芝加哥市政官员一直在寻找方法来阻止罚单债务人的破产潮。因为破产的车主几乎只能偿还他们拖欠罚单总额的很小一部分,因此,许多破产案最后以失败告终,而这个城市几乎没有从中恢复过来。当然,当破产案被驳回的时候,市政和讨债公司就可以继续向车主追债,扣押他们的驾照和车。

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“It was apretty big nightmare for us,” said David Holtkamp, a senior corporation counselfor the city who oversees bankruptcy matters. “People were filing these casesthey had no intention of completing. They’d file it, get the car out, and thenthe case would ultimately get dismissed … And then they would file again.”

“这对我们来说是一场相当大的噩梦,”负责为芝加哥市管理破产问题的高级法律顾问大卫 霍尔特坎普说。 “无论是否有希望成功破产,他们都提交破产申请,然后就能把车开走,就算最后破产请求被驳回......他们马上再申请一次破产。“

Last year, thecity unveiled a new legal strategy to deter these kinds of bankruptcies. It nowclaims liens on impounded vehicles, which allows it to hold onto them until theunderlying ticket debt is recognized as a secured claim in bankruptcy court —meaning it will get paid out in full during a bankruptcy payment plan.

去年,芝加哥市公布了一项新的法律措施以阻止这类破产案的发生。市政现在保留对被扣押车辆的留置权。这样一来,芝加哥市就可以一直扣押这些车辆,直到经过破产法院确认相关的罚单债务已被完全偿还 - 这意味即使车主破产,芝加哥市也可以完全回收罚单欠款。

The tactic,yet another move in what seems like a cat-and-mouse game between the city andindebted drivers, has been upheld by some bankruptcy judges but is beingappealed by motorists and their lawyers.

虽然一些破产法官严格执行了这一措施,就像是发生在芝加哥市和负债车主之间的猫捉老鼠游戏的另一步一样,这一措施遭到了负债车主及其律师的申诉。

City officialssay the liens aren’t just about the city’s bottom line; they say it’s also aconsumer protection issue, a way to save drivers from bankruptcies that arelikely to get dismissed without debt relief. Instead of paying a bankruptcylawyer, city officials say, drivers should enter into payment plans with thecity where every dollar goes directly toward outstanding debt.

市政官员表示,留置权不仅仅是芝加哥市的底线;他们说这同时也是一个对消费者的保护措施,是一种挽救车主免于破产的方法,使他们不至于既没有减免债务,破产申请又被驳回。市政官员说,车主们不应当把他们的钱交给破产律师,而应该与市政部门签订还款计划,把自己能拿出来的每一美元都用于偿还未偿债务。



Racheal White filed for Chapter 13bankruptcy last fall in order to hang onto her 2010 Nissan Versa. The car wasat risk of getting impounded by the city because of unpaid tickets, and gettingrepossessed by the lender because of late payments. (Marc Monaghan for ProPublica Illinois)

瑞秋·怀特去年秋天曾申请第十三章破产保护,以便能够继续驾驶她的2010年款日产Versa。由于她没有付清罚单,这辆车有被市政扣押的风险,并且可能由于拖延贷款而被贷方收回。(《大众利益》伊利诺伊分社马克·莫纳甘供图)

In a way,Racheal White’s experiences with bankruptcy help illustrate this.

在某种程度上,瑞秋·怀特的破产经历有助于说明这一点。

A singlemother of two teenage boys, White moved reluctantly to the South Shoreneighborhood a few years ago when she could no longer afford rent in thesuburbs. Almost immediately, she started accumulating tickets, many of themspeed camera violations.

怀特是家里有两个十几岁男孩的单身母亲。几年前,由于她再也无法负担郊区的房租。她不得不不情愿地搬到了南岸地区。同时,她开始大量吃罚单,其中很多都是被摄像头记录下的超速违章罚单。

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She had madeeight payments totaling $2,275, according to a final report issued by theChapter 13 trustee who administered the case. More than $1,900 went to legalfees. Another $105 went to cover the trustee’s expenses. And $243 went towardher car loan — most of it for interest. Not a dime went to her unsecured debts,including the unpaid Chicago tickets.

根据处理她的第十三章破产申请的被委托人发布的最终报告,她已为此案支付了8笔款项,共计2275美元。其中超过1900美元是律师费。另外105美元用于支付受委托人的日常消费,243美元用于偿还她的汽车贷款 - 其中大部分用于支付利息。这其中没有一分钱被用来偿还她的债务(包括那些违章罚金)。

Within weeksof her case getting dismissed, White’s Nissan went back on the city’s boot listand was impounded. White borrowed money from her mother to get on a citypayment plan and get her car back.

在她的案件被驳回之后的数周内,怀特的日产汽车重新回到了市政拖车清单上并被扣押。怀特从她母亲那里借钱交了一个城市还款计划的首付,然后把车开了回来。

Then she filedfor bankruptcy again.

然后她又一次申请了破产。

On BorrowedTime

借来的时间

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When her caseis officially dismissed, she knows she’ll be on borrowed time before the citymoves to suspend her license and puts her car on the boot list again. She hopesto get on a city payment plan before that happens.

她的破产状态被撤销后,她知道市政不用过多长时间就会再次吊销她的驾照并将她的车放在拖车清单上。她希望在此之前能够加入芝加哥分期还款计划。