Chicago’s ticketing system hurts everyone in a variety of ways, and the city’s new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, has promised reforms on tickets, fines and fees that saddle motorists with unbearable debt.
Our investigative series Driven Into Debt, reported in partnership with WBEZ Chicago, has revealed how the city’s ticketing and debt collection practices disproportionately affect people in majority black and low-income neighborhoods. Some reforms are underway, and city officials have pledged to do more. And it’s all because of strong public interest in the issue.
In March, ProPublica Illinois hosted an event on ticket debt with WBEZ and the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ reporters presented their findings, and research experts highlighted the underlying issues; attendees, both in person and via a livestream, then had a chance to ask questions and participate in a discussion. By bringing people together, the event helped highlight different experiences and perspectives within the community, adding important context to a citywide policy debate.
Now it’s time to continue the conversation — and that’s where you come in. We’ve created a toolkit to help you host your own events about Chicago’s ticketing system, gatherings that have strong potential to spark change and unite community members from various viewpoints and walks of life. Our kit includes guidance on how to organize an event, information from the reporting series, sample discussion questions and tips on how to use our online app The Ticket Trap, which allows you to enter an address and see how ticketing issues affect each Chicago neighborhood or ward.
Your events could also elevate new issues for local leaders to address. Here are some of the findings from our work that you might want to explore:
- The federal court in Chicago leads the nation in Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings, largely stemming from ticket debt owed to the city.
- Driver’s licenses are routinely suspended because of unpaid tickets, limiting transportation and mobility options for working parents and others and jeopardizing livelihoods in the process.
- Rideshare drivers and city employees with ticket debt can also lose their jobs.
- People from predominantly Latinx neighborhoods appeal tickets less than any other ethnic group.
We hope our event toolkit can help highlight issues that are important to your block, your neighborhood and perhaps even the entire city. Let us know what you’re planning by writing us at [email protected], and we’ll be happy to help set you up for success.