《经济学人》:商业天堂还是贼窝?
日期:2011-05-15 14:32

(单词翻译:单击)

Small-town corruption
小镇腐败

Business paradise or den of thieves?
商业天堂还是贼窝?

An effort to abolish a highly unusual Californian city
消除一座特别另类之加州城市的努力

May 5th 2011 | VERNON | from the print edition

EVEN Vernon’s logo proclaims that the city is “exclusively industrial”, and that is no exaggeration. It was founded in 1905 at a railway crossing along the Los Angeles River as a sort of Eden for business, especially the smelly, dirty and blue-collar manufacturing sort. An aerial view shows neat boundaries around its 5.2 square miles (13.5 square kilometres), as the residential neighbourhoods of Los Angeles County suddenly give way to huge blocks of warehouses and factories. Lorries seem to outnumber cars on Vernon’s streets. The whiff of pigs being slaughtered hangs over those parts not covered by the aroma of coffee being processed.

即便弗农市(Vernon)的标志上宣称本市“专事工业”,这种说法也并未言过其实。1905年,该市创建于洛杉矶河沿岸的一处铁路线交汇处,人们将此地作为某种商业(尤其是又脏又臭的蓝领制造业)的乐园。从空中俯瞰可以发现,随着洛杉矶县的住宅街区突然被大片仓库和工厂所取代,弗农市5.2平方英里(13.5平方公里)的土地周围呈现着整齐的界线。在弗农街头,卡车看起来比轿车还要多。在没有被正在加工的咖啡香气所覆盖的区域,飘荡着被屠宰的猪的气息。

In most of the world, it is inconceivable that Vernon could even be considered a “city”. It has about 1,800 businesses that employ more than 50,000 workers who live elsewhere in Los Angeles County. But it has only 96 actual residents, and those live in housing tucked improbably between power stations and warehouses and mostly owned by the city.

在全球大部分地区,人们都无法想到弗农甚至会被视为一座城市。该市有大约1800家企业,雇佣了超过5万名居住在洛杉矶县其他区域的员工。不过,该市真正的居民只有96人,那些人住在以几乎不可能的方式挤在发电站与仓库之间、所有权主要掌握在城市手中的房屋内。

But in southern California tiny municipalities are not unusual. A clutch of five counties there—Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino—have, between them, no fewer than 183 independent cities. That is because, for much of the past century, California incorporated cities rather as Silicon Valley today launches start-ups. In a 1967 book title, Los Angeles was “The Fragmented Metropolis”.

不过在加州南部,微型城市并非特别现象。此地群集的洛杉矶县、橘县(Orange)、凡图拉县(Ventura)、里弗赛德县(Riverside)以及圣伯纳迪诺县(San Bernardino)五县之间,存在着不少于183座独立市。这是因为在上世纪大多数时间内,加州就像硅谷如今创办新兴企业一样组建着城市。在1967年一本书的书名中,洛杉矶被称为“碎片化的大都会”。

But city-founding has now abruptly gone out of fashion and into reverse. First, several Californian cities—such as Vernon’s neighbour, Maywood—ran into financial trouble largely caused by the recession. They decided they could no longer afford to duplicate all the intricate layers of local democracy and administration, and have tried to consolidate either with other cities or with the county itself.

但是,创建城市的活动如今已突然不再流行,而且这种潮流还在逆转。首先,加州多座城市——例如邻近弗农市的梅伍德市(Maywood),陷入了主要由经济衰退引发的财政困难之中,这些城市断定自己的财力已不足以复制繁杂的整套地方民主制度及行政制度,并且已经试图与其他城市或县本身合并。

Then, last year, came discoveries of corruption. Most notorious was Bell, another of Vernon’s neighbours, where eight officials lived in remarkable style, levied illegally high taxes and are now on trial. Another city nearby, Montebello, is also being investigated on suspicions that it cooked its books.

之后,人们在去年发现了腐败问题。其中最为臭名昭著的案例是邻近弗农的另一座城市——贝尔市(Bell),该市的八名官员过着奢华的生活,非法征收高额税款,如今他们已被送上法庭。附近另一座城市蒙蒂贝洛市(Montebello)也在接受调查,人们怀疑该市曾经篡改账目。

So it was perhaps only a matter of time before lawmakers took an interest in the bizarre case of Vernon. The city happens to be in the district of assemblyman John Pérez, a Democrat who is also the assembly’s speaker and an up-and-coming sort. Mr Pérez, citing an “unprecedented pattern of corruption”, has now shepherded a bill through his lower house that would disincorporate any city with fewer than 150 residents and have it be absorbed by its county. That happens to affect only one Californian city, Vernon.

因此,议员对弗农市的古怪案例产生兴趣也许只是迟早的事。该市恰好位于州议会议员约翰•佩雷斯(John Pérez)的选区内,这位积极进取的民主党人也担任该州议会议长。引用“空前的腐败格局”为例的佩雷斯,如今已在其众议院中护送通过了一份法案,该法案将撤销任何居民数量不足150人的城市,使其被所在县合并。这一法案恰好只影响到一座加州城市——弗农市。

Mr Pérez has some good reasons. Two of Vernon’s former city officials are facing criminal corruption charges and a former mayor has already been convicted. Their alleged shenanigans included rigged salaries, outlandish expenses and perks. Vernon has usually appointed its officials, rather than electing them, since positions were not even contested. The few residents, since they live in city housing, have been politically tractable.

佩雷斯拥有一些很好的理由。两名弗农市前任官员正面临着腐败刑事指控,一名前任市长已被判刑。他们据称所采取的诡计包括:工资造假、过高的开支与津贴。因为岗位无人争夺,所以弗农市通常任命官员,而不是举行选举。由于为数不多的居民住在城市所提供的住宅中,因此他们在政治方面易受摆布。

But for Vernon’s businesses disincorporation is a step too far. After all, Vernon is really meant to be run for their benefit, not for that of the 96 residents. To a large extent, Vernon represents all that is left of manufacturing industry in Los Angeles County. Who else in Los Angeles these days would welcome belching trucks and slaughterhouses? If Vernon loses its independence, its businessmen say, its electricity company (now city-owned) will have to increase its rates, thus erasing a crucial competitive advantage. Eric Gustafson, the third-generation manager of a family-run maker of lards and shortenings, says that “if Vernon were not a city we wouldn’t be here,” and “if we’re forced to move, we’re not staying in this state.” He’d move his firm to the Midwest, he reckons.

不过对弗农市商界来说,撤市之举走得太远。毕竟,弗农市的运作实际上是旨在服务于商界的利益,而非96名居民的利益。在很大程度上,弗农市代表着洛杉矶县仅存的全部制造业。如今,该县还有谁会欢迎排着浓烟的卡车与屠宰场呢?该市商人指出,如果弗农市失去了独立地位,那么如今由城市所拥有的电力公司将不得不提高电价,而这会令弗农市失去一个关键的竞争优势。一个生产猪油和酥油的家族企业的第三代经理埃里克•古丝塔森(Eric Gustafson)表示:“如果弗农不是一座城市,那我们就不会在这里”,而“如果我们被迫搬走,我们将不会待在加州”。他觉得自己的公司会搬到中西部地区。

The threat of job losses and a new manufacturing exodus naturally gets legislators’ attention at a time when California has barely begun recovering from recession. Mr Pérez thinks the threats are overblown. But Vernon, and most of its business customers, plan to fight his bill in the state senate, then on the governor’s desk and in the courts.

在加州刚刚勉强开始从经济衰退中走向复苏之际,工作岗位流失以及新的制造业外逃的威胁自然会引起立法者的关注。佩雷斯认为这种威胁被夸大了。但是弗农市及该市大多数商业客户却计划着在州参议院对佩雷斯的法案进行抗击,之后还将在州长和法庭那里继续斗争。

Even if they prevail, however, Mr Pérez’s bill will have done some good. Vernon’s defence strategy is to reform itself voluntarily and aggressively so that corruption will cease even without disincorporation, says Mark Whitworth, the current city administrator and fire chief. There will be term limits for officials, caps on salaries, transparency in housing and so forth. After all, why get rid of an honest city? This bit of the peculiar municipal quilt that is Los Angeles may just persist.

然而,即便他们获得了胜利,佩雷斯的法案仍将带来一些益处。弗农市现任市长及消防队长指出,该市的防御对策是对自身进行自愿而激烈的改革,因此即便不撤市,腐败也将得以终止。改革措施还包括官员任期限制、工资上限、房产透明管理等等。毕竟,为什么要撤销一座诚实的城市呢?洛杉矶这座四处铺开的独特城市中的这一角,或许仍将坚持存在下去。

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重点单词
  • crucialadj. 关键的,决定性的
  • administrationn. 行政,管理,行政部门
  • independentadj. 独立的,自主的,有主见的 n. 独立派人士,无
  • corruptionn. 腐败,堕落,贪污
  • abruptlyadv. 突然地,莽撞地,陡峭地,不连贯地
  • districtn. 区,地区,行政区 vt. 把 ... 划分成区
  • exodusn. 大批的离去 Exodus:(《圣经·旧约》中的)出
  • exaggerationn. 夸张,夸大
  • benefitn. 利益,津贴,保险金,义卖,义演 vt. 有益于,得
  • affectvt. 影响,作用,感动