The Chicago Dispatcher's March issue at a newsstand on Michigan Avenue. (Leonor Vivanco/RedEye )
A local taxi-industry trade publication has threatened to out five aldermen unless demands to stop the ridesharing industry in Chicago are met.
The March issue of Chicago Dispatcher, which is distributed free on newsstands, features a front-page editorial attributed to publisher George Lutfallah that threatens to expose five “secretly” gay aldermen unless a list of 10 demands are met by the end of the month.
“While my demands may seem simple and straightforward, I understand the tactic I'm using may seem extreme,” the piece states. “Unfortunately it is entirely necessary.”
The demands range from enforcing the taxicab ordinance to requiring rideshare drivers to pick up all passengers just as taxi drivers do. Both are similar to requests made by the taxi companies and drivers who have said rideshare companies and taxi drivers should abide by the same city rules.
It is unclear whether Lutfallah intended the editorial to be satire, and he did not respond to specific questions about his motivation. The editorial demanded that the Internet be banned in the city and that the name of Willis Tower be changed back to the Sears Tower. At one point it discusses female rideshare drivers, saying “the last place for a woman is behind the wheel. If a woman needs a ride somewhere, she will only feel safe if the driver is a man.”
If what was published was a joke, it was in bad taste, said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.
The issue over rideshare industry regulation has nothing to do with sexual orientation or gender identity, he said.
“The idea that somebody's sexual orientation will be used against them in a blackmail tactic is absolutely outrageous,” Cherkasov said.
In response, Lutfallah emailed, “How dare they not condemn the misogyny [in the editorial] as well? Equality my foot.”
The editorial is one more jab in the tense fight between the taxi and rideshare industries. Last month, Mayor Emanuel proposed rideshare regulations while taxi companies and cab drivers filed a lawsuit against the city for failing to enforce its taxicab regulations and allowing rideshare companies to operate.
The Illinois Transportation Trade Association, which represents taxi affiliations and medallion owners in the federal lawsuit, issued a statement condemning the piece “and the hateful message it sends.”
“This misguided attempt at parody has no place in this discussion and demonstrates an extreme lack of judgment or sensitivity. This shameful editorial certainly does not represent the beliefs of our association, the thousands of hardworking employees in the transportation industry nor those of our valued customers.”
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