HUMBOLDT PARK — A newspaper serving the taxi industry threatened to out "five secretly gay aldermen" unless the city meets demands regarding the growing ridesharing business in Chicago.
In a recent Chicago Dispatcher editorial, publisher George Lutfallah wrote that the newspaper — which has been around since 2002 — would out the aldermen unless 10 demands were met.
The demands, including some that conflicted with others, largely concern ridesharing businesses like Uber, Sidecar and Lyft that allow drivers of privately owned cars to ferry customers around town who request the service using smartphones.
Cab companies and drivers have complained that the businesses, which are typically cheaper than traditional taxes, have an unfair advantage because they aren't subject to city regulations regarding traditional taxis. Some alderman agree, and the City Council has discussed a proposed resolution that would apply the regulations to the ridesharing businesses.
Among the editorial's demands were banning ridesharing entirely, requiring rideshare drivers to get chauffeur licenses and capping the number of ridesharing vehicles that can be used in the city.
In one of the demands, Lutfallah wrote that ridesharing companies allow drivers to choose not to pick up fare if they feel unsafe. He demanded that drivers be required to pick up everyone, which he says will keep female ridesharing drivers off the street.
"Taxi driving is a male-dominated profession and it should remain that way," he wrote.
Lutfallah did not respond to requests for comment, but did later post on Twitter insisting the demands and threats were real, saying "this wasn't intended to be funny."
Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, issued a statement condemning the editorial.
"If the publication thought such a commentary would further the cause in the taxi drivers' ongoing dispute with the city, it will surely backfire," Cherkasov said. "No one likes to be threatened or ridiculed, whether individually or as an institution, and with its commentary this publication surely has injected more cynicism and distrust instead of raising awareness about their concerns."
He added: "The threat suggests there is something shameful about being a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender public official, when in this day and age there are out government leaders at every level of service, including the Chicago City Council."
The paper, which started publishing in 2002, lists its offices as at 2508 W. Division St. in Humboldt Park.