By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
A controversial ordinance that would have been damaging to the African American community was severely modified and passed by the city council Wednesday, June 22, enabling users and drivers of ride-sharing services the ability to continue with few changes.
The proposed ordinance by Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) has been a hot-button topic since it was introduced last month with many in the community seeing him as a “sellout.” His proposal called for Uber and Lyft drivers to be drug tested, fingerprinted and pay the same fee and go through similar training as those who are seeking chauffer license.
Uber and Lyft threatened to pull their services out of the Chicago market, which would have meant over 10,000 Uber and Lyft drivers in Chicago would have been unable to work. Last month during a confrontational hearing that lasted hours, supporters of the ride sharing services blasted Beale for his proposal.
Mayor Emanuel, whose brother is an investor in Uber and who is politically damaged in the Black community from the Laquan McDonald shooting, said Beale’s proposal would have put people out of work and taken away a valuable service that many people depend on every day.
“Progress is more important than postponing,” said Emanuel after opponents of the now passed version of the ordinance wanted to postpone the vote another month. “We did something today that other cities like Austin, Texas were not able to do, we passed some regulations for this industry to protect our citizens. We are also giving them six months to figure out ways to better serve riders that are handicapped.”
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) was one of the few African American aldermen who did not support Beale’s proposal. He said the stringent rules would have hurt many of his most vulnerable constituents.
“A lot of my senior citizens who cannot get a job because of their age drive for Uber,” said Ald. Walter Burnett (27th). “I would much rather have people working than not working.”
The 36-12 vote in favor of the modified proposal left Beale, who is also a high school baseball coach, licking his wounds and coming up with excuses.
“They probably spent a couple a million dollars trying to bully and intimidate me and I’m still standing,” Beale said. “Is it a perfect compromise? Absolutely not! But at the same time, we still have work to do and will continue to move forward.”
However Uber and Lyft users Crusader spoke with said Beale is out of his mind if he thinks he was unfairly targeted. They said in several neighborhoods in the city, getting a cab to come is nearly impossible and they are very disappointed that an African American alderman could not figure that out.
“I don’t know what world he lives in if he does not realize that Black men are often passed up on the street in broad daylight while trying to hail a cab. And if you are trying to call one to come pick you up from your house you can forget it,” said James Robinson from Englewood.
Crusader was able to reach Joseph Okpaku, Vice President of Government Relations for Lyft. He said more than anything he is relieved Lyft customers in Chicago will still have options and is hoping the company can continue to grow in the Chicago market.
“We really appreciate the work the mayor and the entire city council put in on this. Ultimately, we’re just glad we’re going to be able to keep ride-sharing alive. It’s a fairly complicated ordinance so we’re still going through the fine print, but the big picture is we’re glad that we were able to find a way forward,” Okpaku said.