ISO work: After quitting the Reading Terminal to lose a City Council bid, Paul Steinke needs a job

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It’s bad enough losing an election, something more than 20 aspiring Philadelphia politicians did two weeks ago. But unlike most of those people who lost, Paul Steinke also needs a job.

Steinke, who was unsuccessful in the Democratic at-large Council race, gave up a sweet gig in December, resigning as general manager of the Reading Terminal. He did this even though it’s not required for political newcomers to quit their jobs (if you’re already employed in a public office and are running for another, a la Jim Kenney, you do need to quit). So far, he tells Billy Penn he’s not exactly sure what he’ll do but says he’s gotten some phone calls about opportunities from his supporters. Remaining in politics is a possibility, too. But, Steinke adds, “there’s not a race out there.”

Steinke says he decided to quit the Terminal after 13 years was based more on financial security and his desire to give his all to the election.

“Of course I was hopeful that the City Council run would be successful, and it wasn’t,” Steinke says. “I was also prepared financially and emotionally for it not to succeed.”

Steinke needed to finish in the top five in the at-large Council race to win. He placed 10th, some 12,000 votes short of what he needed to win. His low vote total came despite endorsements from Ed Rendell, state Rep. Brian Sims, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, Philadelphia Gay News and many more groups.

In an editorial on Philly Mag last week, Steinke pondered whether voters considered him too much of a Republican because he focused on business and tax issues. He countered that business reform is a social issue that leads to job growth. Asked if he should have spread that message more clearly during the election, Steinke says he thought he did.

“My stump speeches, the mailings, my website, my Facebook made clear I was running as someone who wanted Philadelphia to thrive as a city,” he says. “In the other they cities have done a better job, other cities that are Democratically controlled. I ran as a Democrat. I could not break into the top five in the end. I think I delivered the message as well as I could. I didn’t make the cut.”

This state of uncertainty for the future is a new feeling for Steinke. He has been employed at jobs promoting Philadelphia for more than 20 years. Before the Reading Terminal Market, he helped form the Center City District and then the University City District.

“What I want to do next is stay involved in the promotion and improvement of Philadelphia,” Steinke says. “That has been my lifelong occupation and goal.”

Though he won’t be able to turn his views into action as a Council member, Steinke ideally wants to do that through whatever position he holds next.

“We really need stronger thinking about growth and to not treat it as something that’s bad,” he says. “It’s something that’s necessary. Otherwise, here we come Detroit.”

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