Steve Berke's Rapping May Be Terrible, But His Skylink Idea Is Great

There's no soul more blighted in the Miami Beach panorama than a car-locked driver around 9 a.m. at 14th and Alton, who sits behind dozen of cars, wondering just what in God's name is happening at the front of the line to engender such congestion.

Worse, there's no clear answer to this question. But Miami Beach mayoral candidate Steve Berke thinks he has a solution, unlikely though it may be: a Skylink. Hailing it as the "world's longest urban cable car system offering spectacular views of the Miami skyline," Berke says this added connection between downtown Miami with SoBe will alleviate the poor urban planning that plagues both municipalities.

Even if endearing, the plan has the same ethos of the popular kid in school running for class president on a platform that calls for a new vending machine in the cafeteria: it gives people what they want without backing it up with logistics. Which is a matter Steve Berke failed to assuage earlier this week when he dropped a rap song to promote Skylink. "I think I'm the first candidate to ever release a rap video," says Berke, who's tailed by an MTV film crew making a documentary about his run at mayor.

The song, though buoyed by a rather infectious chorus, is nonetheless encumbered by what has to be the worst White Guy Trying To Rap routine in the history of human folly.

Now don't misunderstand. We admire both a) the audacity of the Skylink plan, which Berke estimates will cost $200 million, and b) the creativity necessary to first conceive then implement a rap song.

Berke was ebullient about the video when we caught up with him yesterday. "I don't have the same kind of money that my opponents have to do these 'media buys,'" he said. "So I needed to find a more innovative way of getting my message out there."

And the message is this: A Skylink, Berke claims, would monetize Miami's natural geographical beauty, bringing in millions of dollars every year in tourism. "We have 15 million overnight visitors to Miami-Dade every year, and if we even get a third to ride this thing at $20 a pop, it would bring an extra $100 million per year."

The only drag? Getting the money to pay for it, and then maintaining public interest.

If recent history is any guide, the latter would be substantially more difficult than perhaps Berke realizes. According to numbers released late last month, the number of cable car riders in London's model of the Skylink fell by more than half last year, from 48,000 passengers to a paltry 25,000. And that was London -- which, by every measure, lures more tourists than Miami.

Says DeZeen magazine: "The figures are the first to give an accurate indication of the cable car's popularity one year on from its launch, discounting the inflated numbers that resulted from last summer's London Olympics when weekly passengers reached over 180,000."

But there's at least one thing Berke's Skylink has going over London's cable cars: a rap video.

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Terrence McCoy