My name is Steve Berke and I'm running to be your next Mayor of Miami Beach.
Miami Beach is my home. My family is from here, and if I'm so blessed, I plan on raising my family here too. I want the honor of being your Mayor because I am just like you.
I am not a career politician afraid to rock the boat, nor am I a multi-millionaire trying to buy your vote. Unlike my opponents, I choose not to pay political consultants and pollsters hundreds of thousands of dollars to tell me what to think.
But the fact is; I don't have to.
You see, leadership is not about identifying problems, it's about finding solutions. It isn't about sitting around in meetings and talking endlessly about the issues - it's about standing up, walking to the front and saying, 'I have a plan, follow me.'
I have identified five challenges that we must overcome by the year 2020 in order to ensure Miami Beach is not only a first class tourist destination, but also a world class city for our residents.
My five platform issues are Fiscal Responsibility, Street flooding, Law Enforcement, the Decriminalization of Marijuana and implementing a state of the art integrated transportation system linking the cities of Miami and Miami Beach.
Today, I want to share with you my clear and focused blueprint to address these issues by the year 2020 - I'm calling it my 2020 Vision.
Because it's what I'm most known for, let's address marijuana.
As many of you know, I started my career as a professional tennis player. My career was cut short due to herniating two discs in my lower back. The pain was only manageable with dangerous addictive prescription pills. After visiting multiple specialists and exhausting all of my options, a doctor in California prescribed me medical marijuana and it vastly improved the quality of my life.
Marijuana is a real medicine - and, it is harmless. Its possession is a victimless crime and more than half of Americans are now in favor of completely legalizing it.
Make no mistake, the numbers don't lie and it is only a matter of time before it becomes federally regulated. But I think Miami Beach should be ahead of the curve. It's up to us to take leadership on this issue, and I believe it's time for Miami Beach to decriminalize marijuana and legalize it for patients that need it as medicine.
This way our city won't be spending 3 million dollars per year to incarcerate non-violent offenders, and we can allow our police to focus on more serious crimes.
Which brings me to the Miami Beach Police Department - I was raised to respect the police.
But now we have an entire generation of young people who do not see the police as their heroes; they see them as their enemy.
In the last 2 years, our police department has developed one of the worst reputations in the country. We have witnessed multiple scandals- from firing 116 bullets at a drunk driver, to beating up homosexual men and assaulting women, to partying while on duty, to running over tourists while drunk driving an ATV, to tasering a young boy to death.
Incident after incident, scandal after scandal - it has to stop. It must stop.
I will not stand idly by while our Police Department becomes Florida's poster child for bad policing.
When elected, I want the immediate implementation of an independent, Police Review and Disciplinary Board - one with real powers. Furthermore, Florida has a history of problems with steroid use among police officers. So, anyone who thinks our entire police department is completely clean of steroids and Human Growth Hormone, probably believes that all of professional baseball is clean as well.
Our residents deserve to know that when a police officer discharges his weapon, his mental and emotional state aren't compromised by the hormonal imbalance that steroids can cause. If athletes are regularly tested for these drugs, then shouldn't the testing of our police officers be taken just as seriously?
We will restore faith in our police. Our young people will, once again, see the cops as friends not foe. And, the MBPD will become the pride of our City once again.
As you all know we live in a tropical paradise - and that means rain. In Miami Beach we have come to accept a little flooding. Well, at least that's what our government wants us to do. But, they aren't so forthcoming in mentioning the fact that within 50 years much of our city will probably be under water.
So why hasn't our government done anything about this impending, and I don't think this is too strong a word - doom?
I believe, that while Miami Beach families like mine live generation to generation, our politicians only live election to election -- fixing the flooding is not going to happen when it can be pushed back another election cycle.
Therefore, in my first term as your mayor, I vow to start fixing this problem. We will bring in the best expert engineers from the Netherlands, we will find the necessary funds, and we will make flooding a thing of the past.
Speaking of finding funds, we need to prioritize our City Budget.
When I ran for mayor in 2011, we had just installed a piece of German art at South Pointe Park that looked like a multi-colored, vertical, crank shaft. And get this, that waste of your taxes cost the city half a million dollars.
But, the wasteful spending hasn't stopped.
This year, our City Manager is hiring yet another six figure attorney and is adding the salaries and benefits of more than 30 new employees to the city budget. It's unbelievable.
Meanwhile, our pension liability is becoming unsustainable. In 5 years, our unfunded pension liability will escalate to more than a billion dollars. Unless we do something about these out of control pensions, Miami Beach will soon become Detroit. Our commission doesn't think we'll become Detroit. But Detroit didn't think they'd become Detroit either. If we don't address our unfunded pension liability immediately, we will soon be as bankrupt as the motor city. We need a leader who will take a hard stance against the unions, because they have bullied and romanced our current commission into accepting their demands.
If Miami Beach wants a mayor who will stand up against corruption, inefficient government and the abuse of power then they need to pick someone not embedded in City Hall culture, and someone not in bed with the unions.
I am that leader.
I proved this two years ago when I made the Miami Beach Convention Center a central platform in my campaign. I advocated for a complete renovation of the building and for preparedness against a potential casino coming to Miami.
Well, the Miami casino isn't happening. But, the commission has decided to go ahead anyway, and not just with renovation, but with an Orlando style tourist trap that is overly expensive, will drive people away from Lincoln Road, and is simply not a good deal for taxpayers.
Furthermore, there is no telling what it will do to our already congested city streets.
I say, let's save our money. We should give the convention center a new, artistic makeover that is in keeping with our global image - a renovation that makes sense for business, but doesn't cost a billion dollars.
We need to invest our tax dollars more wisely. Instead of spending more than a billion dollars on a new convention center, I have a much better idea. And the best part about it-- it won't cost our taxpayers nearly as much money, and it will solve the parking, traffic, and towing problems that plague all of us in Miami Beach. Our roads are gridlocked, parking is a nightmare, and the thuggery of our towing duopoly has become the stuff of embarrassing television.
The centerpiece of my 2020 vision is a state of the art integrated transportation system that links Downtown Miami to South Beach via the Skylink.
The Skylink will be the world's longest urban cable car system offering spectacular views of the Miami skyline and it will be an affordable, environmentally friendly, and magnificent form of public transportation. What's more it will be an iconic tourist bucket-list item - up there with the Eiffel Tower and the London Eye.
The terminals will connect Miami's Bicentennial Park to South Pointe Park in Miami Beach. Once you land in South Pointe Park, SkyLink will then directly connect to DecoTram, our own light rail system, which will drastically reduce the need for cars in South Beach. Locals won't ride the bus - we know that, but they will ride on a state of the art, light rail without overhead wires just like the one in Seville, Spain. Following a similar route to the South Beach Local, the DecoTram links our beautiful beaches, Lincoln Road, Museum District and Sunset Islands to the Fifth Street Shops and South Pointe Park. Additionally, DecoTram's second phase will extend all the way up to North Beach.
Close your eyes for a moment and join me in the year 2020.
You are standing by the bay alongside the American Airlines Arena excited because you just watched The Heat win their eighth straight NBA championship. Stretching out in front of you is the Skylink - the coolest, most iconic public transportation system in the world. You board your gondola and for 17 minutes gasp at the spectacular views of the Miami skyline, the cruise ships, Star Island, Fisher Island and the ocean as you take this environmentally friendly, magnificent and affordable piece of public transportation all the way to South Beach.
Once you land in South Pointe Park, you take a short walk to the DecoTram station. Then, while you wait mere moments for the electric tram to arrive you look up and notice there are no overhead wires. Riding the DecoTram is much better than the South Beach Local, even though the route is almost the same. It's quieter, feels cleaner, and is always on time.
Your journey to the Lincoln Road DecoTram stop is fast, and you notice there are fewer cars on the road than there were back in 2013. This is awesome. Less than 30 minutes after leaving the game and you are ordering a drink at Haven Lounge. Life really doesn't get much better than this...
Now open your eyes. This is the clear, focused and bright future I see for Miami Beach - this is my 2020 vision.
If we are bold, if we pull together, and if we are not afraid, by 2020 we will fix our pension crisis and curtail the culture of corruption.
By 2020 our Police Department will be a source of pride; and our children will once again see our police officers as heroes.
By 2020, we will have a sensible policy regarding marijuana, and we will not punish the sick for taking the medicine they need.
By 2020 when it rains hard for several hours, you won't have to get in a canoe to get to your car.
In fact, you won't need a car, because by 2020, we will have the SkyLink and the DecoTram, an integrated public transportation system on every tourist's bucket list that will raise millions of dollars per year for our city.
By 2020, if you vote for Steve Berke as your next mayor of Miami Beach, the challenges of today will be distant memories.
My name is Steve Berke, and I am asking for your vote.
Thank you for your time.
We need a new system for ensuring the historic preservation of our city. We must ensure that the Art Deco district, along with the MiMo architecture and our Spanish heritage are protected.
Historic buildings are listed so as to preserve those of architectural importance and ensure that the character of a specific neighborhood is maintained.
The City would survey all buildings deemed to be of historical interest. The buildings would then be listed in accordance to the grading system below. We would need to create a Historic Building Listing Ordinance to preserve buildings in accordance to their historical grade.
Financial incentives (depending on the grade of the listed building) are awarded to current homeowners who live in a historical building to maintain it as is.
When a listed building is sold, the buyer must legally know what they are getting into and agree to abide by the ordinance that applies to the building's specific grade.
Failure to comply with the Historic Building Listing Ordinance will result in appropriate financial disincentives.
Homeowners can apply to have their building listed to receive the financial incentives once the building reaches an appropriate age or is deemed to have significant architectural or cultural worth - ultimately be determined by Historic Preservation Board.
Grades of Listing:
Grade 1 — Buildings of exceptional historical importance.
Only maintenance is allowed to be carried out on the building.
Grade 2 — Buildings of historical importance.
Some modernization is acceptable providing it does not substantially alter the appearance or character of the building.
Grade 3 — Buildings of historical interest.
Substantial changes are permitted providing the façade of the building is kept intact and the building remains compatible with the size and style of those in its neighborhood.
Unlisted — Buildings with no historical interest or preservation requirements.
Criteria for Listing could be based on the following:
Age and Originality — The age of the building along with how much of the original structure is intact will be considered.
Aesthetic/Architectural Merit — Is the building particularly culturally significant or architecturally important?
Rarity — How many buildings of its type are in existence?
Location — How compatible is the building with the character of its neighborhood?
I look forward to further discussing my ideas with all those who love Miami Beach and want to see our heritage protected.