Retired widower Steve Herbik and his 23-year old daughter Brittany launched an uphill fight to save their suburban Ohio park from a development plan supported by a Democrat-led city council, a Democratic mayor from a prominent local political family, a major construction company, and the local press.
Herbik lives in Brooklyn, Ohio, a stone’s throw from Cleveland city limits. He describes Brooklyn as a “small community” with a prized local venue called Memorial Park, which features bucks, turkey, and other wildlife. But the park was threatened by an initiative called Issue 3, which would have allowed the Geis family’s Geis Construction company to build over the park.
“I was told by a neighbor who came over and said, they’re putting something on the ballot. They want to tear up our park,” Herbik told Big League Politics. “They gave me a little zoning change ordinance in the mail.”
“I went to City Hall, got the ordinance…I started realizing that there were a lot of things in that ordinance. They could take away 92 percent of the park, put in offices and condominiums, and basically pave over the whole park,” Herbik said. “I went to all the city presentations, where they’re putting drawings and plans for what the park could be. Every artist rendering was different. It was a complete snow job and I decided I wasn’t going to let that happen.” Herbik said the estimated cost range for the project was $240 million and that the city would have had to take out “tens of millions in loans just to get the project started.”
So who joined his effort to save the park? Herbik said: “It was just me and my daughter.”
“I was off on a crusade for the truth, going to planning and steering meetings. Then I had city council meetings. They were all trying to get me to slow down and be quiet,” Herbik said, noting that he “took a lot of abuse.”
“The economic director insulted me half a dozen times in public meetings,” he said, adding that the local press was “one-sided toward the mayor,” Democrat Katie Gallagher.
“In the last eight days we did 33 miles of door-to-door knocking. The vast majority of the people we talked to had no idea about it, and we saved the park.”
Herbik drove around to all the precincts Tuesday night and reported the results exclusively to Big League Politics: 634 votes in favor of the development plan, and 1,152 votes against.
Herbik said Mayor Gallagher Facebook-posted her disappointment that the city lost $10,000 on planning the development, and also deleted a Facebook comment pre-emptively slamming Herbik for accusing her of paying off election officials.
Cleveland Tea Party co-founder Ralph King was involved in the effort to save the park, and said that the victory inspired him more than anything he’s recently seen in politics.
“I’ve been completely engrossed in this,” King told Big League Politics on election night. “They [Herbik and friends] spent probably about three hundred dollars and it’s looking like we won.”
“This is where my heart has been at since the beginning of the tea party. It goes on right here in your own backyards, when we’re watching the frontdoors,” King said, noting that America First policies have to be pushed for by citizens at the local level, and not by political interests.
“If you can’t put 20 people in a council room there’s no way in Hell you could organize a congressional race,” King said.