Joe Shaw believes in community spirit and protecting the environment. And he killed his own lawn to prove it.
Shaw, who is making his second run for City Council, was on the Public Works Commission in 2009 when the city urged residents to curb water usage during a regional drought. The nine-year Surf City resident looked around his own home for ways to reduce water use, and his eyes stopped on the patch of green out front. By the end of the summer, Shaw had removed all the grass from his yard and replaced it with more water-efficient native plants.
"We had a Stage 1 drought alert, asking residents to cut water use by 10%, and I thought I could do better than that," he said.
Shaw, a Bolsa Chica Land Trust board member and a former planning commissioner, wants voters to know that he's not afraid to make bold moves. An early entrant in the race, he led all challengers by raising more than $14,000 by the end of last year, and he's pushed that total to nearly $35,000, among the highest of any candidate. In August, he joined Planning Commissioner Blair Farley and former Mayor Connie Boardman to form Team Huntington Beach, a coalition running on the platform that it can meet residents' needs better than the current council.
Unlike Farley and Boardman, Shaw didn't get an endorsement from the city's police or fire unions, all of whose endorsed candidates went on to win in the last three elections. But his campaign does have a slew of high-profile supporters, including former Mayors Debbie Cook, Grace Winchell and Linda Moulton-Patterson; the Sierra Club; the Orange County League of Conservation Voters; and the Huntington Beach Downtown Residents Assn.
Cook, who hosted Shaw's campaign kickoff party at her house last year, is a longtime backer of Shaw; he served as her communications director when she unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2008. She said she expected Shaw to fare better than he did during his first run in 2006, when he finished sixth out of seven candidates.
"I generally agree with his policies, but more important to me is that he has an open mind and he just wants to continue to learn," Cook said. "As we learn more, it has a tendency to change our positions on things, and I like the fact that he's always willing to hear others and learn."
The former owner of the now-defunct California Greetings greeting card store, Shaw served on the Public Works Commission before resigning last year to take a spot on the Charter Review Committee, a citizens group charged with reviewing the city's charter and proposing revisions. As a candidate, he favors reducing fees on small businesses to keep them in the city, creating more tourist-friendly events downtown and laying the groundwork for a mass transit system.
And while Shaw's main issue at the moment is stabilizing the city budget, he said he would fight to preserve open space whenever possible. Like his running mates, he bristled at the council's approval in July of the Ridge housing development in Bolsa Chica.
"There's a great misconception that there's a bunch of crazy environmentalists running around in Huntington Beach, but the majority of voters in the city, if they had a chance, would not have approved the Ridge project themselves," Shaw said. "They would want to save that part of Bolsa Chica."
With the election approaching, Shaw, who said he has avoided hiring political consultants or spokespeople, plans to exhaust his campaign funds by sending out repeated mailers to voters. Still, he said, the name recognition he has built up over the years will be just as important as the final push.
"We're doing the work it takes," he said. "We're out meeting people. We've been doing that since June. You can't meet that many people if you start now. We started early, and that's going to be an advantage."