Larry Klein has been on the City Council for a long, long time, and he has all the acronyms to prove it.
His current council campaign, his fourth, revolves around six of them: SEIU, BLT, CCC, GHG, HSR and ABAG. (Translation: Service Employees International Union; the business-license tax; the California Constitutional Convention; greenhouse gases, high-speed rail and the Association of Bay Area Governments.)
For Klein, being waist-deep in the alphabet soup of wonkiness is a natural state of affairs. The Miami native is the only councilman who has two photos of himself framed on the wall inside the Council Chambers wall and is the only member of the current council who has a chance to be forced to leave office twice due to term limits.
Of the three candidates who were eligible to run for re-election, Klein is the only one who did so. Now, he has the burden of defending the council's actions and the benefit of taking credit for its recent accomplishments.
Klein feels he is ideally suited for the task. During his current term, Klein has been on the front lines of just about every major initiative, approval and chore the council has performed, from a green-building ordinance to selecting its new city manager.
After former Police Chief Lynne Johnson made comments that inadvertently suggested an endorsement of racial profiling, Klein was the first council member to denounce the comments as "unlawful, unconstitutional and un-American."
Klein strongly supported last year's successful Measure N campaign (a $76 million bond to rebuild three city libraries) and is avidly backing Measure A, the proposal to institute a business-license tax.
Klein helped shape the current business-license tax proposal, which creates a tax based on employee count, and has contributed $2,000 to a "Yes on A" campaign.
This year, he served on the council's Finance Committee, which reviewed and amended the 2010 budget before the full council passed it in June.
Klein served on the council subcommittee that last year selected James Keene to be the city's new city manager. He earlier publicly criticized Keene's predecessor, Frank Benest, and he gladly boasts of his major role in the hiring of Keene.
"If you like his work, I'll take credit; if you don't, forget I'd ever said it," Klein quipped at a recent candidate forum.
Klein, an attorney with the local firm Dorsey and Whitney, began his first council term in 1981 and served as mayor twice (in 1984 and 1989) before terming out. He received the city's Tall Tree Award in 1994 as "Citizen of the Year" and returned to the council in 2005, citing his frustrations with the recently approved Arbor Real development on the former Rickey's Hyatt site. Last year, he completed his third term as mayor.
Klein said the biggest challenge facing the council is the sagging economy. That's where the acronyms come in.
Klein has been a major proponent of cutting employee compensation by 5 percent, a stance that has prompted the SEIU to send out anti-Klein fliers.
At the same time, he has been a leading proponent of the new BLT, a tax that he says is necessary to maintain local services. The CCC (constitutional convention) represents his frustration with the state's practice of "borrowing" money from local jurisdictions to make up for state budget shortfalls.
The fact that GHG is part of Klein's regular lexicon shouldn't surprise residents who have followed Klein's actions on the avidly environmentalist council. He supported the plastic-bag ban at grocery stores and the green-building ordinance, and said he wants to "do more on environmental matters." He was one of the co-founders of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District in 1972, and he currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, charged with ensuring a safe and adequate water supply for its members.
Seeking to reduce car-generated pollution, Klein was part of the council that unanimously voted to support the high-speed rail (HSR) project. He was also part of the council majority that supported submitting a "friend of the court" brief against the California High-Speed Rail Authority in a lawsuit filed by Menlo Park, Atherton and a coalition of environmentalist groups.
"We were all misled and misinformed," Klein now says, referring to the 2008 vote. "The chief backers of high-speed rail weren't transparent with what they presented."
Klein now says he is open to all options regarding the design of the high-speed system, with the exception of elevated tracks stretching along the Caltrain corridor.
Klein also has choice words for ABAG, the agency that sets housing targets for how much housing each Bay Area city should provide, based primarily on its job base. Klein calls the ABAG housing allocation a "Sacramento process" and a "20th century solution to a 21st century problem."
In a recent questionnaire for Palo Alto Neighborhoods, Klein said he considers the high-speed rail and the ABAG instruction that Palo Alto build another 2,700 housing units over the next seven years as "major threats" to the community. The ABAG allocation system, he said, needs to be changed.
"The assumption is that people will live as close to their jobs as possible," Klein said. "That's not always the case."