Varnum's Kyros joins Citizens Research Council board, bringing facts to governing

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Citizens Research Council President Eric Lupher, left, says he is pleased to have Varnum partner Thomas G. Kyros join the distinguished organization’s board.

LEGAL NEWS PHOTO BY CYNTHIA PRICE

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

The tag line of the Citizens Research Council (CRC), “Facts Matter,” may seem like a bold statement in these times, but the organization would not have lasted almost 104 years if there were not widespread support for such a value.

As Varnum partner Tom Kyros joins the board, the CRC continues to demonstrate that facts – unemotional, non-partisan, verifiable – have worth in the eyes of many.

“When Governor Whitmer heard that insurance reform was a priority of the people and focused on it, the House said the first order of business is to hear from the Citizens Research Council,” said President Eric Lupher, who heads the CRC?staff. “We’d done the research, and they knew we weren’t there advocating to help the insurance companies. Our take on it is, let’s just understand how it works.”

That has been the operating philosophy of CRC ever since its beginnings as the Detroit Bureau of Governmental Research in 1916.

In response to sweeping societal changes at the beginning of the 20th century, particularly the move from rural to urban, non-partisan fact-finding organizations sprang up around the country with the goals of helping leaders govern well and keeping them honest as power accrued to politicians in the cities.

The first of these was the New York Bureau of Municipal Research, where CRC’s first director, Lent Upson, interned. Upson started the Dayton, Ohio, Bureau of Governmental Affairs, and the founders of the Detroit group managed to attract him to lead the charge in their fast-growing city. He stayed in the position for 28 years.

Eric Lupher, as well as the CRC literature, quotes Upson saying, “The right to criticize government is also an obligation to know what you are talking about.”

Though there were stirrings of interest in expanding to a statewide organization as early as the 1930s, it was not until 1951 that the name and focus changed to Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

The headquarters still remains in Livonia, but since that time a Lansing office has opened, and now some researchers work from their homes in various parts of the state.

Both in Southeast Michigan and at the state level, the Detroit Bureau/CRC achieved continual successes in terms of its recommendation for improving governance.

There was a brief period when Libertarian ideology, in the person of the director Loren “Red” Miller, threatened to overwhelm the organization’s commitment to strict non-partisanship.
However, that was rectified in the 1960s, particularly as the CRC began in-depth research in support of the state’s Constitutional Convention. The CRC principles include non-partisanship in “political party, interest group, [and] philosophical perspective.” They also include objectivity, stated as, “CRC does not select facts in order to reach a conclusion, but rather, carefully analyzes all of the facts to see if they point to a conclusion.”

Lupher says that even on his own time he avoids all types of partisan activity.

He started out at the CRC in 1987. “After college, I was using the phone book to look for jobs I would like,” he says with a grin, “and I found the Citizens Research Council.” Lupher received a B.A. in International Relations from James Madison College at Michigan State University and, later, a Masters in Public Administration from Wayne State University.

For his first two years at CRC, Lupher was a Lent Upson-Loren Miller Fellow, followed by being a research associate, then director of local affairs. His subject matter ran the gamut from state revenue sharing to economic development incentives to intergovernmental cooperation.

There is a national organization for such efforts as the CRC,?named the Governmental Research Association. Lupher is a past chair, and was instrumental in 2018 when the GRA?held its annual conference in Detroit.

With a permanent staff of only four researchers, Lupher has his hands full maintaining the impeccable reputation of CRC and spreading the word about its existence, but he has also served as vice-chair of the national Governmental Accounting Standards Advisory Council.

The history of Varnum involvement with CRC is long: Kent Vana was the board chair from 2004 to 2007 – in fact, the first CRC chair from West Michigan – and it was (now-former) Varnum attorney William Lawrence who recruited Tom Kyros.

Kyros is a trust and estates lawyer who was at the time just ending a six-year stint as executive partner, about which he says, “I had a lot of very generous clients who were understanding with me when I couldn’t get back to them right away. It’s a lot of work, especially at the end of the year.”

A graduate of Hope College and Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, Kyros’s practice includes design and implementation of sophisticated estate plans and active administration of trust accounts as well as settlements and charitable gift planning. His clients include many family business owners. He was named Grand Rapids Lawyer of the Year for Trusts and Estates in 2014, 2017, and 2019, among many other honors.

Kyros also served on Varnum’s policy committee, on the State Bar Character and Fitness Committee, on the West Michigan Estate Planning Council, and for several years, including one as president, on the West Michigan Planned Giving Group.

Outside the legal profession, Kyros’s community involvements have included Heart of West Michigan United Way, the East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation, the Garfield Park Neighborhood Association, the Hope College Alumni Association (including as president from 2014-2016), and many others. He continues to serve on the board of trustees of the DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation and on the Grand Rapids Community Foundation board.

Kyros is very excited about his upcoming service to the CRC. “Civics class in high school was almost all about the federal government, and even in law school we didn’t learn much about state and local government. In administrative law class mainly we learned about bureaucracy,” he says, smiling. “I really was new to the concept of CRC, but it’s an issue that is of great importance to me,” Kyros says.

There has always been a strong attorney presence on the CRC?board, and Miller Canfield has been a continuous supporter since its inception. That firm’s Amanda Van Dusen was the first female chair of the board in 1998-2001. Dickinson Wright has also participated heavily.

As far as representation from the west side of the state, Win Irwin of Irwin Seating continues to serve on the board as Kyros comes on.

Lupher says the CRC has some interesting reports coming up. One is about workforce development and how to get the ALICE?population (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) better engaged in the workforce. “We’ll have recommendations that should help employers who aren’t able to find enough workers, as well as helping the ALICE people. It looks at local government policies that can help, like transit and childcare, but also there are state-level policies that aren’t helping,” he says.

The next will be on oversight of charter schools, but there will be many more to follow on topics that are critical to the average citizen.

“When you look at the amount and the quality of the work we put out, it’s really been pretty amazing,” Lupher adds.

For more information or to read the  reports, visit www.crcmich.org.


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