By Shoham Geva, Summer Managing News Editor
Published August 4, 2014
Monday, Flint attorney Mike Behm announced his intention to run for the University’s Board of Regents.
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Two of the board’s eight members are elected every other year to eight year terms during the November elections. The positions are partisan, meaning prospective candidates must first be nominated by their respective political party before reaching the ballot. This coming year, regents Julia Donovan Darlow (D) and Katherine White (D) will be up for reelection. White announced late last year that she will run for another term.
Behm, both a University alum and former Daily staffer, will be seeking the Democratic nomination. In an interview Monday morning, he said he thinks his experience and passion for the University make him a good candidate for the position.
“I’ve been involved peripherally with the political process since I was on campus,” Behm said. “So I’ve always been involved working for different campaigns and for different administrations, always on a volunteer basis. But I had seen that it’s important to put that work in, to see change occur and I had always thought about different ways to volunteer my time, and I think this is one I would really like to do. I come from an extended family of Wolverines, so it’s always been important to me.”
Aside from his work as a lawyer, Behm is also the chair of Business Forward Michigan, a group that connects local business leaders to politicians to discuss policy solutions to economic issues, and a co-founder of the Level Field Institute, which produces annual reports on automaker’s individual contributions to the economy.
In the local community, he serves on the board of trustees for the Flint Institute of Arts and is a founding member of the Flint Youth Initiative, which helps local teens find summer jobs.
He said his experience with several different fields, especially business, are something he hopes to use to further connections the University has with businesses for research, and for other business applications.
Along with furthering connections, his website also identifies several broader platform points, including advocating for the University both in the classroom and in regards to athletics, building relationships with alumni to create more jobs in the state and working to increase state funding and reduce tuition.
Through the research he’s done thus far, Behm said the decrease in state aid has stood out to him as a key issue the University needs to address.
“Thirty years ago, right before I came on campus … 70 percent of costs were borne or carried by the state of Michigan, and then 30 percent were defrayed by tuition,” he said. “Whereas today, and this is what I found shocking, is it’s flipped. It’s now 70 percent of the college costs are carried by students, and the endowment of the University, and only 30 percent are carried by the state.
“If this truly is a state university, and the University of Michigan is, being a public institution, then we need to find ways, more creative ways to garner the assistance of the state of Michigan,” he added.
Behm, who lives in Grand Blanc, a suburb of Flint, also cited his experience with the city, which houses one of the University’s satellite campuses. The current makeup of the board is composed of four regents from Ann Arbor, one from Bloomfield Hills, one from Grosse Pointe, one from Grosse Pointe Park, and one from Bingham Farms.
He said the University’s Flint campus both had a lot to individually be proud of, as one of the fastest growing public institutions, and also held a lot of importance to the city of Flint as a whole, making representation from someone familiar with the area important.
“(U-M Flint) put a dormitory in about five years ago, and immediately there was no vacancy,” Behm said. “There was a hotel on the other side of UM-Flint’s campus that really borders the campus, and it had probably been boarded up for 30 years, and now it’s been fully rehabilitated and has lots and apartments, so U-M Flint has served as a great vehicle for fueling part of the recovery of downtown Flint.”
The Michigan Democratic Party will hold its nominating convention, where endorsements will be made for multiple positions including that of the Board of Regents, in Lansing Aug. 23. No other non-incumbent Democratic candidates have currently announced campaigns for the position.
Clarification appended: This article has been updated to clarify that no other non-incumbent Democratic candidates have announced campaigns. One incumbent candidate, Katherine White, has stated she will run.