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Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis Says Detroit Must Cut Workforce, Renegotiate Union Concessions

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DETROIT -- A day after an unprecedented deal to fix Detroit's finances was approved, the deputy mayor said the payroll must be reduced to help get the city on a path to stability.

Meanwhile, Mayor Dave Bing, who had been recuperating at home from a perforated colon, was treated at a hospital for blood clots in his lungs. Officials predicted a full recovery, but it was another piece of dramatic news at a time of extraordinary change for a city weighed down by a legacy of deficits, debt and significant population loss.

The city council approved an agreement with the state Wednesday aimed at slowly turning around the city's finances and preventing the appointment of an emergency manager who would have far-reaching authority to run Detroit. The city now will get a financial advisory board, a chief financial officer and a program manager charged with overseeing certain reforms.

"It's opening day in more ways than one," state Treasurer Andy Dillon said, referring to the first game of the season for the Detroit Tigers and the city's first full day under the new deal.

Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis told reporters that the city must "immediately" start talking to city unions, which represent more than 5,000 employees. Pay cuts and other concessions the unions agreed to in March were rejected by Gov. Rick Snyder's administration and never presented to the city council for approval.

The agreement between the state and Detroit sets a July 16 deadline for labor contracts to replace ones that expire June 30. In those deals, the city will have the right to go around the unions for certain work if it means better service or a better price. Departments also could be consolidated. Labor leaders met privately Thursday to discuss strategy.

"Right now we just have to get a game plan in place. They're trying to take away all our rights. We might as well not have a union," said Herbert Jenkins, who works in street maintenance.

Lewis acknowledged the relationship between Detroit and its unions needs repair.

"We're in the process of going through some early retirements," he said. "Our focus is getting folks off the payroll based on layoffs or early retirements. ... We need to get the process that allows us to be efficient. With that we can evaluate the number of folks that we need to perform."

At a separate news conference, Dillon noted that 65 people work full-time just handling payroll in the Detroit police department. Detroit faces a $200 million budget deficit and $13.2 billion in long-term debt.

On the subject of the mayor's health, Lewis said Bing, 68, is expected back at city hall at the end of April. He was released from a hospital Monday but returned Wednesday with new problems and was admitted again.

"His mind is sharp. He is laughing, calling me during the day. He's fully there," Lewis said.

No other details about Bing's condition were released. Dr. Robert Hyzy of the University of Michigan hospitals said a pulmonary embolism is a condition where a blood clot – usually in the legs – breaks off and travels through the veins and lodges in the lungs. The effects can be mild to life-threatening. Patients typically are treated with medication to thin the blood.

"That keeps the clots from forming ... and allows time for the clots that are in the lungs to dissolve," said Hyzy, who is not treating Bing.

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Associated Press writers Jeff Karoub in Detroit and Tim Martin in Lansing contributed to this report.

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