Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he plans to return to work on April 30, after he finishes healing from intestinal surgery and a pulmonary embolism.
"I had a helluva operation," Bing told a small group of reporters via phone Friday morning, in his first in-depth interview with the press since his hospitalization. "I got to get healthy first. I can't worry about a whole lot of other stuff."
The mayor said he's waiting for his surgical incision to fully heal, adding he's lost about 12 pounds since the surgery.
Bing has been in and out of the hospital since March 22, and remained somewhat incapacitated during the final negotiations around Detroit's consent agreement with the state. He appointed his chief of staff, Kirk Lewis, to act as deputy mayor.
But Bing said he was and continues to be involved in navigating the new financial pact, setting up the newly mandated financial advisory board, as well as recruiting a chief financial officer and project management director.
The consent agreement grants the state of Michigan unprecedented oversight over city finances and operations, as well as a controlling stake in the financial advisory board.
Bing said he wasn't thrilled with having to sign the consent agreement -- he had proffered his own financial recovery plan in December -- but said the state gave him an ultimatum.
"It was either sign the agreement or bring in an emergency manager -- those were my options," Bing said. "With that as my option, I had no choice."
Bing added that he thinks the new agreement will help Detroit avoid an emergency manager takeover in the future. "Everything we're doing right now points to the fact we need to do everything we can to make sure an emergency manager is not necessary, nor is bankruptcy necessary."
The task now is filling the city's new positions. On Thursday, the first three members of the nine-member financial advisory board were announced, and Bing said he was pleased with the choices.
"Those folks I've known very well over a long period of time," he said. "We were able to start off with first three selections getting the calibre of people we have -- I think that's an indication of filling this nine-person board out." Bing said the final appointments should come in the next two weeks
"We have a short list," he said. "We're going through the vetting process, and I'm totally engrossed and involved in those appointments."
The city must also soon approve a budget and revise its union contracts. The city bargained for and won major concessions from its labor unions, but those tentative agreements will have to be revisited under the new plan.
"We couldn't take it to the next step because the state came back and said we didn't get enough," Bing said. "And they never explained to me what enough was."
Under the consent agreement, the city no longer has to bargain with employees after the current contracts expire. But Lewis said the city hopes to continue to negotiate with labor, rather than impose cuts and new work rules. Lewis would not name a figure for future layoffs, but said, "Are we going to have to have less people in Detroit [city jobs]? Absolutely."
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