Last week, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing cleared another obstacle in his race to salvage his economically challenged city. Two weeks ago, he gained considerable hope of rescuing Detroit from a state takeover when 25 of the city’s 48 unions signed a tentative agreement. Now the former all-star point guard has managed what may be the equivalent of a slick crossover dribble in getting members of city’s police to the table with a tentative agreement.
Police officials must have held their noses to kiss the pig of concessions they have chosen to honor, including a three-year wage freeze, increases in insurance co-pays and overtime restrictions. If the mayor can now get members of the Fire Department to make a similar commitment, he may have the cornerstone he needs to at least temporarily stave off the city’s foreclosure. Many of the city’s unions are waiting until the uniformed unions sign on before they move to ratify any agreement.
“The police unions and my administration have negotiated a tentative agreement that provides much-needed savings but does not sacrifice public safety,” Bing told the press.
Joseph Duncan, president of the Detroit Police Officers Association, expressed his 2,000 members’ exasperation with the agreement. “We’re doing it to avert a financial manager,” he explained. Police have not received a pay hike in three years.
The mayor is struggling desperately to keep control of the city, and to do so he has until June 30, the end of the fiscal year, to come up with $102 million in savings.
Key to last week’s tentative agreement with the city’s union workers was switching them to 401 (k)-style retirement savings plan from what was formally a defined-benefits pension. Equally painful for the workers was the continuation of the 10 percent pay cut put into effect nearly three years ago. Changes are also planned to health care benefits.
Many Detroiters are wondering if and when the state will share some of its announced surplus, which could total more than $1.5 billion. First-term Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, is reportedly being besieged with requests from practically every sector of the state, hoping they are slated for some of the windfall if and when it is distributed.
If the money is allocated based on the most seriously underserved sections of Michigan’s communities, police officers, teachers and health care workers should be at the front of the line. Meanwhile, Detroit remains teetering on the brink of a total meltdown.