Officials urge pensioners to approve deal after grand bargain si

Officials urge pensioners to approve deal after grand bargain signing

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DETROIT (WJBK) - Amid all the smiles and the handshakes, there is still real concern here. Just because the governor has signed the grand bargain doesn't mean it's a go.

"Detroit, Michigan means something special. It's not Detroit versus Michigan or Michigan versus Detroit - it's Detroit, Michigan and we should hold our heads proud!" says Gov. Rick Snyder, ready to sign the bills known as the grand bargain.

That's the 800 million dollar deal to save the art at the DIA and the pensions of the city's employees. Lawmakers, corporations, foundations are committing major money as part of the plan.

"We went across the aisle, we worked together and it was about people it wasn't about politics," says Senator Randy Richardville.

"We all basically want the same thing: a good-paying job, a safe community for our families and a quality education for our children. A protracted bankruptcy for Detroit cripples our ability to achieve those things and, quite frankly, lawyers will be the only ones that win in court," says Representative Thomas Stallworth.

The bill signings commit 195 million dollars from the state. It was held at the old Globe Building on Detroit's riverfront, which is newly renovated and a soon-to-be outdoor adventure center. It's the kind of rebirth that those gathered here are hoping for in Detroit.

They say this grand bargain is the key to bringing Detroit out of bankruptcy and back under local control.

"What you have done with this bill is give us a fresh chance and I think in the coming years it's going to turn out to be one of the most proudest things you did in the your political careers," says Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

But many here worry none of that will happen if the city's retirees and active employees vote no on the plan of adjustment, meaning all of the money in the grand bargain goes away and they say cuts to pensions will be even deeper.

It's been a bitter pill to swallow for all of them.

"It will not be easy for any retiree to vote yes but there is no other reasonable option," says Don Taylor of the Retired Detroit Police and Fire Fighters Association. "Voting no is not going to prevent your benefits from being reduced; just the opposite will occur. It will double the reduction."

Police and fire retirees are being urged to vote yes but the unions for Detroit police and fire active employees say they're not commenting on their position right now as they are still in talks with the city.

Meantime, the governor says he's aware of the sacrifice all employees are making.

"They were going to be asked to make huge sacrifices, and with the grand bargain there's an opportunity to ask them to sacrifice less. But they still are making a sacrifice and no one should ever forget that," says Gov. Snyder.

And Shirley Lightsey says they won't. The president of the Detroit Retired City Employee Association is also urging retirees to vote yes.

"We can't eat principles and uncertainty does not pay the bills," she says.

Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr did not comment on the signing of the grand bargain, but he is issuing his own plea to city workers and retirees.

"You need to vote yes. A no vote is not in your interest. A no vote is against you - not against the plan. The plan has a plan B: you lose 30 cents at least, worse health care for actives and retirees, because all this is settlement, and that's my plan. The creditors will say, 'You didn't vote yes to protect yourself. Let's take even more.' So, it might get worse than even I think it is, just like it's better now than I thought it would be," he says.

Votes are due in by July 11.
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