Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton could be forgiven if he complained Thursday that his ears were burning. There were at least two good reasons why he should feel that way:
One was the fact that late in the afternoon the Shelby County Election Commission gave Herenton adversary Thaddeus Matthews the go-ahead to put his recall-the-mayor petitions on the August general election ballot. This is provided that at least 60 days before the August 3rd date, Matthews acquires legal signatures from 70 thousand-odd Memphis residents and that he specifies on the petitions good reasons why Herenton should be removed from office.
The commission also suggested revising the petition's head to reflect that the undersigned are citizens of Memphis, not more generally of Shelby County, as now reads.
Matthews said he would comply with all conditions, both mandated and suggested, and promised to have an edited and amended copy of his petition available for commission approval by Friday morning.
The other circumstance that should have rattled the mayor's antennae was a meeting Thursday night at the Memphis Police Association headquarters on Jefferson. Here representatives of several unions involved in difficult contract negotiations with the Herenton administration met to form a united front and plot a common strategy.
"They're pissing on us," said one union representative as a discussion of possible coordinated approaches went on for several hours. There was common consent that the mayor himself, CAO Keith McGhee, and current MLGW head Joseph Lee were all acting in bad faith.
Some of the organizations involved in the "Union Summit" were the MPA, the Firefighters, IBEW, and AFSCME.
Comments at the meeting Thursday night made it clear that the union's strategy includes a focus on direct contacts with city council members in order to do an end-around the Herenton administration, if necessary. To that end, meetings with individual councilman have been proceeding of late.
One of the attendees at the Thursday night meeting, in fact, was councilman Scott McCormick.