So I got a note the other day asking me to join a Facebook group. Now, normally I delete all invites to do things on Facebook as a matter of course. Just because Facebook has too many applications or groups to join and I think my head would explode trying to keep up with them all. However, this group was called "Force Andy Wells to Resign as Mayor of St. John's!!" And just to show the creator of the group was, like, really serious, you'll note the two exclamations points at the end of the group name.
So, on a lark, I joined. I just checked and there are now 313 members and it's growing. There are plots being made on how they might get Wells to step down as mayor. Marches, petitions and protests of various kinds. All because Wells is staying on as mayor of the city, even after accepting a high paying job as Chair of the Public Utilities Board. Wells has taken notice of these protests, both on Facebook, on VOCM and other forums and offers up about the kind of opinion you would expect from him.
(A brief paragraph for those not familiar with St. John's municipal politics - it's the most insane form of politics in Newfoundland. Nothing, not federal or provincial, comes close to it. That's because you will find nothing more nasty, cut-throat and mean-spirited in the province. Hell, perhaps in Canada. And Andy Well has been on council for 30 years, so that should give you some idea of what kind of human we're dealing with.)
Now, I like to think that after spending about three years covering City Council I have a greater than average knowledge of the way Wells' mind works. We'll leave it for other to judge if that's a good thing or a bad thing. But I have this bit of insight.
So I not only knew he was going to stick around when this racket first broke a couple of weeks ago, but I also know this - you're not getting him to quit. That Facebook group could reach 100,000 people and he will not quit. You could form a human chain 10 people deep around The Bunker (City Hall) and chant that he has to go or die and it would not make a difference.
Why? Because when most politicians resign or change their mind on something controversial they do it out of shame. The public has guilted them to the point that whatever sense of morals of shame they have kicks in. Granted, politicians have high shame thresholds, so it can take awhile, but they'll get there eventually.
Andy Wells has no shame threshold. Andy Wells does not feel shame. At all. I don't know if the section of his brain that can feel shame was destroyed in a stroke, or killed off in a childhood injury of some sort. Perhaps it's a genetic defect and he was born without a sense of shame. But he doesn't possess it. There are immutable laws of physics that I believe can be broken before Wells would feel shame over a course of action he took.
I've heard him say the most unbelievably cruel things to councillors and to members of the general public. He's called them fools, idiots and senile. And those are the nice things. I've watched women upset with a lack of proper water and sewer in their area of town show up to council ever week for months wearing t-shirts, carrying posters and yelling at him. And he not only withstood their attacks, he managed to make them look bad for having the gall to complain and criticize him. I'm astonished there wasn't blood spilt over issues such as Mile One Stadium, the water treatment plant and selling Memorial Stadium to Loblaws. He was called everything in the book and still, no hint of remorse or shame reared its head.
I'm not saying what people are tying to do right now in ousting Wells is a bad idea. Even if there is a cost associated with the by-election (which I think Wells is exaggerating), there is simply the ethics involved. Wells made a big deal about the mayor's position being a full-time gig and requiring a full-time salary. And he's renouncing that. I don't think he should hold both jobs. I don't think he should quit as mayor. I think he should turn down the PUB job and stick with the job he promised to do back in 2005. And if he wants to quit so badly, for no good reason, then he should have to foot part of the cost of a the by-election. I honestly don't know why he ran in '05. All it's seemed like he's done since then is to try and find another job other than the one he was elected for.
But let's face it, the idea of turning down the PUB job is fantasyland. It will never happen. Because Wells has no shame. Not only that, but he will try to make you feel ashamed for question his motivations. It doesn't always work, but he has a much better success rate then he really ought to.
That's why I can't conceive of what it would take to get him to quit. I'm not saying don't try. I just don't know what you could try that would work. Really. How do you shame a man into doing the right thing when he has no sense of shame. He wouldn't know shame if it kicked him the crotch and laughed at him.
So good luck with it. But don't be surprised if Wells is still there in September when he could quit without causing that expensive by-election he's so concerned about. Hell, don't be surprised if he runs for mayor again in '09. Crazy? No, just shameless.
1. You won't succeed on Broadway - Spamalot*
2. Stars and planets - Liz Phair
3. Let your loss be your lesson - Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
4. Whole thing's ruined - Drive
5. Twisting by the pool - Dire Straits