Ted Knudtson said he’s never aspired to political office.
He said, “self-promotion gives me hives.”
Knudtson, a born Calgarian and raised in Brentwood, said he’d been volunteering in the community over the past year. There was always a buzz around whether current Ward 8 councillor, Evan Woolley would run again. Woolley was highly thought of, Knudtson said, and would leave big shoes to fill.
“Throughout working in the community, community members would often say, ‘Ted, you should run if Evan doesn’t run,’” Knudtson told LiveWire Calgary.
“And I kind of took it as flattery, but there seemed to be a consistent tone over those suggestions, where they weren’t flattering, they were asking.”
The tipping point was when Woolley decided he wasn’t going to run in the upcoming municipal election. Knudtson said he saw the “slate of candidates” being propped up by third-party advertising and the ideas they brought with them.
“Some of whom tend to be advocating for solutions that I believe myself would be a little bit destructive to our future prospects,” Knudtson said.
“So, I took a gut check and talked to my friends and family and decided to go for it.”
Downtown tax shift the top issue
Knudtson said many city issues flow through the downtown tax shift.
“Any taxation increases on small businesses and residences all flow back to that; addressing our larger economic challenges flow back to that,” he said.
“So things like the greater downtown plan that’s being worked on by the city is so very important.”
He said the city needs people to come in and “pick up the torch” on plans like this and move them forward. To come in as though no work had been done and start from scratch would mean a lost opportunity, Knudtson said.
Knudtson said that one of the top ward-specific issues is the opioid crisis and homelessness. He said he believes that it’s impossible to silo the issues. It’s tied to Calgary’s current economy, too, Knudtson said.
It’s a long game; there are savings in addressing homelessness and opioid addiction, he said.
“I would look at, not rethinking, but doing more there,” he said.
“Where we currently have a single supervised consumption site, what we need is about four.”
Again, Knudtson said it’s not about reinventing the wheel. It’s about carrying things forward and figuring out how to do them better and leaner.
Green Line, Events Centre
Calgary has an economy that’s going through a transformation with a need to attract industry and the talent that goes with it, Knudtson said.
That’s why the $5 billion Green Line investment is so important.
“I put it this way: We need to ante up or leave the table,” he said.
“We can’t afford to regress right now. We need to invest in ourselves and we have an opportunity – there’s opportunity in crisis.”
Knudtson said we must move aggressively on the Green Line. But, he wouldn’t stop there.
He wants to see a greater emphasis on LRT to the airport. Calgary’s one of the few major metropolitan cities that doesn’t have a rail connection to its airport. Even further out, Knudtson is an advocate for rail out to Banff as a boost to the economy.
Knudtson questions opponents of the Green Line, those with “business experience.” He said business isn’t about having the perfect solution. We’re wasting time trying to find the perfect Green Line solution, he said.
“It’s about having the courage to roll something out and improve and course correct as we go,” Knudtson said.
On the Events Centre, Knudtson said many Calgarians have issues with the project, particularly around how it’s come about and the cost to taxpayers.
The recent pause presents an opportunity to revisit and perhaps improve the transparency and the consultation on the $550 million project.
Police funding reallocation, resi speeds, fluoride
Knudtson said it’s misleading to call it defund. He said that sounds like punitive against Calgary’s police service.
“Our police force is second to none,” Knudtson said, noting their coming to the table in November with a suggested reallocation.
He also said he got word they’ve expanded their multi-disciplinary PACT (Police and Crisis Team).
“They’re already leading the way in figuring out how to do things better,” he said.
Knudtson favours exploring reallocation of the funds so calls can be handled in a more effective manner.
On fluoride, Knudtson is happy to see that Calgarians will once again get to decide on the issue.
“Seeing this go to a plebiscite so that Calgarians had the chance to have their say lands really well with me,” he said.
On the residential speed issue, Knudtson said citizens – and politicians – are often torn between the greater good and self interest. He said on this issue it’s again about the efficiencies found – particularly around savings people from harm.
“Many of the roads that are going to be changed are ones that are awfully difficult to get up to 50 anyways,” he said.
“So if we can save money in our emergency response and healthcare costs, why the heck wouldn’t we?”
Authenticity the key
Knudtson has been in Calgary for much of his life. He’s been in the service industry, an EMT, in graphic design and web design.
It landed him long term in project management, something he said will serve him well on council.
He said Ward 8 should see him as a person who believes in the things he talks about.
“I’m authentic and honest and straightforward about what it is that I want to do to help Calgarians,” he said.
“I worry a great deal about the candidates who are going to tell people what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear and need to know.”
Knudtson said you’ll always know where he stands.
Calgary’s municipal election is Oct. 18, 2021.