Kallman will challenge Bray for District 5 council seat

Kallman will challenge Bray for District 5 council seat

PAWTUCKET – Meghan Kallman, a community organizer with progressive Democrat ideas, has announced her candidacy for the Pawtucket City Council District 5 seat held by incumbent Mary Bray.

“I’m running for City Council to make Pawtucket a thriving, economically viable, sustainable city for our residents, our children, and our small businesses,” she said. “Our council needs new ideas and fresh energy, and I am ready to work hard to make those new ideas a reality.”

Kallman, a resident of 93 Capwell Ave., works as a researcher at Brown University and teaches in the state’s prison system.

She volunteers her time with a number of nonprofit and advocacy programs serving both Pawtucket and Rhode Island, including as a member of the Pawtucket Juvenile Hearing Board.

“My organizing experience, both in the community and at the Statehouse, have prepared me to be an effective and creative city councilor,” she said.

Kallman told The Breeze she’s been considering a run for council for a while. She said her decision to challenge Bray isn’t a reflection on Bray in particular, but about a belief that the council as a whole can do a better job of moving Pawtucket forward.

“The job of an elected official is to ensure that our community thrives,” she said in a statement. “We need to build a positive environment for families to live in, students to learn in, and businesses to grow in. I will work to align the city’s services with the needs of our community.”

She noted in particular her frustration about “common sense things” like a proposed community garden she’s been trying to develop on city property that has faced intense questioning from the council. Kallman said she will bring “vision and energy,” as well as a track record of getting things done. The council needs more people who support community initiatives and are positive when people bring them forward, she said.

Kallman said Rhode Islanders are generally frustrated with “insider politics,” and there is a wave of support for “people having real vision” for the state.

Bray said this week that she’s not surprised to see a challenger come forward. She said she will continue to be a council member who listens to her constituents as best she can, responding to phone calls promptly and getting answers to residents’ concerns as needed.

Though it may appear that there’s a movement of progressive women pursuing seats on the council, with Sandra Cano winning two years ago and Kim Grant running this year, Kallman said it’s “more of a frustration movement” than anything. People should know where to find their elected officials and how to easily reach them, she said, and she will be that voice for the people.

Bray said she can sympathize with Kallman on the troubles she and others have had getting the proposed community garden going, but said “there is a process we have to follow.” Bray said she doesn’t know where the process went wrong, and that she’s not necessarily against the idea of the community garden, but said council members felt rushed to approve the proposal without having all their questions answered first.

Bray said she’s “always open to new ideas,” but wants to make sure everyone in the neighborhood of the garden is satisfied with the plan.

Every idea needs to be looked at on an individual basis and evaluated based on how it will impact other people, she said.

Bray was narrowly defeated by Jean Philippe Barros in the 2008 general election after serving on the council since 1992. She returned to the council two years ago after running for the District 5 seat without an opponent.

Kallman is co-founder of Crash Pawtucket, an organization that showcases small businesses in the city in partnership with neighborhood and community groups. She founded that group with Cano and David Norton, the progressive Democrat running for House District 60 against David Coughlin.

Kallman holds a doctorate in sociology from Brown University and a bachelor’s degree from Smith College. She lives with her partner, Tim, a divinity student and future Unitarian Universalist minister.

Looking at the future of Pawtucket, Kallman said she wants to see the city be a leader in transit innovation and sustainable living initiatives. Municipal buildings should be powered by solar panels, and recycling should be picked up every week, she says.

In District 5, many old mills are undergoing a dramatic transformation, she said, and she wants to be part of helping that transition to a new economy continue.