Longtime JP community activist Kelly Ransom announced her candidacy for District 6 City Council on April 8, vying with Kendra Hicks and Mary Tamor for Councilor Matt O’Malley’s seat after he announced he would not be seeking reelection.
Ransom is a “queer formerly homeless events and communications professional,” according to a release from her campaign, as well as a restaurant worker, former City Council staff member, and currently works as the Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the Madison Park Development Corporation.
The Gazette spoke with Ransom to learn more about her campaign and the issues that matter most to her.
“I knew at a young age that I wanted to eventually run for office,” Ransom said. She was born in Jamaica Plain, then lived there and in and West Roxbury for many years before moving to Roslindale. She’s now back in Jamaica Plain, and said she feels as though she has a “unique experience in this district.”
As a young adult, Ransom was a volunteer with the Youth Pride Committee on programming and events, where she applied for a grant to have a Gay Straight Alliance Convention at Another Course to College, where Ransom attended and where she and her friends started a Gay Straight Alliance.
The convention was attended by Gay Straight Alliances statewide, according to Ransom’s website. “Kelly began to realize how important it is to connect communities,” it continues.
“We can make change happen and we can do things, but not without the help of elected officials,” she told the Gazette.
Ransom also worked in City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George’s office, which she said really “sealed the deal for me” when it came to running for office.
“I am a product of experience,” Ransom said. “I have a lens of affordable housing,” adding that she previously worked with the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) before Madison Park.
As a formerly homeless individual, Ransom said she understands first hand the need for affordable housing in the district and across the city.
She said that the “groundwork is being laid out” for a 100 percent affordability zoning layover. “I know that that is a pathway to increasing affordability in District 6 and in our city in general. We need to come together as a district to push for more mixed-use development and supportive housing.”
She added that people need to hear each other out and everyone needs a seat at the table.
Ransom also suggested starting a “knowledge campaign” for low income communities that would “empower them to understand the development process” and “make it accessible for them to participate in the community process.” She said it’s a “small step but it’s a step toward affordable housing in the community.”
Ransom also organized the return of the JP World’s Fair as the Latin Quarter World’s Fair, which she said helped her further understand the need for small businesses in the district and how she can help rally people together to make something happen.
“I brought the community together,” she said, from small businesses and restaurants to activists to youth.
“We made it happen and we were able to make it an experience that was equitable and inclusive,” she said, and “made it so the small businesses and artists were at the forefront.”
She also helped food businesses apply free of charge for temporary food licenses through a bilingual training with the city’s Inspectional Services Department so they would be able to sell food outside at the event.
“That particular piece showed me that because I know where to go and who to talk to to make this connection possible, I need to use this knowledge; this platform to help every community in District 6 to achieve greatness,” she said.
Ransom said that “I have a place in my heard for small businesses,” and she said that part of what made her decide to run is seeing how much they are struggling in light of the pandemic. As a former Bella Luna employee, Ransom said she was heartbroken when the restaurant announced it would be closing.
She believes it is “viable, possible,” that as a city councilor, she could “advocate for a program within the city that is specifically for small businesses and restaurants that are trying to grow or are brand new.” She said that programs like these exist, but “not to the level I think we should have.”
Business owners would have the process explained to them step by step and it would be accessible to people who speak languages other than English.
Ransom also identified education as an issue of particular concern to potential constituents in West Roxbury, though its important to districts throughout the city as well.
She said that she has a “different perspective in general” on education and does not have children of her own, but she is learning more and more about what residents view as issues with the Boston Public Schools (BPS).
She went to Boston Latin School but ended up dropping out and getting her GED.
“I believe that we can create equitable schools and baseline resources,” but all of that takes money. She said she would advocate for more funding to be allocated to BPS, including funds from the Student Opportunities Act.
“We should not be opening any more charter schools in Boston right now,” she said, adding that “we need to be doing everything we can to make sure” the learning environment for BPS students is inclusive and equitable.
When it comes to her campaign, Ransom said she “intentionally started a late campaign” and is still catching up to others, but she is “really exited to be out there” and “collect signatures,” she said.
Her policy points, which are listed on her website, will be “fleshed out” and will include more info as the campaign progresses and she talks to more and more residents. She said her policy plan will be ready by July.
She and her campaign staff have several potential events in the works, but nothing is yet set in stone. She hopes to host “virtual halls of progress” where residents can ask questions and learn about the campaign, but experts in a particular field will be invited as well to talk about what they would like to see from a city councilor.
“I think that’s great for me and as a candidate,” Ransom said.
She also hopes to host some fundraisers such as emo pop punk karaoke and “Pride at the Pond” at Jamaica Pond where everyone can dress up in Pride outfits and have a socially distanced walk around the pond.
She also said another event she wants to hold would be some sort of community outreach to people who are afraid to bike in the district. She said she herself is a “terrified biker,” and believes that many of the streets in the district are dangerous to bike on. Interested people could join on a bike ride from the top of Centre St. in West Roxbury to Jackson Square, and identify problem areas to be addressed.
All the details for these events are still being ironed out, but Ransom said she looks forward to some safe, fun events as her campaign progresses.
Ransom said she was pleased to hear how many people asked how her campaign would operate through a lens of racial equity, and she said that as a councilor, she would “make sure Boston is equitable, inclusive, and accessible,” and a plan needs to be in place to ensure that happens across the entire city.
She said that hearing that concern from people “reaffirmed to me how together we really are regardless of disparities that we’re experiencing financially.”
Ransom said that as someone who is a communications planner with experience at City Hall, she believes she can bring people together to work out issues within the district.
“I really hope that in a leadership role I can bring people together to at least hear each other out in a safe, welcoming space so that we can figure out pathways to actually being a collective as a district and truly working together instead of against each other,” Ransom said.
For more information about Ransom and her campaign, visit votekellyransom.com.