By Todd Bookman special to Uptown Flavor
Viola Varfley, a 20-year resident of Harlem, didn’t know where else to turn. A few months ago, the Liberian immigrant’s Social Security benefits had been cut without warning and her bills were mounting.
She had reached out to her elected representatives at the federal, state and local levels for help.
“They are supposed to be there for me,” said Ms. Varfley. “But nobody was even responding to my requests.”
Service to the community is at the heart of politics. From strengthening the economy to improving schools and parks, political leaders have the power to change their communities for the better. Too often, though, leaders at all levels of government seem more concerned with their own careers than with their constituents’ needs.
Enter City Council candidate Nick Simpson. Last Saturday, Mr. Simpson, a Democratic, was reaching out to voters in District 9 when he met Ms. Varfley at her 142nd Street residence. After explaining her struggles with the Social Security office, Mr. Simpson gave Ms. Varfley a flyer with his cell phone number on it.
“I told her to call me if she needed any help,” recalls Mr. Simpson, an affordable housing activist. “Well, she called the next day and took me up on the offer.”
Mr. Simpson and Ms. Varfley took the bus together to the 125th Street Social Security office last Monday morning. Two hours later, the technical error was resolved and Ms. Varfley’s benefits were restored in full.
“I am running for political office because of my dedication to service and the community,” said Mr. Simpson. “While knocking on doors in District 9, I have heard a lot of complaints about leaders not listening. I tell them that I am here to listen, and to help in whatever way I can.”
The Democratic primary for the City Council seat representing District 9 is on September 15th.
Todd Bookman is a native New Yorker with a graduate degree from Columbia focusing on public policy. He was an editor for the school publication, Communique, and now works for a public radio show. You can contact him at email@example.com.