Progress is something that Martha Bryant-Hall says has eluded her since her home was incorporated into the city of Maitland 10 years ago.
But as the dusty dirt road of Mechanic Street outside her home transformed into solid, paved asphalt in the past month, she said progress is exactly what she’s seeing.
“Progress is the name of the game,” Bryant said. “And this is the first we’ve seen of it in many years.”
Bryant has been fighting for service equality for her neighborhood, which borders the Maitland Boulevard overpass of U.S. Highway 17-92, for more than 30 years. She says she’s watched Maitland and Orange County develop and flourish around her, while her neighborhood was left in the dust.
Since January, after scheduling workshops with Maitland Mayor Howard Schieferdecker and City Manager Jim Williams, she, her family and neighbors say they’ve seen the first steps toward equality in decades.
“I’ve seen five mayors go through and he’s the first one to try,” Bryant said at a meeting between all the involved parties on June 29. “…I’m very pleased that he is a man of his word.”
So far, of her list of service inequities, Bryant said, the city has addressed the paving of half her road, promised the installation of 10 street lights, and helped her work with the Florida Department of Transportation to arrange the installation of bat houses under the Maitland Boulevard overpass.
“I’m excited to see her happy,” Schieferdecker said. “It’s great that we can make things right for her, and not just her, but all the Maitland residents.”
To address Bryant’s other concerns, both in her neighborhood off Mechanic Street and Amado Lane and in her daughter’s neighborhood next to Bellamy Park on Lake Jackson, Schieferdecker said the city will continue to work to make up for lack of attention in years past.
“I think it will be an ongoing process …I’m committed to making this right,” he said.
Moving forward, he said, the city will work to find funding in its budget to complete the second phase of the paving of Amado Lane near Bryant’s home, and put forth a recommendation to the City Council to allocate the funds to do so.
To learn more about Bryant's service requests to the city, click here to read our previous article, "Black area suffers service inequities."
In addressing the concerns of public lake access and services near Lake Jackson, he said the city will have to put a referendum up for citywide public vote in March. Since the city lands in question are labeled “heritage lands,” they cannot change hands or purpose without resident approval.
For the first time in her years fighting for her area’s equality, she left the City Council chambers on June 29 with a smile on her face and a glimmer of hope for the future.
“She’s worked so hard, and I’m so happy we’ve made it to this point…,” Bryant’s daughter Jacqueline Daise said. “…I’m so happy to see her so happy and positive. We’re thrilled.”