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The special guest at last week’s Downtown Business Association luncheon was City Manager Rochelle Small–Toney.

She explained what business owners could expect from the newly created Downtown Services Department, which will oversee maintenance, code enforcement and other aspects of public domain between the River and Victory Drive.

The City Manager also took questions from the crowd.

“I’m looking to you to see what we can do to further the downtown economy,” she told the crowd. “Your success is our success.”

The appearance is part of a recent series of events attempting to re–open channels of communication between City bureaucracy and local businesses, and to repair the city’s reputation as less than friendly toward business.

Ruel Joyner, the President of the DBA and newly announced candidate for the 1st District Alderman’s post, expressed gratitude for the Small–Toney’s new efforts to improve communication. He was an outspoken critic of the city manager hiring process earlier this year.

“No more excuses,” Joyner told the crowd after an exchange between he and Small–Toney. “It’s time to move on in partnership.”

Full court press

There have been several newsworthy lawsuits filed so far this month.

Last week, several landowners along the Ogeechee River filed suit in Fulton County against the King America finishing plant following the massive fish kill just prior to Memorial Day Weekend.

Although results of investigations by the state’s Environmental Protection Department have failed to name a culprit, the tens of thousands of fish that went belly up were all found below the waste water outfall pipe of the King America plant, which dumps directly into the river. Plaintiffs, represented by the Hallman & Wingate law firm, find that suspicious.

On June 2, several groups, including the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, among others, filed a lawsuit in the North Georgia U.S. District Court against Governor Deal and several state officials questioning the constitutionality of the state’s recently signed Immigration Reform Bill.

The groups involved in the suit argue that it is unconstitutional because it violates federal authority over immigration, infringes on Fourth Amendment rights of individuals, and is discriminatory.

High and dry

It’s hard to tell what’s hurting the state’s agriculture industry more, the lack of migrant laborers who are steering clear of Georgia field work after the signing of the immigration reform bill, or the lack of rain that’s keeping large areas of the state in extreme drought.

Last week, the Governor sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack requesting agricultural disaster designation for 22 counties in the state.

If approved, the designation would make farmers eligible to apply for loans and other aid provided by the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008.