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Maybe you went over the hills and through the woods and just came back last night with a trunk full of presents and 10 extra pounds. Perhaps you got confused about timing and gave up the internet for Lent nine months late. Or did you decide to catch up on sleep on Christmas Eve and just now stopped hitting the snooze button?

We get it. Whatever the case, you’ve got plenty of company if you decided to check out over the holidays. Lucky for you, we avoided temptation and kept an eye on things, at least during work hours on workdays that we really wished would end at 9:15 a.m.

Here’s a quick look at news stories you may have missed:

1. Redevelopment Is Dead. Well, Dead-ish at Least

Redevelopment is dead. Long live redevelopment in a slightly different form! That’s the dream of the scads of politicians, developers and affordable housing advocates who are hoping the seeming demise of redevelopment is just an illusion.

The system as we know it, though, is definitely gone, thanks to a California Supreme Court decision last week. And the fate of billions of dollars in local projects is up in the air.

Check our guide to the redevelopment controversy, a rundown of coverage and a story explaining last week’s news from the LA Times.

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2. A Scandal Brews in the South Bay

County prosecutors are investigating corruption allegations against several current and former elected school officials in the South Bay. The move raises the specter of a massive scandal that could suck in power players from the region’s education and construction worlds.

Prosecutors made a major move by raiding the homes of seven people connected to the Sweetwater Union High School District (which runs middle and high schools in the South Bay) and the district that runs Southwestern College, the U-T says.

The allegations are that the officials “went to Lakers games, they stayed at the Biltmore, they enjoyed four-figure meal tabs, they sent their daughters to beauty pageants — all courtesy of contractors working on voter-approved bond projects.”

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3. The U-T’s Owner Looks North

Doug Manchester, the developer who now owns the Union-Tribune (or, actually, as it’s now known, U-T San Diego), told us he has his eyes on another prize — the North County Times, the only other major daily paper in the county. If he were to buy it, Manchester would have almost-complete domination over the print newspaper media in the county.

Meanwhile, the Daily Transcript checked into the political spending of Manchester and new U-T CEO John Lynch, finding that they’ve been big fans of mayoral candidate and City Councilman Carl DeMaio, a conservative Republican. Manchester also contributed to another mayoral candidate, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher.

“We certainly like Carl and appreciate the fact that he has a plan for the city,” Lynch told the paper. “But we also think Nathan Fletcher is a great American who served his country and has a great political future. That’s basically where we’re at. And we don’t know the other candidates as well.”

In other U-T news, the paper’s Christmas message from the publisher drew barbs from critics who thought it was too religious and too self-serving (with at least 10 mentions of “I” or “me”).

We’ve been closely watching the paper as it changes under new ownership and adopts a greater emphasis on patriotism and hometown boosterism.

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4. A Closer Look at Two Politicians

• Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher has just about the most perfect political pedigree outside of a famous last name: he was a Marine reservist who served in Iraq and Africa. And not just any Marine. As our profile reveals, he used his powers of persuasion to gain close support over there, a trait that accents his political career.

• Councilman David Alvarez often stands apart from his council colleagues: he, for example, opposes redevelopment and he’s said no to powerful interests.

“Too long, he’s said, the city has directed its energy toward areas that benefit the privileged at the expense of its neediest residents,” we report in a profile of a politician who’s definitely not going along to get along.

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5. The Mayor-Go-Round Goes Round and Round

There’s only six months until the mayoral primary election, and we’ve given you plenty to read about over the past two weeks as you start thinking about the race:

• We’ve tracked how the major rivals stack up on the Fact Check front. Three of the four have gotten zinged in recent months.

• We looked at what’s on tap for the current mayor’s last year in office as he faces a variety of challenges, especially on the building and funding fronts.

• We explored big four questions in the race to replace that guy.

Check our guide to previous stories too.

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6. The Year’s Top and Best from VOSD

We pat ourselves on the back on occasion, as you may have noticed. Sometimes we even deserve it. Decide for yourself: We’ve posted links to the 10 stories we thought made the most difference in 2011. Among other things, we exposed questionable government spending, broken promises at City Hall, secret meetings and the true story of a very corrupt cop.

Our 10 Most Popular Stories led off with a tale about Jehovah’s Witnesses cleaning the stadium, while our readers got up in arms the most about costly affordable housing (see our top 10 most-commented stories for more).

We also teamed with the San Diego Master Chorale to put the year’s top headlines to music.

We also complied the Quotes of the Year, the Whoppers of the Year, and the Top 11 Photos.

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7. Sculptor Wins the Bronze; Scientist Takes the Cake

A sprinkling of other stories from our pages:

• Four of the dreamers who created much of the San Diego we know today are remembered for posterity in bronze at Balboa Park. We profile the wisecracking sculptor who brought them to life in bronze.

• A world-renowned scientist and global warming skeptic took to the pages of the New York Review of Books and declared research had shown that fatal shark attacks off San Diego resulted in fewer subsequent drowning deaths because swimmers stayed away. Funny thing about his claim: it’s false.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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