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It was no surprise when cops hustled away four Occupy San Diego protesters for interrupting the mayor during the State of the City speech.

Typically people who do such a thing get charged with a misdemeanor for disturbing a public assembly. But police went a big step further Wednesday night, adding felony allegations of conspiracy. 

We asked the Police Department why. An assistant chief said each had a script that indicated the disruption had been planned, hence the conspiracy. 

The extra charge isn’t insignificant. “With the conspiracy charge, each protesters’ bail increased by $10,000 from $500,” our Keegan Kyle reports. “With a misdemeanor, the arrested faced up to one year in jail. Now, with the felony, they face up to two years.”

And the assistant chief’s story of how it went down doesn’t exactly jibe with what our editor and CEO, who were sitting directly behind the protesters, saw.

Now, On to the Speech

Before the interruption, the mayor’s speech began with a video that had everyone talking. As time wore on, though, our Scott Lewis grew more disturbed by some of the imagery.

The video starts with a young black child witnessing crime in his neighborhood. He runs away, passing the 16th and Imperial intersection. He then apparently finds salvation running past the new stadium, library and Convention Center.

“The message is simple: If you’re concerned about your crime-ridden neighborhood, run away downtown to the new Convention Center! It’ll have grass on top, you know,” Lewis writes.

He adds: “never has the established disregard for neighborhoods been so stark.”

• To write that, Lewis took a break from the unveiling of his 12 stories for 2012.

Spoiler alert: He tackles the first half of those in the latest San Diego Explained video. They include: Chargers, pensions, SDPD and Balboa Park.

Quoth the Mayor

“You don’t have to hit me in the head with a hammer twice.” — Sanders, discussing how a Chargers stadium plan won’t include a tax increase after the defeat of a proposed sales tax increase at the ballot box last year, as quoted in U-T San Diego.

Quoth the Frye

“Arrogance and abuse of power.” That’s former councilwoman and almost-mayor Donna Frye to NBC 7 San Diego on the mayor’s messy deal to let Qualcomm temporarily rename the stadium after one of its products.

Mathis on the Mend After Attack

Former Councilman Harry Mathis, who’s serving as chairman of the region’s public transit system, is on the mend after being pistol-whipped at his University City home during an invasion robbery, the U-T reports. The suspects are still at large.   

More News in South Bay Corruption Scandal

“Southwestern College has suspended $5.8 million in contracts with two firms that are players in the District Attorney’s criminal probe into South County construction contracts,” the U-T reports. Among other things, the halted work has stopped construction on a property that the community college wants to turn into a hub with a college bookstore, administration headquarters and more. 

News at the Speed of Brief

• You may call them express lanes. I call them bliss on pavement. Either way, there’s now more of them: a four-mile stretch of the lanes is finally about to open on I-15, between Via Rancho Parkway and Highway 78, the NC Times reports

• Councilwoman Lorie Zapf says she’s “thrilled” that a public agency that operates roadside callboxes is sacking a public relations firm that wanted to spend $130,000 on a marketing program that featured “cookbooks, Tupperware and an April Fool’s vehicle prank promotion,” the U-T reports.

Zapf, who sits on the agency’s board, has been one of its most vocal critics. Last year, CityBeat revealed that the agency, which has more than $10 million in taxpayer money in reserves, “continues to tax and spend even though its leaders admit it has outlived its original purpose.”

• Bob Barker, the animal activist and former game show host, is protesting a Tucson zoo’s plans to split up two elephant pals (they’ve been hanging out together for three decades) and send one to the San Diego Zoo, the Arizona Daily Star reports.   

•  San Diego Community News Network, which publishes the twice-monthly Uptown News and Gay San Diego newspapers, has bought the monthly San Diego Downtown News, which has a free circulation of 21,000, SDGLN.com reports. The paper’s former owner, San Diego Community Newspaper Group, continues to publish papers in several beach communities.

• Now that’s mighty odd. Some mathematically minded vandal covered speed limit signs, including at least one in Scripps Ranch, with square root symbols and numbers, the NCT reports. Instead of 25 mph, for example, a sign was covered with the square root symbol over 625 (which is 25).

Wow, way to distract drivers by making them turn to their cell phone calculators. What’s next, quadratic equations to help us figure out that there’s a fork ahead?

Onward and Skyward

The media has been paying plenty of attention to findings by a San Diego State astronomer and others about how the universe may have more planets than stars.

That’s all very interesting, but I wish these astronomers could focus on more important things.

Like, for instance, figuring out who’s really at the center of the universe. Some bosses of mine (um, former ones, of course) thought they were. And they can’t all be right.

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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