Other Voices: Valuable time can be spent on grand jury
I write to encourage Nevada County residents to apply for the Nevada County 2007-08 grand jury. The application process covering the fiscal year is currently underway and will end April 27. As a present and former grand juror, and board member of the California Grand Jurors’ Association, I can attest that grand jury service is a tremendously rewarding experience providing at least three exceptional benefits not usually available to ordinary citizens.
Nevada County grand jurors play a distinct but vitally important role in government. They have very broad oversight powers to investigate and comment upon the activities of the county and those cities, special districts, redevelopment agencies and other organizations in the county that, collectively, constitute our local government.
Significantly, only grand jurors decide what to investigate, when to investigate, how to investigate, whether to comment by report on their investigation and, if so, what to say and when in their term to say it. They are self-starting, self-motivated and self-directed; no one can tell them what to investigate, how to conduct their investigation or what conclusions to reach as a result. Thus, the first unique benefit of service is that jurors will have a meaningful, independent say in local government.
The second unique benefit will be a considerably enhanced understanding of the operations and personnel involved in local government. One cannot have been a grand juror and not have gained a much greater understanding of how the county and the local governments within it function and of the people who oversee them.
The third unique benefit is a bit more difficult to describe, but it consists of a renewed sense of faith in citizen democracy, in the idea that people of good faith, despite their disagreements, may find common ground in the search for compromise, collegiality and the desire to move forward. A grand jury consists of 19 people who initially might not even know each other. They are from diverse backgrounds and education, they have different religious and political views, but they have one thing in common: A belief that what they are doing matters, and if everyone listens as well as speaks, and respects those with whom they disagree, the democratic process of give and take among equals will yield the best result. Whatever one’s views outside the grand jury room might be, one cannot complete a term as a grand juror without having gained an increased willingness to consider the views of others, to one’s ultimate advantage.
You can find additional information and an application form online at http://www.civilgrandjury.com or have an application mailed to you by calling the deputy jury commissioner at 265-1475. Remember; applications must be received by April 27. A pool of 50 candidates will be created from the applicants. After these 50 candidates are interviewed, a list of 30 names is selected, from which 19 names are drawn at random by the deputy jury commissioner to serve as members of the next grand jury.
Please take advantage of this unique opportunity to be on the front lines of true citizen democracy this year.
Diane Masini lives in Grass Valley.
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