Viewpoints

Want to make a difference? Consider joining the SLO County grand jury

jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

What do these issues have in common?

▪  A conflict of interest in running a local agency.

▪  The danger of a catastrophic fire in a seaside community.

▪  Loss of tax revenue from unlicensed vacation rentals.

▪  Potential destruction of native oak tree habitat.

▪  Ensuring a properly run jail.

Each was the subject of a report produced by a San Luis Obispo County grand jury in recent years. They are just a few of the important topics studied by this important panel.

Sometimes civil grand jury reports result in immediate action. Sometimes years may pass before real change happens. But in every case, 19 citizens of this county come together to research a topic in depth, outline concerns and possible solutions and raise public visibility on important subjects.

You could be one of those 19 individuals by applying for the 2017-18 grand jury. If you have the time, I’d encourage you to do so.

There are several reasons why you might want to be on your local grand jury. First, you gain an incredible understanding of the intricacies of local government as you participate in an in-depth orientation period. As part of training, jurors meet key officials from across the county.

Second, there’s an opportunity to work closely with a number of other like-minded, committed citizens.

Finally, and most importantly, you have a chance to make a real difference.

How to become a juror Apply to be a juror of the San Luis Obispo County grand jury at http://bit.ly/2mSosoh. Applications must be received by April 28.

A lot of us may feel frustrated these days at what we see happening — or not happening — at the state or federal level. At the local level, a grand jury report can make a real impact and prompt true change. Working with a group of 19 can also help you appreciate the disparate views that can sometimes make consensus elusive.

Intrigued? Here’s what it takes to become a grand juror: You must be at least 18 years old. You need to have lived in San Luis Obispo County for at least a year. You need to have the time to volunteer about 20 hours per week to participate over the course of the next year. And you need a commitment to keep an open mind as you delve into potential issues. The term of service runs from July 1 to June 30.

The first step is to apply. You can find the short application online here. Applications must be received by April 28.

Applicants have a short interview with former grand jurors who answer any questions you might have about your potential service. This is followed by an interview with a local judge. In June, jurors are randomly selected from the pool of screened applicants, and the resulting jury is sworn in to begin service July 1.

Since the beginning days of the state of California, grand jurors have been making a difference. You, too, can be part of that tradition.

Dennis Frahmann is serving as the pro tem foreman for the 2016-17 San Luis Obispo County grand jury. He lives in Cambria.

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