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By Eric Johnson
Published Jul 08, 2024

A commitment to justice and accountability is carved in stone, so to speak, in the California constitution, which gives every citizen the right to serve on their county's civil grand jury. A commitment to justice and accountability is carved in stone, so to speak, in the California constitution, which gives every citizen the right to serve on their county's civil grand jury. Image credit: Danylo Samiylenko, Shutterstock

Civil Grand Juries: Citizens Investigating Governments

As you can see above in the banner ad for our book, How California Works, by Jonathan Vankin, we believe that “Democracy Lives in California”—despite the very real threats it has faced for decades, which persist today. 

Obviously, this hopeful position is not fashionable in this era of hyper-partisan negativity. It is easy, these days, to fall into a trap of believing that politics is entirely corrupt. We have discovered that if you look closely, you will find that here in California, a lot of people—including elected leaders—are still working hard at the project that gives our book its subtitle: “Building Democracy in the Golden State.”

That said, this is not a time to be passive or naive. It is the first job of every journalistic enterprise—and every active citizen—to hold public officials accountable.  

In this week’s edition of The Newsletter, Chris Neklason writes about a uniquely Californian institution that allows ordinary citizens to exert significant power over their local governments.

A Uniquely Californian Democratic Institution

Over the past week, citizens empowered as members of civil grand juries issued reports of their investigations of local governments. It's an honorable institution, and these volunteer government watchdogs found some dishonorable stuff. Here's how the civil grand jury system works, and what this year's reports reveal.

How Civil Grand Juries Make Government Better

Participation on Civil Grand Juries is open to all Californians of voting age.
Civil Grand Juries are a powerful means by which ordinary citizens investigate local governments and provide recommendations for improvement.

2024 Civil Grand Jury Reports

In civil grand juries, citizens make sure the actions of California’s local governments add up.
We celebrate California's Civil Grand Jury session of 2023-2024 with a review of some findings and results from across the state.

Recipe of the Week

Our friends at Sacramento Digs Gardening publish a recipe from their gardens every Sunday, which we feature here so you can start your week with some yum.

See more recipes in their Taste Summer! cookbook.

Fresh summer veggies, marinated and grilled

Marinated and grilled, summer vegetables make a great accompaniment to grilled chicken or steak. Choose whatever's in season.
New! Pick your garden favorites for a quick side dish

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Santa Cruz County's Homepage

Our overview page for Santa Cruz County is updated daily with the latest state and local news, weather alerts, local government announcements and local blog posts and news snippets from community groups and individuals.
Direct your browser to to catch up on the latest news in California and Santa Cruz County. Bookmark the link and visit often, there's a lot happening in your community!

Get to Know a Group

Ecology Action logo Ecology Action

Ecology Action states its mission concisely: “Reduce emissions.” The nonprofit group advocates for innovative energy, water, and transportation solutions in communities across California.

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From Our Media Allies

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San Lorenzo Valley Post logo Santa Cruz Mountains Short Film at Cannes

Mom(s), a short film written by and starring Pacific Collegiate School student Abby Nuccio, 13, debuted at the Emerging FIlmmaker Showcase at Cannes Film Festival in France and was nominated for the 2024 Emerging Filmmaker Showcase LGBTQ+ Films award at …

Santa Cruz Local logo New State Laws and Recent Votes From Santa Cruz County Legislators

Lawmakers who represent parts of Santa Cruz County include Assemblymember Gail Pellerin, Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, Assemblymember Dawn Addis and state Sen. John Laird, D-Santa Cruz. To keep track of their votes on key bills — and some laws that …

Santa Cruz Local logo Explainer: Santa Cruz County’s Road Problems

A deep dive into the "deplorable" condition of county roads, how things got to be that way, and efforts to improve.

The Pajaronian logo Watsonville Firefighters Quickly Quell Fire

A fast moving brush fire charged up a steep hillside on South Green Valley Rd. Near Melwood Way on July 5 just past noon.

The Pajaronian logo Going Forth for Beach Cleanup

The Fourth of July has long been a time of celebration in Santa Cruz County, a height-of-summer fete that draws hordes of people to local beaches to indulge in picnics, swim in the ocean and soak up the sun, and, …

Santa Cruz Local logo Capitola Council Candidates Asked to Address Spending Transparency, Transportation

A recent straw poll of Capitola residents ahead of the Nov. 5 election showed a need for traffic flow improvements, increased bike safety and better transparency in local government.

Good Times logo Wilder Ranch State Park Hike

Wilder Ranch State Park is named after dairyman Delos D. Wilder, but just the word “wilder” as an adjective works for me. Henry David Thoreau nailed it with In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World.

Good Times logo Child Protective Services Criticized by Santa Cruz County Grand Jury

Santa Cruz County Child Protective Services workers prioritize reunifying children with their birth parents, and have been accused of insensitive treatment and intimidation of families, according to a report released June 17 by the Santa Cruz County Grand Jury.

Good Times logo Grand Jury Report Scrutinizes Behavioral Health Division

A Santa Cruz County Grand Jury report determined that the Behavioral Health Division struggles to meet the county’s mental health needs, and has neither the fiscal means nor staff resources to do the job.

San Lorenzo Valley Post logo San Lorenzo Valley Water District Tank Replacement

The San Lorenzo Valley Water District (SLVWD) announced on June 2, 2024 that it will be replacing 12 water storage tanks in several locations in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Press Banner logo Tree Work Completed at Castle Rock State Park

Volunteers of the global nonprofit Dr. Shri. Nanasaheb Dharmadhikari Pratishthan completed a conservation drive at Castle Rock State Park, located along Skyline Boulevard, on June 22.

The Pajaronian logo Neighborhood Court Program Seeks Volunteers

A Santa Cruz County justice program that places reconciliation over punishment has helped more than 240 people keep criminal convictions off their record since its inception in 2020, with just one case of recidivism.

The Pajaronian logo Public Input Sought on Ramsay Park Nature Center Design

The City of Watsonville, Watsonville Wetlands Watch (WWW), and Community Arts & Empowerment are teaming up to design and install a new mosaic mural for the entrance wall of the new Nature Center scheduled to open in Ramsay Park in …

Hilltromper Santa Cruz logo Why Byrne-Milliron’s Closed for Sustainable Timber Harvest

Property will be closed to public access through May 1, 2025 to selectively harvest trees and maintain forest health.

San Jose Inside logo Gail Pellerin Among Top Four Stock Investors in CA Legislature

The total stock portfolio of the Legislature was worth as much as $112 million last year but experts say the public should know more about a politician’s total wealth.

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Recent Local News

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• Bad News for Mountain Charlie Residents

A recap of a June 27 meeting attended by residents of Mountain Charlie Road and officials from the Santa Cruz County Department of Public Works.

(07/06/2024) → Santa Cruz Sentinel

• Lost in the Woods for 10 Days

An interview with Boulder Creek resident Luka McClish, recently rescued after 10 days lost int he Santa Cruz Mountains.

(07/06/2024) → Santa Cruz Sentinel

• City of Santa Cruz in Wake of SCOTUS Homeless Ruling

Mayor Fred Keeley says City of Santa Cruz will stay the course of the current strategy, for now.

(07/04/2024) → Lookout Local

• Aptos Hosts 63rd "World's Shortest Parade"

Originally held in 1961 to celebrate the defeat of a planned cement plant in Aptos, the parade was moved to July 4 and this year featured a marching band, politicians and sports teams and ... Darth Vader?

(07/04/2024) → Lookout Local

• Civil Grand Jury Focuses on Affordable Housing

The Santa Cruz County Civil Grand Jury released a report finding a lack of tracking of occupancy of local affordable housing units.

(07/03/2024) → Santa Cruz Sentinel

• Felton And Zayante Fiore Protection Districts Sign Agreement

In their July 1 meeting, the Felton Fire District Board of Directors approved a reciprocal service agreement with the Zayante Fire Protect District.

(07/02/2024) → Lookout Local

• Capitola Sales Tax Going on November Ballot

The Capitola City Council voted to put a sales tax measure on the November ballot to replace the existing Measure F sales tax with an increase to %9.25.

(07/02/2024) → Santa Cruz Sentinel
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Recent Statewide News

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• California’s ‘Weak’ Job Market Propped Up by Public Money as Private Sector Sheds Jobs

Private-sector jobs in California have declined since their post-pandemic peak, while public-sector employment has shown gains, the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office says.

(07/08/2024) → CalMatters

• California Boosts Spending to Help Students Earn Math and Science Degrees

A program for low-income, first-generation STEM students at community colleges is receiving millions of dollars to expand across the state.

(07/08/2024) → CalMatters

• CalMatters’ Digital Democracy Makes a Difference in the Legislature

CalMatters launched Digital Democracy in April, and its impact has rippled across the Legislature.

(07/08/2024) → CalMatters

• Hundreds of Deaths, Thousands of Injuries, Billions of Dollars: The Cost of Extreme Heat in California

Heat waves have killed hundreds of Californians and cost billions of dollars in the past decade, according to a new report from the state insurance department.

(07/07/2024) → CalMatters

• 6 Myths About Homelessness in California

There’s a lot of misinformation floating around out there about homelessness in California. We use data to dispel several common myths.

(07/07/2024) → CalMatters

• California Now Has Mandatory Water Conservation in Urban Areas: How Will the New Rules Affect Your Supplier?

The measures are substantially weaker than a previous proposal after an onslaught of criticism. But they will still save enough water through 2050 to supply the state’s entire population for a year, at a cost of $4.7 billion.

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• Gavin Newsom Says Never Mind on CA Crime Measure

Assemblymember James Gallagher speaks during the floor session at the state Capitol in Sacramento on June 13, 2024. Photo by Cristian Gonzalez for CalMatters

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• 2024 California Ballot Measures: What You Need to Know

Much is expected of the California voter.

(07/03/2024) → CalMatters

• ‘Nothing Will Be Protected’ — Why California Environmentalists Oppose a ‘Green’ Energy Bill

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(07/02/2024) → CalMatters

• Does a Proposed $10 Billion Bond Favor Richer California School Districts?

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(07/01/2024) → CalMatters
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Government Announcements

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Image of County of Santa Cruz seal. County of Santa Cruz   (07/08/2024)

7/8/2024 - Election Candidate Filing Period Open July 15 - August 9

Image of County of Santa Cruz seal. County of Santa Cruz   (07/08/2024)

Measles Exposure in Santa Cruz County

Image of County of Santa Cruz seal. County of Santa Cruz   (07/08/2024)

Exposición al Sarampión en el Condado de Santa Cruz

Image of State of California seal. State of California   (07/05/2024)

Dawn Addis CA Assembly 30:
Addis, Chair of Central Coast Caucus, Applauds Climate Bond Act of 2024

Addis, Chair of Central Coast Caucus, Applauds Climate Bond Act of 2024 sanchema Fri, 07/05/2024 - 10:09 Wednesday, July 3, 2024 SACRAMENTO Assemblymember Dawn Addis (D-Morro Bay), Chair of the California Central Coast Legislative Caucus, issued the following statement on Senate Bill 867, the Climate Bond Act of 2024, which was passed and signed today. "After months of hard work …
Image of United States seal. United States   (07/05/2024)

Al-Safa US LLC Recalls Frozen Ready-To-Eat Chicken Products Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

WASHINGTON, July 5, 2024 - Al-Safa US LLC, the importer of record located in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, is recalling approximately 2,010 pounds of imported frozen ready-to-eat chicken products that may...
Image of City of Watsonville seal. City of Watsonville   (07/02/2024)

Increased enforcement efforts against illegal fireworks are already underway

Image of City of Watsonville seal. City of Watsonville   (07/02/2024)

Fourth of July parade details and road closures

Image of Santa Cruz County Office of Education seal. Santa Cruz County Office of Education   (07/01/2024)

Join Us for the Credential Pathway Information Sessions

The Santa Cruz County Office of Education is thrilled to announce the second year of the California Classified School Employee Teacher Credentialing Program and is now accepting applications for the 2024-2025 academic year. Whether you're completing your Bachelor's degree or starting your credential program, we invite you to join one of our information sessions to [...] The post Join Us …
Image of Santa Cruz County Office of Education seal. Santa Cruz County Office of Education   (07/01/2024)

Stuff the Bus Campaign Celebrates 15 Years of Support for Students

The Santa Cruz County Office of Education (Santa Cruz COE) and United Way of Santa Cruz County are celebrating 15 years of partnership to provide backpacks and school supplies to students experiencing homelessness and other hardships. Starting July 1, the community is invited to support the 15th Annual Stuff the Bus campaign by donating funds [...] The post Stuff the …
Image of State of California seal. State of California   (07/01/2024)

Dawn Addis CA Assembly 30:
Addis Statement on 2024-2025 State Budget

Addis Statement on 2024-2025 State Budget sanchema Mon, 07/01/2024 - 10:35 Monday, July 1, 2024 SACRAMENTO Following the California Legislatures passage of the 2024-2025 Budget Act, Assemblymember Dawn Addis (D-Morro Bay) issued a statement highlighting the focus on protecting essential funding in critical areas such as education, healthcare, climate, housing and safety. "I thank my colleagues in the legislature, Assembly …