Ojai Valley residents who are demanding that the National Weather Service move its Sulphur Mountain radar tower raised about $26,000 this week during a $50-a-person dinner and art auction.
More than 200 people crowded the tiny Wheeler Hot Springs restaurant Tuesday night for the event, which was hosted by local celebrities Scott Bakula, Mary Steenburgen and Rickie Lee Jones.
Forty-one art pieces, including lithographs by Ojai potter Beatrice Wood and paintings by John Nava and Ed Moses, netted several thousand dollars, which will be earmarked for future events, including a trip to Washington and a march to be staged in downtown Ojai.
“The reason people come to these things is because California used to be full of Ojais--beautiful, pristine places,” said Steenburgen, who has lived in Ojai for 10 years. “We love where we live, and it’s ridiculous that we have to work to keep it nice.”
Ojai resident David Hedman said he was delighted with the turnout.
“Probably half of the funds we’ve raised over the last 60 days have been (earmarked to inform) other communities that they are about to be raped by the National Weather Service,” he said.
Opponents of the weather tracking system are angry that the federal government erected the 98-foot-tall tower without notifying them and fear that the low levels of radiation it emits could pose health risks.
But a federal judge ruled earlier this year that the government did not act capriciously when it installed the tower in November, and said sufficient tests were conducted to determine the radar’s safety.
After losing the two court battles, the residents have launched a series of events aimed at raising money for their fight and garnering support outside their small community.