Ronald Reagan is on the move.
As a political icon, the nation’s 40th president isn’t exactly in the shadows of history. But in Newport Beach, he is, in statue form, in “a lonely cul-de-sac” in Bonita Canyon Sports Park where his bronze likeness has been vandalized and neglected, Mayor Kevin Muldoon said.
“I think this is not fitting of a statue honoring a former president,” he added.
So, following a 5-1 vote of the City Council on Tuesday, the life-size statue will be moved this year to Civic Center Park outside City Hall.
During the council meeting, Muldoon asked to have a future discussion on relocating the statue to the Civic Center, Newport Beach’s central public arts site with 20 rotating sculpture installations of various styles and subjects at any given time, plus the landmark colony of concrete bunnies and several brightly painted cow figures intended to bring awareness to Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Muldoon said Civic Center Park was the Reagan statue’s originally intended home and that it was one of his goals to get it there. The audience at the meeting rippled with applause at the idea.
Councilman Scott Peotter agreed. In a discussion later in the evening about awarding a management contract for the rotating Civic Center art installations, Peotter expressed reservations about the financial sustainability of the public arts program. But he said he would support the commitment if the city agreed right then to a remedy for Reagan.
“I’ll continue my support on this if they’re willing to [move] our president out of the cul-de-sac,” he said. “Otherwise, my tendency is I’ll wait until I see some progress on development of private income sources.”
Arts OC, a countywide nonprofit arts council, will remain onboard through the next four years of the sculpture program, with a $105,731 contract to provide coordination, site management and artist payments.
Peotter’s motion also included switching the additional $50,000 in artist payments to a private funding source and reducing consultant costs by at least half for the fourth phase of the sculpture program.
Councilman Jeff Herdman cast the dissenting vote Tuesday, with Councilwoman Diane Dixon absent. Herdman said he voted no because he felt Peotter’s amendments meant potential funding cuts for the arts. He also felt there were too many unanswered questions about moving the Reagan statue.
“I support the arts,” Herdman said. “I do not support cutting their funding.”
Sculptures created by artists from across the nation are selected 10 at a time to sit in Civic Center Park for two years on a rotating schedule. The sculptures from the second phase will be removed this summer and pieces for the third phase will be installed this fall. Funding comes from the Visit Newport Beach Arts Contributions budget.
Moving the Reagan statue would mean the city could draw only nine new sculptures this year to keep within budget. But because the statue would be a permanent fixture, it would save the expense of removing it.