Ronald Reagan statue sparks debate in Newport Beach
Jim Mosher was disturbed when the Newport Beach City Council voted to move a city-owned bronze statue of former President Reagan from Bonita Canyon Sports Park to the high-profile sculpture garden in Civic Center Park outside City Hall.
The statue’s move was an impromptu decision at an April council meeting. It wasn’t on the agenda and was offered after public comment had closed on a planned item, the next phase of the sculpture garden.
Mosher’s distress continued this week when he learned that the Reagan likeness had been moved earlier this month. He said city officials had assured him the move would be done with public input, which he argued it was not.
Mosher isn’t the only Newport resident upset by the statue’s presence in Civic Center Park. After the vote to roll Reagan into the next round of park sculptures, other commenters spoke against the decision, disapproving of what they called a partisan art exhibit.
The city says the action was aboveboard.
Reagan now waves from a spot near the park’s warren of oversized concrete bunnies.
Mosher is a local government watchdog who comments and asks questions at least once at every City Council meeting and frequently at meetings of other city panels, from the Planning Commission to the Board of Library Trustees. He has a penchant for policy and procedure. Officials and staff often welcome his contributions.
But they don’t always see eye to eye.
Before Tuesday’s council meeting, Mosher submitted a 10-page packet of comments reiterating his concerns and steps to try to persuade the city to rectify what he said were noticing violations by rescinding the Reagan action and placing it on a future agenda.
“To hear the move of the Reagan memorial announced as an accomplished fact, without any of the promised intermediate steps and public debate having taken place, is shocking,” he wrote.
That night, he told the council that “the process by which the relocation happened stinks. It stunk from the beginning and it stinks again tonight.”
City Atty. Aaron Harp disputed the contention that the public couldn’t weigh in, saying residents could have shared their thoughts at city Arts Commission meetings. The commission formed a committee to discuss the Reagan statue’s placement but wasn’t able to come to a recommendation for the council.
“There was an opportunity for public input, and that was at the Arts Commission,” Harp said.
Mosher had contemplated suing. He still wants to know who on staff authorized the contract to move the statue.
But on Thursday, he said he’s conceding the fight.
“I don’t think I’m going to get them to move him back, so I don’t think I can do much,” he said.
Davis writes for Times Community News.
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