City Council approves Reagan statue

After previously voting down a proposal to dedicate a city park to Ronald Reagan, the Newport Beach City Council voted on Tuesday to commission a statue honoring the former California governor and 40th president, who would have turned 100 on Feb. 6.

Councilman Keith Curry introduced both proposals. The one approved Tuesday allows the city to collect tax-exempt private donations and would direct the Arts Commission to procure a statue.

A Reagan centennial celebration met with resistance in October from some who said that the city shouldn't name a park after a political figure. Curry, who was then Newport Beach's mayor, said he would not give up.

"This is a national thing," Curry said before Tuesday's meeting. "People all over the country are doing things for president Reagan. He is an historical figure; he is no longer a political figure."

With the city's new Civic Center under construction, Curry said he and a group of other Reagan supporters thought it might be a good location for the memorial. The statue likely would be taller than president — 6-feet-4, compared to 6 feet, Curry said.

Statue proponents have located an artist in Salt Lake City who specializes in these types of memorials.

The Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission, Arts Commission and City Council may all get to opine on its location.

"I think the Arts Commission recognizes that there are a lot of things that fall into the category of art," Curry said.

In October, the council was split, with Council members Ed Selich, Steve Rosansky and Nancy Gardner voting to stall the process. But with Rush Hill, a former Reagan staffer, elected to the council, Curry had more support.

The proposal passed unanimously on Tuesday, without discussion.

The statue is estimated to cost $50,000, Curry said. He hopes to have the money raised and the statue built before summer.

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