NEWPORT BEACH — The weekend unveiling of a statue of Ronald Reagan drew throngs of admirers and a couple of sign-wielding protesters.
Members of Congress, the state Legislature and City Council attended the Newport Beach Ronald Reagan Centennial Memorial dedication ceremony Sunday at Bonita Canyon Sports Park.
“In dedicating this memorial, we, the people of Newport Beach, add our names to the millions around the world who are grateful to President Reagan for his banishment of international communism to the ash heap of history — a tired and twisted dogma unable to keep in chains, people yearning to breathe free,” said Councilman Keith Curry, who spearheaded the memorial effort.
Curry also worked for Reagan during his time as California’s governor.
More than $60,000 was raised after the City Council authorized the collection of funds earlier this year to mark the 100th anniversary of the late president’s birth in February 1911.
However, the campaign to erect the statue of the 40th president caused a debate that continued Sunday about whether a Republican commander-in-chief — especially one with relatively weak local ties — should be honored in such a way on public land.
Newport Beach residents Kirby and Gina Piazza held up signs stating their opposition to the statue. Their signs read: “Reagan: Against civil rights since 1964” and “Keith Curry’s Golden Calf statue not welcome in Newport.”
”They bypassed city standards, and we are just really upset about how they went about this,” Kirby Piazza said. “We have no other political statues in Newport Beach. If they wanted a statue of Ronald Reagan, they can put one in their house.”
Curry said the city joins London and Budapest, Hungary, in erecting a memorial to Reagan.
“To many of us, he represented leadership and good economic times,” Curry said, “but to millions of people throughout the world, Reagan represented freedom itself.”
Balboa Island sculptor Miriam Baker, who was commissioned to create the bronze statue, said it was a special piece for her to try to recreate all the personality in Reagan’s face.
“Reagan had a real life to him,” she said, “and I want you to look good at his face when you’re there and see if we did him justice.”