mistakes. That is slightly worrisome, but understandable. Nichols'
latest gaffe, however, comes close to crossing the line from
misunderstanding to something shocking and, in the words of Nichols'
colleague Tod Ridgeway, "repulsive."
At last week's council meeting, Nichols -- a staunchly
conservative Republican -- questioned the politics of the speakers at
the library's Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series, suggesting the
"left-wing-leaning" group be tilted more to the right to reflect
residents' more conservative views. Ridgeway, along with Mayor Steve
Bromberg, rightly pounced on this suggestion, which smacks of
totalitarian control and the worst impulses of people -- on the right
or the left -- to limit speech and debate (something that the
country's Founding Fathers also found "repulsive" and led them to pen
the First Amendment).
In Nichols' defense, he was under the misimpression that city
funds supported the lecture series (the city only puts money toward
administering the series' accounts). And his argument was to seek a
"more equitable" lineup of speakers. "[The speakers] should meet the
median of the community," Nichols said.
But, still, that is little defense for a suggestion that a
government lasso free thinking.
For -- and this cannot be stressed too strongly -- the speakers at
the series should in no way meet the middle of the community.
What makes this series such a success, and such a notable
component to Newport's fabric, is that series officials seek out
timely and thought-provoking speakers. They are not people who are
going to be preaching to the Newport Beach choir. Quite the opposite.
And quite as it should be.
To think the series -- or, by extension, any public speech --
should be otherwise is a troubling characteristic, especially in an
elected leader. Nichols, who on other issues such as the future of
the Port Theatre has kick-started interesting and lively discussion,
would do well to ponder that.