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Lobdell: Will it be a 'only in Newport' statue?

January 31, 2011|By William Lobdell
  • A sketch of the Ronald Reagan statue.
A sketch of the Ronald Reagan statue. (Daily Pilot )

Editor's note: This corrects the color in "Metalphor."

Councilman Keith Curry seems a bit bewildered by the controversy generated by his efforts to get a privately funded bronze statue of President Ronald Reagan placed in Newport Beach's new Civic Center.

Over breakfast Monday at Coco's in Fashion Island, he told me he doesn't think Newport Beach should remain a history-free zone, with only a few historical plaques and memorials throughout the city and no tributes to national figures.

He finds it "curious" that on the 100th anniversary of Reagan's birth, Central Square in Kraków, Poland, has been renamed Ronald Reagan Square, and a 10-foot-high bronze statue of Reagan will soon be unveiled outside the U.S. Embassy in London, but in Newport Beach — where the president received 77% of the vote during his re-election bid in 1984 — opposition has formed against the statue.

"We as citizens need to recognize and embrace our history," Curry said, adding that the legacy left by a president such as Reagan transcended partisanship.

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He divides the opposition — and, by the way, he says he's received only about 10 e-mails protesting the statue — into three categories: hardcore Reagan haters, old-timers who don't want change, and people who don't want to rock the boat.

Curry, who worked in the Reagan administration in the mid-1980s, said he would love other presidential statues to have a home in the new Civic Center, including those of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, two Democratic lions.

"If a group organized in town [to commission one of those statues], I'd be first in line to write a check," Curry said.

I asked him if he'd be willing to write a check for a Jimmy Carter statue and he laughed and said no, adding that he also wouldn't contribute money to a Gerald Ford memorial.

"The marketplace recognizes who is important," he said.

Meanwhile, it appears Newport Beach residents are fighting to get in line to fund the $50,000 Reagan statue recently approved by the City Council. In the first two weeks of fundraising, Curry said $40,000 in donations and pledges has flooded in.

And the sketches of the statue by sculptor Stan Watts of Salt Lake City are getting close to a final design. The latest drawing shows Reagan wearing a business suit and a large smile, resting his left elbow casually on a rib-high Roman column.

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