Proposed Reagan statue in a gray area

City Council will address the controversial project and Civic Center funding at its Tuesday meeting.

February 17, 2011|By Mike Reicher,

Seeking to clarify the city's role regarding a proposed public statue of President Ronald Reagan, the Newport Beach City Council will address during its regular meeting on Tuesday how public art is procured and displayed.

Also, the council will vote on funding $84 million for the next phase of the Civic Center construction project, and will consider eliminating its police helicopter program.

At last week's Arts Commission meeting, a rambunctious crowd protested the proposed Reagan statue, and commissioners voted to seek guidance from the City Council.


The proposed sculpture falls into a gray area between city policies on public art because it is being financed through private donations, Tuesday's city staff report says.

One policy says the Arts Commission should select an artist and choose a location for the work, but that typically applies to projects or acquisitions funded by the city. Another policy says the Arts Commission should evaluate whether art donated to the city is appropriate and of the highest quality, but that applies to existing artwork, not artwork being created.

The situation is complicated because the city has been acting as a "banker" — that's how Councilman Keith Curry phrased it when he proposed the idea in January.

Because the city collected money for the statue, the donors were able to count it as a tax-deductible expense. According to the staff report, the city has collected more than the $50,000 target to pay for the statue.

But the rest of the city's role has been unclear.

The policy concerning donated art reads, "The art should be consistent with and relevant to the civic interests and broad variety of tastes within the Newport Beach community."

Some residents view Reagan as a divisive political figure and have protested the Reagan memorial, while others, including Councilmen Keith Curry and Rush Hill, contend that his accomplishments transcend political lines. Both Curry and Hill worked in Reagan's California gubernatorial administration.

If You Go

What: City Council meeting

Where: City Council Chambers at 3300 Newport Blvd.

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

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