Lobdell: Statue doesn't belong in Castaways

February 24, 2011|By William Lobdell

President Ronald Reagan won another landslide victory this week.

The Newport Beach City Council voted 5 to 2 to plop down a privately-funded Reagan statue in Castaways Park.

The council ignored its own — and apparently inconvenient — policy and allowed the statue's private donors to have a say in selecting the artist. It also relegated the Arts Commission to such a minor role that Councilman Steve Rosansky, who voted against the statue along with Nancy Gardner, wondered if the ignored advisory body should be done away with altogether.

Sitting in the packed Council Chambers on Tuesday evening, I got the feeling that Councilman Keith Curry, the force behind the Reagan statue, already had the needed votes in his pocket, and public testimony that a sculpture of the 40th president of the United States on public property was inappropriately partisan wasn't going to change or sway anyone on the dais.


Aside from Councilman Rush Hill who had worked closely with Reagan, the others supporting the statue — council members Leslie Daigle and Ed Selich, and Mayor Michael Henn — gave the impression that they were voting "yes" largely to put the controversy behind them.

As Daigle put it, the vote was an "effort at quieting this down."

Henn called it an "imperfect solution" but pushed the statue proposal forward.

Though the council railroaded through the Reagan artwork, opponents did manage two important victories. They blocked the statue from being installed at the new Civic Center. And they got the council to seek other sculptors for the commission, likely putting an end to the chances that Curry's handpicked artist — the self-taught Stan Watts of Utah, whose pieces don't exactly conjure up images of Michelangelo's "David" — would be commissioned.

I do hope someone launches a movement to stop the statue's placement at Castaways Park. That bluff-top property, which Newport residents voted to save from development decades ago, was designed to be a natural park with sweeping views of the Back Bay and harbor.

It's a setting that oozes serenity and peace and provides an escape from the daily grind of life. Any statue, or even playground equipment, would wreck the aesthetic.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles