For 81 years between 1920 and 2001, the Ross Island Sand & Gravel company mined thousands of tons of earth from the Willamette River island of the same name just south of downtown. It was seven years ago that mayor Vera Katz announced Pamplin would bequeath most of the island to the city—what’s left of it, that is. But as reported in Saturday's Oregonian, numerous times since then, culminating in his latest threatening letter this week to mayor Tom Potter, Pamplin has essentially welched on the deal because the city won’t accept outrageous terms he created after the fact that nobody in their right mind would take. (Granted, that's my subjective version of it; he may have a slightly different one.)
As the article reports, Pamplin wants to keep an easement over the donated parts of the island and give the city the donation without any inspections. Then he wants to exempt Ross Island Sand & Gravel from any responsibility for what he does with the land once the deal is signed. Next we may be hearing he wants to dump plutonium on the island and have Erik Sten pay him to for the right shovel it up.
This from a man with a fortune Forbes magazine estimated in 2002 at $575 million, including a 60,000 ranch and $22 million in Chinese art.
Pamplin, who also owns the Portland Tribune (which I strongly suspect will not report on the Ross Island issue) is a conservative businessman, and he’s survived this long by sometimes making some tough decisions (and inheriting a fortune) to keep his numerous companies and ventures afloat. But if he doesn’t give Ross Island back, I'd venture that even $575 million may not be enough buy back his integrity. Right now, that seems buried far deeper than any Ross Island excavation equipment can reach.