Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Cage Match: Duin v Pamplin

For the last ten days or so, I've been sitting at my computer gleefully soaking up the verbal sword play between Oregonian columnist Steve Duin and the owner of Ross Island, Bob Pamplin.

For those not paying attention to the inside baseball of the goings on in Portland, Pamplin had promised to give Ross Island to the City of Portland. The City has been in negotiations with him to turn over the property.

The negotiations were necessary because Pamplin has essentially raped the island of its natural resources and left it an environnmental mess. Questions about who would be responsible for the cleanup and any subsequent legal problems surrounding were certainly necessary for Potter and the City Council.

So last Tuesday, in swoops Steve Duin--pixels at the ready--laying open Pamplin's piracy with his alleged "gift" of Ross Island:

Once upon a time, Ross Island comprised almost 400 acres of land and water just south of the bridge that bears its name. Pamplin -- who's worth $600 million -- inherited the island just as he inherited everything else, then reduced it to a skeleton, adding to his fortune by converting the island, one bargeload at a time, from sand into cement.

When his company, Ross Island Sand & Gravel, had just about picked the bones of that island clean, Pamplin promised any number of people, including then-Mayor Vera Katz, that he would donate its remains to the city. His pledge was specific and unequivocal.

Then he changed his mind. He gave the city a take-it-or-leave-it offer, then groused when city lawyers told the council they couldn't meet Pamplin's demand to be relieved of all liability for future environmental problems on the site.

His original donation shrank to a meager 44 acres, 12 of which are water. Now the entire donation has apparently dissolved because the city has balked at several of Pamplin's demands, including giving Ross Island Sand & Gravel an easement over the property, and accepting the "gift" without inspections.

Pamplin apparently took issue with Duin's column and decided to gather up all his marbles and go home in a huff, citing the O (without specifically naming Duin) for his decision to not gift Portland with his toxic waste dump.

Duin has journaled the situation at his blog, including a juicy little note from Jack Roberts querying as to why the O didn't give Duin any public credit for scuttling Pamplin.

After reading Duin's column and subsequent blog posts, its pretty clear to me that Pamplin never had a prayer. Pamplin was trying to conduct verbal sword play with an opponent who has a vastly superior sword.

But all is not lost for Bob. His newspaper is reporting today that Mayor Potter and former Mayor Katz are meeting with him to try and salvage the deal. With the development of South Waterfront, the city wants to turn Ross Island into a park--so they're apparently willing to keep pushing Pantload..er..Pamplin...to make it happen.

Careful Bob (and Tom and Vera), Steve is watching.