There's good reason to be concerned any time court oversight is removed from a government initiative, particularly when it involves selling municipal assets.
That's why current state law provides what the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association describes as "long-standing rules that ensure government cannot sell parks and other green spaces if the lands provide a public benefit."
Additional alarm bells should go off when Cutler suggests that he's only talking about "underused properties or those which are difficult to maintain." In a tough economic climate that's straining municipal budgets everywhere, a good many communities might find it difficult to maintain open space.
With court oversight of decisions to dispose of publicly held property, there's at least a check against municipal officials unwisely opting for short-term gain from such sales. It also acts as a safeguard against officials using a steamroller to thwart legitimate public opposition to potential development slated for a site.
Even with such legal protections in place, Philadelphia park advocates rightly insisted that, under the newly combined city Parks and Recreation Department, decisions about selling city land would be subject to a special public-review process.
When Cutler's bill reached a state Senate committee this week, concerns about it prompted two amendments. But the Senate version still fails to restore court oversight, meaning that the bill remains, as the Land Trust aptly put it, "fundamentally flawed."
With his amendments, Senate Majority Leader Dominic F. Pileggi (R., Chester) has put the brakes on legislation that had been subject to far too little review.
That's positive, yet the best approach now to assure the preservation of treasured parklands would be to take a completely fresh look at whether this measure is needed at all. The danger in hastily passing the legislation without careful consideration is simply too great.