Even as Gov. Rendell hailed the agreement to build a new Family Court building - along with redeveloping the existing 18th and Vine Street court into a tourist mecca - he took the right stance Friday, vowing to assure that taxpayers aren't getting ripped off in the deal.
The eleventh-hour disclosure by an Inquirer investigative team that a courthouse consultant holds what appears to be a conflicting role as codeveloper of the project, casts doubt on the fairness of the $200 million price tag.
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille - whose court hired real estate attorney and developer Jeffrey B. Rotwitt to scout locations and push for state funding - rightly joined Rendell in supporting new scrutiny for the project.
Rotwitt's development agreement is with Conshohocken developer Donald W. Pulver. Both men say that their roles were fully disclosed to court officials, and that Rotwitt's developer role began only after he concluded his work as a consultant to Castille.
The best way to clear any cloud, though, would be to competitively bid the construction. At a City Hall news conference, Rendell said that's the normal procedure used by the state Department of General Services, which will oversee the project.
Even if delays result from trying to disentangle the developer agreement in place with Pulver for building at 15th and Arch Streets, going out to bid also could keep costs under control.
Without question, the announcement represented what Mayor Nutter called "a landmark day." Moving ahead with construction of the court after years of delay will mean that delinquency and domestic-relations cases - now housed in separate, aging facilities - will be combined at one convenient location. For families working through custody disputes and abuse allegations, the new court will mean that family members won't be thrown together with alleged abusers.
The courthouse project also means 600 construction jobs at a time when the only other major public-works project - the Convention Center expansion - nears completion. Add in the sizzle of replacing the old court with a museum and a luxury hotel on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and it's clearly worth getting the Family Court project right.