Now that the election is over, we feel it is appropriate to reflect on a few six-figure checks that were presented in various parts of Illinois House District 71 in October by the incumbent candidate.

Rep. Mike Boland, D-Moline, Ill., has done a good job being visible in the northern portion of his four-county district. Although voters up here strongly backed his opponent, Savanna (Ill.) Republican Steve Haring, Boland captured a seventh two-year term in the house, which means he’ll continue to be present in the Gateway area, doing everything from passing out $100,000 checks to reading to students at local elementary schools.

The money Boland distributed in the last few weeks — $100,000 to the Fulton (Ill.) Fire Department for facility planning, $100,000 to Albany, Ill., to develop a bike trail, $100,000 to Savanna, Ill., for a boat ramp, fire truck and sidewalk repairs and $50,000 to Morrison, Ill., for a community sports complex — came from what is known as individual legislative initiative funding, which is state grant money Boland and other legislators receive to help local governments within their legislative district.

The cynics will say the money is simply a bank account for buying votes (even if the polls don’t yield results). The idealists will say it allows a lawmaker to take care of concerns throughout the district, especially those communities typically ignored by the state budget. The realists will say $350,000 would go a long way toward more pressing issues, such as hiring a few more teachers here and there.

What we see is a combination of all three. Surely a politician facing a brutal campaign will leap at a chance to pose for photos with a big ceremonial check mere days before the vote. But also, a politician who is wholly unconnected with his or her district would be unable to know enough about the needs of these communities to make such sensible contributions, even if the timing is opportune.

And could that $350,000 be put to better use than boat ramps, bike trails and soccer fields? Certainly. But if we’ve learned anything from the state and federal budgeting process, it’s that those bodies decide who gets the money and how it’s to be spent. Given the choice between money toward a new fire station and no money at all, we’ll take the money.

The most important thing is that the money allocated is needed by those who will receive it, and it will go to projects that better the community. On that level, everyone wins.

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