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Chicago Biz Journals: Open the Books to see government spending details on your phone

Adam Andrzejewski says his web site and mobile app, Open the Books, could help motivate people to hold government officials accountable for their spending choices.

Adam Andrzejewski says his web site and mobile app, Open the Books, could help motivate people to hold government officials accountable for their spending choices.
 By:
Assistant News Editor- Chicago Business Journal

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While both Washington and Springfield grapple with government spending policies, most of the discussion remains big-picture, in the sense that lawmakers and pundits tend to speak about trillions and billions of dollars. Adam Andrzejewski wants to change that by shifting the focus to government spending amounts in the millions, or even the thousands, and making every bit of that data easily accessible.

Andrzejewski, who sought the Republican nomination for Illinois governor in 2010, has, through a 501(c)4 non-profit called For The Good of Illinois, led the creation of a web site and free app called Open the Books, which allows users to see spending figures in their areas across multiple levels of government, going back 12 years in some cases. Shining light on such data is the means, but the primary goal of the site and app is to put pressure on governments to reduce wasteful spending, and it’s already been downloaded more than 5,000 times in the Google Play store. It’s also available in the Apple app store.

“There are no easy conversations in America anymore about spending and debt,” Andrzejewski told me, “So everyday people have to start holding local officials accountable.”

Few would argue against more transparency, especially when backed by the righteousness of a man who says he’s put about $300,000 of his own money into the project, leads it on a volunteer basis, and pronounces that, “The intelligence and common sense of engaged citizens can help us identify more instances of legal but stupid spending practices that need to end.”

Andrzejewski offered an example of the kind of spending to which he objects, one he also included in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, published last week: A beauty school in Bradley with an enrollment of 105 that charges about $20,000 per student in total for tuition and supplies. That school received about $8.2 million in Pell grants and federal student loans, according to Open the Books, which Andrzejewski says is out of line, considering students’ annual cost of attendance is greater than that of some Big Ten universities.

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