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March 24, 2017 12:47 PM
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'Courage Awards' recognize efforts to open government

Recognition for open government efforts, community service

 
Dawn Schabbing Daily News Mar 24, 2017
 
 
EFFINGHAM — Adam Andrzejewski believes that in order to make America great again, "we have to make America accountable again."
 
That’s his mission.
 
"We need to take every dime, online and in real time – at the federal, state and local level. We need to open the books so that all of us can see exactly where every single dime of our tax dollars are flowing."
 
Andrzejewski, the chairman of American Transparency and founder of the website OpenThe Books.com, spoke before he handed out several Effingham and Central Illinois "Courage Awards" that recognized people who have had an impact on the government transparency movement.
 
The transparency movement includes auditing books, he said, "then we squeeze out waste, fraud, corruption and taxpayer abuse."
 
One Courage Award went to newly elected Effingham County Board member John Perry, who lives in the Lake Sara area.
 
"It’s a great honor (to be recognized)," said Perry. "Adam (Andrzejewski) does a lot of good work and exposes a lot of government corruption and he’s working with our local folks to help create transparency in government from the federal, state and local level."
 
Perry said he’d like to see Effingham County put its books online so citizens can easily see its checkbook.
 
"I worked hard to fight against raising taxes on the county level," said Perry. "I’m not giving up."
 
Another Courage Award recipient, Patty Russell, of Effingham, was recognized for her work as an Effingham County Watchdog. She is seeking a seat on the Effingham Unit 40 school board.
 
"Transparency is what I’ve been fighting for and working at through all of our city -- the park board, city boards, county board and even the school board," said Russell. "I’ve been going to meetings for several years now. I’m looking for transparency. I’m looking to find out where certain expenses are going."
 
Attendee Alan Shumaker, of Mason, said he’s concerned about the state’s financial problems.
 
"I think it is extremely important the people step up and pay attention and educate themselves on what’s going on," said Shumaker, a candidate for the Altamont school board. "Our state is in a very bad predicament financially. It is going to require a lot of sacrifice from citizens. We need to be prepared and understand as much as we can."
 
Other Courage Award recipients went to the following:
 
• The founding members of Family Life Center of Effingham, the late Loretta Koester, the late Bud Althoff, and Dr. Henry Poterucha, along with Tami Shull and Susan Kessler. The center helps men and women faced with an unplanned pregnancy by offering information, parenting skills, and basic medical assistance.
 
• Full Armor Christian Academy in Louisville. Darren and Cindy Bailey opened the academy to provide a Christ-centered education for students preschool through 12th grade. They are credited for making a difference in a community.
 
• Donna Ayres of Cahokia started getting involved in local government after the 2015 election because several locals in Cahokia were charged and convicted with forging absentee ballots. Later these people were placed on the payroll by the mayor at $60,000 salary each.
 
• Sherry Lou Brianza is a Macoupin County Activist and resident of Carlinville and has been involved in politics since the late 1980s, when she was asked to serve as an election judge. Today she is a watchdog of the electoral process.
 
• Edgar County Watchdogs Kirk Allen and John Kraft over the last couple of years have successfully "citizen arrested" their park district board after being prohibited from speaking at a public meeting. During the past 48 months, they have inspired 227 public and elected officials to flee their positions.
 
• Dr. Waqas Khan was recognized for "exemplary patriotism and citizenship." He came to the US for the first time in 2004 on a visitor’s visa to take his exam for United States Medical Licensing. He returned the next year for further tests and job interviews. The travel expense, fees and lodging costs to come here from Pakistan "almost consumed half of my father’s lifetime savings." He landed a position in a New York hospital and after many years of using a working visa he took his oath and pledge to become a U.S. citizen in February 2017. He is a medical internist.
 
• State Senator Kyle McCarter, Lebanon, who has served in Springfield since 2009. He is a small business owner and is considered to be "a force for the good of Illinois."
 
• Kurt Prenzler, Madison County Board chairman, led the effort to defeat the Madison County 1 percent sales tax, 81-19 percent.
 
The seventh annual dinner meeting was attended by 300 people at the VFW Post 1769 in Effingham. Dinner was catered by Martin’s IGA. The Rev. Robert Spriggs offered prayer and George Mette and Andrzejewski together led the Pledge of Allegiance. State Senator Kyle McCarter also spoke.
 
Learn more about the organization at openthebooks.com
 
Contact Dawn Schabbing at dawn.schabbing@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151, ext. 138. 
 
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