Complete Transcript: Dan Knorr’s Speech Announcing Candidacy for PA Rep.

Good evening, everyone, and thank you so much for attending tonight. I have invited you all here – family, friends, colleagues, leaders of our community, and businesspeople – because I have a very special announcement.

For the past six years, I have been given the opportunity to lead the Town of Bloomsburg in a way few people have. In 2005, the people of this community – open-minded, hungry for a new direction – took a chance on a young man who thought he had the slightest idea of what he was getting into. I learned from some great mentors, I lost a friend when “Chip” Coffman passed away, and in 2007, I was entrusted with the position he had left behind, that of mayor. I cannot express to you how amazing, fun, challenging, exhausting, frustrating, and wonderful this opportunity has been. I have found myself stuck in the middle of heated neighbor disputes…and I have shaken hands with the third most powerful man in the United States government. I have cherished every day of these past six years.

By 2011, I thought I pretty much had it down. We had had two, consecutive surpluses, were investing in our parks and local businesses, and completed a comprehensive blueprint for the next decade. I had my share of parking complaints, of course, but that goes with the territory.

But in the fall of 2011, the lives of people across our region were upended in the flooding of Tropical Storm Lee. That flood spared my home, but it changed my life.

Politicians are often tempted to think we have power. We levy taxes, we enact laws, we settle disputes, and we grant permits. But in September of 2011, I was humbled by real power. There are no words for how helpless I felt when a third of the town I have a duty to protect and serve was covered, swiftly and silently, by our waterways. I was helpless as people were driven from their homes. I was helpless as people lost everything.

As the flood crested, I began to think about what would come next. What could I possibly say to give any hope to the community? How could I even think to inspire our town, or to get them back on their feet? It seemed an impossible thing. As it turns out, it was also unnecessary. As the waters receded, it was this community that inspired me.

I was inspired by the bravery of people who faced the destruction, shed their tears, and started mucking out. I was inspired by the legions of volunteers, residents and students, who selflessly helped their neighbors. I was inspired by organizations that we take for granted in better times – the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the YMCA, AGAPE, and so many others. I was inspired by an entire county that, while deeply wounded, came together and built hope for the future.

That flood changed me. It changed how I see our community – its strength is far deeper than anyone could have imagined. It changed, for me, what it means to be a public servant; that we aren’t here just to answer the occasional complaint or to pose presenting checks but to harness and lead the incredible, positive potential of our communities and the lives that make them up.

It changed what my expectation is of our leaders. The people of this county are resilient, enduring, and hard-working. They deserve leaders who honor that by bringing their best to bear, as well. They deserve leaders who want more, who are energized, and who will not slack in their drive to make our county better. They deserve leaders who are not late in arriving to the call for action.

And that brings me back to tonight.

Today, we have a State Representative who is not giving his all. After 8 years, he has grown complacent, he has grown comfortable, and he has lost what little fight he started with. I have seen what the people of our county are capable of. They deserve better, and I’m here to say, it’s not good enough.

In 1995, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a law granting automatic raises. The salary for a lawmaker at that time was $47,000. This year, it will top $80,000, an increase of over 74%. Over the same period of time, the state’s median household income has only seen a 40% increase. No votes are required for this raise, there is no discussion, no yes, no or abstention is heard. An automatic raise is given to lawmakers again and again and again regardless of performance and regardless of economic conditions. It’s not good enough. It’s not good enough to have a State Representative who makes a show of giving back some money while never making any serious attempt to repeal this ridiculous statute at the heart of the problem. We need a State Representative who will not rest until the exponential growth in legislative pay is halted and, once more, accountable to a vote. We need a State Representative who isn’t afraid to stand on the floor of the House and tell his colleagues that they are being greedy and that they are wrong.

At 9.9% on every single dollar earned, Pennsylvania’s corporate tax income rate is the highest – not close to the highest, not in the top five, but the very highest – in the nation. We are not competitive with other states. We are not attracting opportunity or encouraging investment, and we are losing people to other parts of the country that are. It’s not good enough. It’s not good enough to have a State Representative who is not actively seeking ways to increase Pennsylvania’s competitive advantage. We need a State Representative who will fight to bring our taxes in line with those of other states so that we can have a future that is not held back by the government and not stunted by a regressive level of taxation. We need a State Representative who recognizes that being first in the nation in prosperity is not compatible with being first in the nation in taxes.

Columbia County’s largest employer is Bloomsburg University. The continued health of the State System of Higher Education is central to our local economy and a lynchpin to our success. Yet despite this importance, there exists no legislative caucus for representatives of host districts. It’s not good enough. It’s not good enough to have a State Representative who is not working, cooperating and coordinating with other PASSHE representatives on our common interests. We need a State Representative who is willing to go that extra mile, to reach out and build these necessary partnerships, who knows that we can’t go it alone. We need a State Representative who knows how to build relationships and is willing and able to find consensus.

The Marcellus Shale formation, and the ability to successfully extract natural gas from it, has rightly been described as an economic game-changer. With it, Pennsylvania has the opportunity to be a serious provider of this precious resource that we use in our homes, in our businesses, and for electricity generation. But we have to be careful, and we have to be smart. The environmental ruins of our state’s coal heyday are all around us. The companies, the industry and the wealth are gone, but our mistakes are with us still. This history cannot be allowed to hold us back, but we do have to learn from it. But our State Representative is ignoring those lessons, and it’s not good enough. We need a State Representative who will fight for measures like financial bonding that would actually cover the true potential costs of plugging, reclaiming, cleaning up and restoring gas drilling sites. We need a State Representative who will make sure that Pennsylvania taxpayers reap the benefits of this resource and not just the unmitigated costs. We need a State Representative who understands that the opportunities of the present need not require the sacrificing of our future.

These are just a few examples, but they speak to what is a larger problem. Our State Representative is coasting. In 8 years he hasn’t authored a single piece of notable legislation. He’s collecting his salary, he’s staying safe, he’s keeping his sword clean, and he’s not rocking the boat. Moving inexorably and with the utmost care toward his pension, the status quo is his friend.

But my friends, it’s not good enough. You deserve energy, you deserve passion, and you deserve effort. You deserve better representation!

So tonight, I am here to tell State Representative Millard that it’s just not good enough. Tonight, with my friends and family around me, I am announcing my candidacy for State Representative of the 109th Legislative District.

In the weeks and months to come, this campaign will be taken to every corner of our district, partnering with citizens and organizations throughout Columbia County, reaching voters with our message that they deserve better, more vigorous representation, and that there is an alternative. We don’t have to settle. Our district can have a representative who leads on the issues that matter to us, a representative who wants to do more than just show up, and a representative with a proven track record of fiscal conservatism, open and fair government, and a willingness to find common ground.

I want to be that representative, and I am so excited to be embarking on this experience. But I cannot do it alone, and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to do it alone. I would love to have you all be a part of this. So tonight, please feel free to stay to enjoy some wine and company, and before you leave, let us know how you would like to participate in this effort. If you would, take a moment to see John Karas, our Finance Director, to fill out a campaign support form. It’s very straight-forward, and it will let us know who you are and how you would like to be included. Maybe you’re able to participate through volunteering your time – there’s a box to check for that. There are also boxes for levels of financial participation if you’re able. Or perhaps you’re willing to have a sign placed in your yard – there’s a box for that, too. There are several ways to be a part of this, and we’re going to need them all.

So finally, let me again thank you so much for taking the time to come this evening. It absolutely means the world to me. I truly believe that we can change this district and this state for the better, and I hope you’re looking forward to doing so as much as I am.

Thank you!

Mayor Knorr Declares PA State Rep Candidacy; Criticizes Rep Millard as “Complacent”

Last night, among a group of forty-five to fifty family members, friends, and supporters, Bloomsburg Mayor Dan Knorr announced his intent to stand for election and represent Columbia County and the 109th Legislative District in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Speaking at Balzano’s Corner Gathering in Bloomsburg, Mayor Knorr spoke of his experience as a Bloomsburg Town Council Member, as Mayor, and the events and reflections that led him to declare his candidacy for State Representative.

“In 2005 the people of this community … took a chance on a young man who thought he had the slightest idea of what he was getting into,” said Mayor Knorr of his past experiences. “I learned from some great mentors. … By 2011 I thought I pretty much had it down. [Bloomsburg] had two consecutive surpluses … and [we] completed a comprehensive blueprint for the next decade.”

Past accomplishments, however, were not the focus of Mayor Knorr’s decision to run for State Representative. Instead he reflected on the devastation wrought by Tropical Storm Lee and how the community’s reaction affected him. “But in the fall of 2011 the lives of people across our region were upended in the flooding of Tropical Storm Lee. That flood spared my home, but it changed my life.”

“It changed how I see our community – its strength is far deeper than anyone could have imagined. It changed, for me, what it means to be a public servant; that we aren’t here just to answer the occasional complaint or to pose presenting checks but to harness and lead the incredible, positive potential of our communities and the lives that make them up.”

Continuing with this theme, Mayor Knorr reserved harsh criticism for Mr. David Millard, the current PA Representative for the 109th District and Columbia County. “Today, we have a State Representative who is not giving his all. After 8 years, he has grown complacent, he has grown comfortable, and he has lost what little fight he started with.”

In his candidacy speech, Mayor Knorr cited several areas in which he sees Representative Millard as not adequately representing Columbia County, including salaries for elected representatives, high corporate tax rates which Mayor Knorr blames for holding back economic growth, a lack of partnership among the State Representatives and their communities which host the Universities of the PA State System of Higher Education, and responsibly developing the natural gas resources of the Marcellus Shale formation.

“In 8 years he hasn’t authored a single piece of notable legislation,” said Mayor Knorr of Rep. Millard. “He’s collecting his salary, he’s staying safe, he’s keeping his sword clean, and he’s not rocking the boat. Moving inexorably and with the utmost care toward his pension, the status quo is his friend.”

After making his prepared remarks, Mayor Knorr spoke with members of the local media including the Press Enterprise, WHLM, and The Bloomsburg Daily. At that time Mayor Knorr was asked about what impact he thought he would have as a Freshman Representative as opposed to Rep. Millard who has the experience of serving Columbia County for eight years. “When you’re in a political position, you are your own boss,” said Mayor Knorr continuing his theme of active representation. “If you really want to push the envelope you can do a lot. If you want to sit back, not be controversial, you can do that. It is up to the individual how active you want to be. You have to choose to be active. Rep. Millard is not choosing to be active.”

[box type=”shadow”]A complete transcript of Mayor Knorr’s speech and candidacy announcement can be found here.[/box]

FEMA Addresses Bloom Council on Buyouts

Representatives from FEMA addressed the Bloomsburg Town Council last night, reviewing the particulars of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and stressing that people who wish to apply for Acquisition (commonly referred to as Buyouts) should do so quickly. The deadline for submitting a Letter of Intent/Pre-Application has been extended to Wednesday, 30 November. The Application packet submission deadline has been extended as well, to Friday, 30 December.

The Letter of Intent/Pre-Application form can be downloaded from The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. This is a direct link to PEMA’s downloadable PDF of the Letter of Intent.

In light of the deadline extension, Mayor Dan Knorr suggested that a meeting be held with interested Town residents early next week. No date has been set at the moment, but it will likely be held next Tuesday or Wednesday. The Bloomsburg Daily will update this article as soon as that information on the time and place of the meeting becomes available. Update, 16 November: The meeting will be held on Wednesday 23 November at 5:30PM in the Town Hall’s Council Chambers.

FEMA representative Michael Vath stated that 75% of the funding would come from the Federal government with the remaining funds provided by the State. 15% of the provided funds must be used for hazard mitigation projects. Mr. Vath estimated that at the moment $60-65 million is available through the HMGP, but suggested that due to the extent of the damage this number is likely to increase.

Mr. Vath explained that the HMGP is completely voluntary and no private citizen will be included without their consent and application. Mr. Vath also encouraged people who may be considering elevating or repairing their homes to apply as well since applicants may withdraw their application at any time.

It was also noted that if a property is approved for buyout under HMGP, that particular property must thereafter remain vacant, and is considered Open Space. In addition if the Army Corps of Engineers would use the property for the flood wall, then that property is not eligible for buyout under HGMP.

Mayor Dan Knorr and Town Officials Visit Washington, D.C.

Bloomsburg Town Hall has confirmed with The Bloomsburg Daily that Mayor Dan Knorr, Councilperson Dianne Drosdick Levan, and members of the Bloomsburg Flood Authority all traveled to Washington D.C. on Wednesday morning.  We requested an agenda for their day, but none was made available.

Given the press release from Senator Toomey’s office and letter he sent to the Army Corps of Engineers today regarding the Bloomsburg flood wall project, we did want to see whether town officials were meeting with Toomey.  According to Senator Toomey’s office, they were not scheduled to meet with the senator.

As of Wednesday evening, we have not received any further comments from the town or Mayor. We will continue to follow up and attempt to get comments as soon as they are made available. Stay tuned.

Reported by William Todd Heiss and Kristin Zeisloft Camplese

Photo by Bob Rush

Not By Memory Alone

Mayor Dan Knorr Addressing Open Forum on Flood Response
Mayor Dan Knorr Addressing Open Forum on Flood Response

It’s critical that we not rely on memory, on word of mouth for that type of an emergency. Because if it’s four decades from now, we’re going to need to have everything compiled, have this written, memorialized.
–Mayor Dan Knorr, October 18th, 2011

Records of the 1972 flood exist to be sure, but they don’t tell the entire story. There are pictures, maps, lists of names and statistics. But what these records lack is the immediate story, the conversation that takes place daily among friends and neighbors, the conversation that has taken and is still taking place in the streets of Bloomsburg.

Mayor Knorr, the Town Council, Emergency Services, and Public Works all received well-deserved praise at the Open Forum held at the Bloomsburg Firehall on the evening of October 18th. The Bloomsburg Daily, too, commends all of our local officials for their tireless and continuing efforts, helping Bloomsburg recover from this tragedy as well as looking for ways to plan for, or possibly prevent, the next.

But regardless of these good works, there was another feeling in the room last night; one of anger, one of loss, and of pain and desperation. Town residents came looking for practical answers, to be sure, but also to add their voices of frustration. They came to continue the private conversations they have daily in their living rooms, on their porches, and beside their homes which they can no longer enter.

They came wanting to know that their fellow citizens, those to whom they entrusted the care of their local government, had a sense of their loss. Here, the Mayor and the Town Council let their fellow citizens down.

Soon after Mayor Knorr finished his 30 minute presentation, the questioning began. One resident wondered why in this open forum we were reviewing all that information. “Will we just be here doing the same thing again next year?”

“Is all we’re going to do is clean the fairgrounds when people are suffering,” another resident asked.

Each time, the answers of the Mayor and the Town Council were disappointing. They spoke of statistics, future plans, using jacks to raise houses. They answered questions that were not asked. And over those two hours, some members of the Council did not speak at all. We wondered, listening to the Council’s replies, if they heard the questions their neighbors were truly asking. We wondered if they too sensed the feeling in that room.

The responsibility of any elected official is great, of course. They need to remember the practical, be able to plan for the needs of their town. But governmental leadership is also about fostering a sense of community. By speaking only of what was done in the past and of what might be done in the future, the Mayor and the Council lost the chance to address the uncertainty of the community in the present.

Mayor Knorr is right. We do need to have the practical plans and procedures to be both written and widely known. But he is also right that the September Flood needs to be memorialized. More than the practical, there is a community voice that needs to be felt, not only once at a town meeting, but constantly, every day in coffee shops and restaurants, in the emails and pictures we send to our friends, in the online forums and comments that connect us and help forge a wider, more active conversation.

This wide and active community is, in a sense, that memorial Mayor Knorr spoke of. Vibrant, engaged and constant conversation is the lifeblood of any town. Keeping that conversation alive keeps that sense of community alive, helping each of us. Not by memory alone, but through this present and continuing conversation we learn where to go, what to do, and how to respond to each crisis our community faces.