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]

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.