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Traffic commissioners involved with flag salute controversy resign

ENCINITAS — A pair of Encinitas traffic and public safety commissioners who at one time were at the center of a controversy over their refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance have quietly resigned in recent months.

Christina Simokat and Darius Degher made headlines in late 2017 by refusing to stand for the flag salute before meetings, and Degher going as far as to ask the six-member commission to remove the pledge as a standing item on the board’s agenda.

Simokat, a college history professor who represented New Encinitas on the panel, stepped down from the board late last year, and Degher, a noted musician who served as Leucadia’s representative, stepped down March 12.

Both said that the flag salute controversy had nothing to do with their decision to leave the board. Simokat attributed it to a change in her teaching schedule that made it difficult to attend meetings.

Degher, however, said that he stepped down because he felt the commission moved too slowly and was bogged down in bureaucracy.

“I feel I can be more useful and effective writing songs, poems, stories, and commentaries. I’m just not politic enough for politics,” Degher wrote in answer to a reporter’s questions. “I would rather speak passionately and freely about my ideas than to carefully strategize in order to edge them forward at the pace of one inch per year. In other words, I may have neither the wiliness nor the patience for the job. However, I have great respect for those who do.”

Degher went on to liken to the commission to the U.S. Senate, “where procedural mechanisms are used by savvy members to block new ideas.”

“I was interested in visioning real change, less interested in the timing of traffic signals and such things,” he said. “The TPSC is an advisory organ of the City Council. As such, I think it should be a place where ideas are generated, not merely where details are worked out. (There are engineers educated in those matters.)

“But what I think it should be is not what it actually is,” Degher said. “The problem may be that ‘politics’ is not the sphere of ideas. Instead, it’s the place where ideas are implemented. And devising strategies for implementation is not really my strength or my interest.”

Degher also lamented the “frustrating” nature of the democratic process.

“No idea is so amazingly good that there will not also be vociferous opposition to it,” Degher said. “And every idea, regardless how seemingly straightforward, is in actuality quite complicated.”

The City Council voted at the April 24 meeting to appoint Mary Schultz to fill Degher’s seat. New Encinitas resident Michael Vonneumann was appointed to fill Simokat’s vacancy in February.

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