Originally created 04/21/01

Stipe protest disappoints his neighbors



ATHENS, Ga. - R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe doesn't like the new speed bumps on Hill Street, and he's letting folks know about it.

Neighborhood residents were scratching their heads this week after the international rock star and part-time Athenian had a large sign nailed to a house he owns protesting the new traffic-calming measures.

In red letters, Mr. Stipe's sign decries the decision by a majority of owner-occupants to have the Athens-Clarke County government install speed bumps on the street as "idiotic, selfish and inappropriate."

Residents responded by tacking on hand-rendered replies accusing Mr. Stipe of being indifferent to problems with speeding motorists on the street.

They didn't care much for his tone, either.

"We need Michael Stipe with his resources and knowledge of other communities to help us with some alternatives if this is not suitable," said Virginia McCormack, a neighborhood resident. "However, to use language like `idiotic' and `selfish' for people who have worked so hard to make this a safe street is totally inappropriate. This is the first we've heard from him. I personally thank Michael for all he's done for the improvement of the community; this just wasn't his best moment."

Mr. Stipe, in a letter to the Athens Daily News/Banner-Herald, acknowledged that "my sign has caused quite a stir."

"I do appreciate the time and research put into the traffic problem by many residents of Hill Street," said Mr. Stipe, who rents out the historic home he owns there. "Unfortunately, as they discovered, the current process only allows for a block-by-block, section-by-section approach."

Mr. Stipe suggests a more comprehensive approach to addressing traffic problems.

"If speed bumps are the only available fast-track solution offered by the city to an obvious community problem, it will not be long before driving or bicycling in Athens is impossible," he said.