Steve Bell

News Reporter

Afternoon reporter Steve Bell brings more than 40 years of news experience to the KCUR newsroom. Fifteen of those years he served as a news or program director. His first newscast was at KANU in 1958. He has hosted news and talk programs on five Kansas city AM-FM stations and two commercial TV stations and was for many years the the signature voice of KCPT-19. Since joining KCUR in 2001, Steve has won two  first place awards from Public Radio News Directors International -- for best newscast and best feature reporting.  He has also received a number of awards from the Missouri Broadcasters Association and the Kansas City Society of Professional Journalists.  Steve  has a Ph.D. in psychology and dabbles in guitar and banjo playing.

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Government
7:56 am
Thu July 24, 2014

Kansas City Council Committee Endorses Open Carry Ban

The public safety committee of the Kansas City city council unanimously endorsed Mayor Sly James's proposal to ban the open carry of firearms Wednesday.

Citing a recent move by the town of Lake Ozark, Mo., to ban open carry because of its negative effect on tourism, the mayor said that if a Missouri city makes its gun ordinances exactly mirror state law, there is no reason open carry can not be outlawed by a local community.

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KCI
8:39 am
Fri July 11, 2014

KCI Commission 'Overwhelmingly' Favors One-Terminal Plan

The commission tasked with reviewing KCI's terminals "overwhelmingly" favored the one terminal plan rendered here.
Credit Landrum & Brown / Kansas City Aviation Department

The recommendation to replace the three terminals at the Kansas City International Airport with one new building is still controversial among the general public.

But according to its final report, the mayor's airport advisory commission didn't find it was controversial at all.

Commission co-chairman Dave Fowler said Thursday that the panel began its study of the airport as a group divided in opinion, but finished in nearly complete agreement.

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City Council
6:46 am
Thu July 10, 2014

Power And Light Building Could Become Apartments With Council Vote

The iconic Kansas City Power and Light building could be repurposed as apartments. The skyscraper, which was built in the 1930s, is mostly empty.
Credit Noah Jeppson / Flickr--CC

 Updated 6:11 p.m.:

The Kansas City City Council has postponed the vote on the Power and Light building so city officials can conduct another hearing on the proposal's financial implications.

The original post begins here:

The Kansas City City Council votes Thursday afternoon on declaring the historic Power and Light Building and several blocks surrounding it a blighted area.

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Government
11:36 am
Fri June 27, 2014

Kansas City Loosens Liquor License Rules For Some Felony Offenders

Finding a job may be getting a little easier in Kansas City, Mo., for some people convicted of crimes.

Some of them will no longer have to wait four years to get a “liquor card.”

In Kansas City, all people involved in the sale of alcoholic beverages in restaurants, bars and retail stores have to be licensed by the city.

People convicted of violent crimes are not eligible.  And until now, those with nonviolent felony convictions, including drunk driving, had a four-year wait after they had served any time involved.

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Government
6:59 am
Fri June 20, 2014

Kansas City To Outsource Ambulance Billing

City manager Troy Schulte and finance chair Jan Marcason said signing up with

Advanced Data Processing Inc., a company that already does billing for several cities in the metro, would save $800,000 and increase collections.

“For the taxpayers and for the city this is a good deal and I think we should approve it today,” Marcason told her council colleagues.

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Government
7:57 am
Thu June 19, 2014

Kansas City Council Approves Zoning For Plaza Office High-Rise

New high-rise office building proposed for north edge of Country Club Plaza
Credit Courtesy: Hoefer Wysocki Architecture

A Kansas City council committee approved zoning changes for a 14-story office tower on the north edge of the Country Club Plaza on Wednesday. There appears to be no organized effort to stop its construction.

In recent years, plans for a North-Plaza law office high-rise and a luxury hotel were derailed by opposition. But this time there is no business opposition and Dan Cofran of Friends of the Plaza says his group does not want to stop or delay the Block Real Estate project.

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Government
6:32 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Kansas City Ordinance On Food For Homeless Fails

A Kansas City council ordinance would have regulated food distribution from service agencies homeless populations.
Credit درفش کاویانی / Wikimedia-CC

Kansas City's city council turned down an ordinance regulating the distribution of food to the homeless Thursday after it was opposed by social services organizations, including the Salvation Army.

A frustrated Councilman Scott Wagner insisted throughout the debate that the ordinance he spent a year putting together was simply what it appeared to be on the surface – a matter of food safety and sanitation.

But colleague Ed Ford said the discussions that began the process may have doomed the ordinance before it was written.

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Government
8:07 am
Thu June 12, 2014

Homeless Advocates Question Kansas City 'Food Sharing Permit' Plan

A number of organizations that help feed the homeless were heard but not heeded Wednesday as a city council committee revisited an ordinance requiring setting standards for charitable food sharing.

The plan would require all individuals and organizations providing food for the homeless to have a city food sharing permit, that all food preparation areas meet city standards. The organizations would be responsible for trash disposal and other sanitation matters.

The pleas of the two dozen people who spoke against the food sharing permit ordinance were often impassioned.

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Government
8:30 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Kansas City FBI Posts Rewards For Laser-Pointer Violators

Children's Mercy Hospital trotted out its helicopter to emphasize the dangers of laser-beaming aircraft.
Credit Kansas City, MO Aviation Department

Children's Mercy Hospital joined with federal and local law enforcement Tuesday at Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City, Mo., to promote a 90-day crackdown on people who point hand-held lasers at flying aircraft.

Children's Mercy displayed its “Just for Kids” helicopter as an example of the kind of aircraft that could be downed by a misplaced laser beam in a pilot's eyes. 

Kansas City police helicopter pilot Cord Laws said he could recount five times when the police chopper has been lasered, including during one difficult landing on a helipad. 

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Government
7:40 am
Fri May 30, 2014

Kansas City Adopts Point System For Development Incentives

Kansas City's development incentives policy becomes more structured under a measure passed by the city council Thursday. The city will adopt a scorecard system to determine which projects get incentives and how large those incentives are.

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Government
7:52 am
Thu May 29, 2014

Kansas City Council Committee To Tackle Fate Of Kemper Arena

Replace or repurpose? Rival proposals clash on aging Kemper Arena.
Credit City of Kansas City, Mo.

There will be no blue ribbon citizens panel to decide the future of Kemper Arena. The Kansas City, Mo., city council Economic Development Committee has decided to tackle the matter itself.

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Government
7:58 am
Fri May 23, 2014

Kansas City Council Approves $8 Million In Phase II Streetcar Planning Contracts

Freshly returned from Thursday's ground breaking for phase one of the streetcar system, the Kansas City city council committed $8 million to getting started on phase two.

Two area firms – HDR Engineering and Burns and McDonnell – were chosen to plan southward and eastward extensions of the streetcar line.

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Government
7:48 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Kansas City Council Considers August Ballot For Sales Tax Issue

Kansas City, Mo., residents can expect to be asked to renew a sales tax in August. But meeting fire department needs may take more than that.

The quarter-cent sales tax created 14 years ago currently funds less than 14 percent of the fire department's $145 million budget. Personnel costs account for 90 percent of that budget.

City Finance Director Randall Landes says renewing the tax is essential, but even with the renewal the department won't be able to replace aging fire stations and equipment.

 

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Government
7:50 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Kansas City Council Closes Lyft Loophole

The city council says the ride-providers with the big pink mustaches are a rogue taxi company.
Credit Via Tsuji / Flickr / Creative Commons

Transportation company Lyft says it will find you a friend with a car via mobile device app. But, the Kansas City, Mo., City Council says the company is running a taxi cab service and trying to loophole its way out of city regulations covering drivers, vehicles and insurance.

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Community
7:50 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Charges Filed In Gas Station Shooting That Left Boy Paralyzed

Dontae Jeffferson, charged in shooting that left man dead, his son paralyzed.
Credit Police photo

A 27-year-old Kansas City man faces multiple charges including first-degree murder in a gas station shooting that left a man dead and his ten-year-old son paralyzed.

At a Thursday news conference, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker was visibly moved by the police work that led to the arrest of Dontae Jefferson.

"I asked you for heroes to step up and step forward and help solve this case ... help us bring this family justicen... and that happened," the prosecutor said.

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Community
1:54 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Prosecutor Names Suspect In Kansas City Highway Shootings

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announces charges Friday against a 27-year-old suspect tied to recent highway shootings in Kansas City. The announcement took place at the Kansas City Emergency Operations Center.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced charges Friday against a man tied to recent highway shootings in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

The afternoon announcement revealed Mohammed Whitaker, 27, of Grandview, Mo., faces 18 felony counts, including class A and class B felonies related to shooting into a vehicle.

The charges stem from a series of at least a dozen shootings on Kansas City area highways. Three people have been hurt as a result.

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Community
7:37 am
Fri April 18, 2014

Suspect Jailed In Serial Highway Shootings

Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte announced Thursday night that a suspect was in custody in the recent series of roadway vehicle shootings.
Credit KMBC

Updated 2:03 p.m. April 18:

On Friday, Jackson County prosecutors named Mohammed Whitaker, 27, as the suspect in the recent highway shootings in Kansas City. He was charged with at least 18 counts tied to a series of at least a dozen shootings.

The original post begins here:

A suspect is in custody in connection with a series of at least a dozen shootings on Kansas City highways, law enforcement officials announced Thursday night.

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Community
12:47 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Corporon Remembered As A Family Man

Dr. William Lewis Corporon, 69, was taking his grandson Reat Underwood, 14, to a singing audition at the Jewish Community Center when both were fatally shot Sunday afternoon.

Corporon and his wife of 49 years, Melinda, moved to Johnson County, Kan., in 2003 to be closer to his family. Before that, he practiced family medicine in Oklahoma for more than 25 years.  He continued to see patients in the Kansas City area.

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Community
5:44 am
Fri April 11, 2014

Malted Milk Balls End 'Great Ape Escape' At Kansas City Zoo

Kansas City Zoo visitors were locked up indoors for an hour Thursday while seven chimpanzees ran free outdoors in an area accessible only to zoo personnel.

Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff told TV-9 the chimps using a tree branch for a ladder was an example of primate intelligence and strength.

"Chimps are so much stronger than humans that they can go up in a tree and pull on something long enough and pull a piece of log off, that's apparently what happened," he said.

Government
5:43 am
Fri April 11, 2014

Kansas City Council Gets Final Streetcar Line Price

Eight hundred tons of streetcar rail – 50 truckloads – will be delivered to Kansas City next week, marking the end of bargaining and a final negotiated maximum price for the project: $102 million.

City engineering service manager Ralph Davis assured the city council Thursday that they're getting a good deal. Davis said the city has worked through a "value engineering" process to eliminate unnecessary costs, and in doing so saved about $5 million. He said city representatives had also negotiated down the contractors' fees and charges. 

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Health
7:47 am
Thu April 10, 2014

Kansas City Council Committee Urges E-Cigarette Ban On Buses

A city council committee is recommending that e-cigarettes and similar nicotine delivery devices be banned from Kansas City buses and streetcars.

The city already bans tobacco smoking of any kind on public transit vehicles and other public facilities, but some smokers have been using e-cigarettes, cigars or pipes to circumvent those bans.

Dr. Rex Archer of the Health Department told the Public Safety committee there is no data on adverse health effects of the vapors emitted from the devices, but there is no question about the danger of the liquids that fuel them.

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Government
5:51 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Brownback Comments On School Funding, Health Care Compact

Credit Steve Bell

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback was in kansas City, Kansas Tuesday for the official signing of a bill that substantially reduces the percentage rate employers are required to pay into the state's Unemployment Trust Fund.

Brownback used the occasion to tout what he called a call, growing Kansas economy.

"People have said you can't cut taxes, create a business-friendly environment and fund state government," he said, adding, "Well, yes you can, and we are."

After the ceremony, the governor also commented on several bills on or soon coming to his desk.

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Education
7:56 am
Tue April 8, 2014

Districts, Advocates See Shortcomings In Kansas School Funding Plan

Attorneys for the group that sued Kansas over school funding have issued a statement critical of the plan the Legislature sent to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback Sunday.

Attorney John Robb expressed concerns that the plan shifts money from some programs for at-risk students, allows more well-to-do districts to increase local funding, and reduces revenues that could go for schools by offering tax credits for private school scholarships.

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Government
8:08 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Kansas City Council Moves To Replace 19th Century Sewer Pipe

Sewer pipe dated 1874 was recently dug up near the Kansas City, Mo., City Hall.
Credit City of Kansas City, Mo.

The Kansas City city council was in an infrastructure-improving mood Thursday — some of its very old infrastructure.  The city council took several steps toward replacing crumbling sewer and water lines.

The full council gave its approval to rehabilitation of sewer lines around 22nd and Paseo. Infrastructure chair Russ Johnson emphasized how old they were.

"That was constructed in 1890," he said. "It's time to rehab it.”

The other council members agreed, and approved spending $1.48 million in existing bond money to do the job.

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Government
8:56 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Public Vote On Kansas City Charter Changes Vote Set For Next Tuesday

Next Tuesday, Kansas Citians will decide whether to make changes to the city charter. The city council has submitted voters three charter-revision ballot questions. Most city council members hope one of them will “warm up” voters attitudes on city elections.

Question 3 would move the city Mayor-Council primary election from late February to early April. And the city general election would move from late March to Early June.

The thinking is: “better weather equals better turnout.”

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Government
7:51 am
Fri March 28, 2014

Council Approves Streetcar Phase II With No Brookside Extension

Credit City of Kansas City, Missouri

Phase two of Kansas City's streetcar system moved ahead again Thursday, but it won't be rolling through Brookside.

The city council approved a streetcar system expansion of about 8 miles – a south extension along main to the UMKC area, east on Independence Avenue to Benton and east on Linwood to Prospect. A proposal for the southward extension to run to Brookside or Waldo was set aside because it was too expensive for projected revenue.

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Government
6:58 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Kansas City Council Opposes State Attempt To Void Local Animal Control Rules

Kansas City's city council is asking the Legislature not to pass a bill that would restrict local Missouri animal control ordinances.

Supporters say the bill was created to prevent cities from outlawing pit bulls. The proposed state law forbids animal control rules directed at any specific breed.

Pit bulls are not illegal in Kansas City, Mo., but they must be spayed or neutered and the city has a program offering the spaying and neutering at no cost to the owner.

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Government
7:01 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Gunshots Could Change Kansas City Zoo's Free-Admission Days

Fights and gunshots in a Kansas City Zoo parking lot are prompting a debate on the future of “free admission days” that are held four times a year. Monday's was the second such event marked by unruly behavior and fighting among young people.

No injuries were reported, but many of the throng of 20,000 zoo visitors reported they witnessed fights and heard the crack of gunshots coming from one of the Swope Park parking lots.

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Government
5:35 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Kansas City Council Defies State, Votes Down 'Carrying While Intoxicated'

The Kansas City council voted Thursday not to allow intoxicated persons to carry loaded guns. The ordinance was expected to pass even though everyone on the council thinks it's a bad idea.

City Attorney Bill Geary advised the council public safety committee that a new Missouri gun rights law conflicts with a city ordinance that prohibits carrying a firearm while “under the influence.”

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Government
7:54 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Kansas City Council Involves Airlines, Voters In KCI Planning

KCI the way it is: will the three terminals be replaced by a single one?
Credit KC Aviation Department

Collaboration on the future of the KCI airport was the focus Thursday as the Kansas City council promised the airlines and the voters their voices will be heard.

The council approved a lease renewal agreement with eight airlines that also includes structure for airline input into whether the city will renovate or replace its aging airport terminals.

Transportation and infrastructure chair Russ Johnson told his colleagues the airlines' viewpoint is important to the process.

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