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.

Ways to Connect

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

The Kansas City Fire Department released its report of an internal investigation into the events leading up to the deaths of firefighters John Mesh and Larry Leggio in a blaze on Independence Avenue in October. Questions had been raised why two firefighters were still deployed in an alleyway 11 minutes after it had been designated a collapse zone.

The report acknowledges that “the tactical assignment that generated tragic results was placing resources on the D-side of the structure within the designated collapse zone.”

americanjazzmuseum.com

Kansas City jazz fans take note: The executive director of the American Jazz Museum says we will have a world-class jazz festival and it will debut in just one year.

A City Council committee this week approved a renewal for the museum to continue to manage the 18th and Vine project. Jazz Museum Executive Director Cheptoo Kositani-Buckner used the occasion to tout the accomplishments of the district she has managed since January.

KC Police

An audit released this week concludes that with tight budgets and unfilled officer positions, the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department should re-evaluate its policies on allowing officers to take police vehicles home with them in their off-duty hours.

The police do not agree.

The audit found that 45 percent of the police fleet is assigned for take-home with no tracking of mileage or how they are used after duty hours.

A boutique hotel is planned for the Pendgergast Building and old Pabst brewery.
aprium.com

The full Kansas City Council on Thursday gave unanimous approval to tax abatement and other incentives for planned hotels in the heart of
downtown in the Crossroads Arts District.

Both involve the renovation of historic buildings: the old Federal Reserve building at 9th and Grand and the Pendergast Building and former Pabst brewery in the Crossroads.

Creative Commons

The building is historic, and the story familiar. 

Developers seeking to renovate the old Federal Reserve Building at 925 Grand told the 95-year-old tower's tale of woe to the City Council Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday.

They described and showed photos of disrepair and water damage in a structure now eight years vacant, lacking a fire sprinkler system and with only one working elevator for which repair parts must be custom-fabricated.

visitkc.com

A Kansas City Council Committee has approved a contract extension of up to five years for California-based company Ticketmaster to continue to ticketing for events at city-owned convention and entertainment facilities.

McGaskey, executive director for the venues, says one factor that set Ticketmaster apart from two competing bidders was a $45,000 annual Ticketmaster allowance for advertising to help promote events. He said the assistance is a “nice incentive” to offer some event sponsors. 

About 180 small businesses in Kansas City, Missouri, would be eligible for SBA “micro-loans” averaging $10,000 each under a plan approved by a city council committee on Wednesday. 

Economic Development chair Scott Taylor says the first phase of the program has already loaned out $2.3 million.

Taylor says almost 53 percent of the loans have been to businesses east of Troost and the repayment rate has been a high 95 percent.

Courtesy of City of Kansas City, Missouri

“This was a relatively pleasant budget process,” said Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James of the months leading up to Thursday's City Council approval of a $1.5 billion budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year.  Then his council colleagues laughed as he added, “We actually had money.  That always makes it a little easier.”

The new spending plan includes funding for 2 percent raises for city employees who have been hit by wage freezes in several recent years.

City Hall
City of Kansas City

The Kansas City, Missouri City Council approved  a $1.5 billion budget on Thursday that kicks off a $10 million two-year plan to tear down about 800 abandoned houses, increases spending on basic services by 5 percent and allows for 2 percent raises for city employees.

The same day the council approved a union contract granting firefighters 2.6 percent raises. The agreement reduces a potential wage freeze in case emergency medical services revenue does not increase by 6 percent from two years to one.

KCCG, Channel 2

A development incentive plan Mayor Sly James calls the Shared Success Fund faced its first criticism in a city council committee Wednesday.

The mayor wants to tap into the developer-incentive system to set aside money the city could use to help support other developments in areas with low incomes, high unemployment and a lack of new construction. 

James says the vast majority of the area that would qualify is the east-central area of Kansas City south of the river.

Firefighters Local 42

A committee of the Kansas City, Missouri City Council approved  a contract with Firefighters Local 42 on Wednesday.

But the union says it is not the deal they agreed to.

The rift prompted hot words from the union president and an icy atmosphere at the committee table.

Upon hearing the proposal City Manager Troy Schulte asked the finance committee to endorse, Local 32 president Bill Galvin's first comment was, “This right here is the first I've seen of this ordinance.  To me this is bargaining in bad faith.”

KC Aviation Department

Airport consultants focused on two possible layouts for a new terminal Tuesday as they explained to the Kansas City Council Airport Committee why those designs would meet airline needs. 

One was configured in an “H” shape, while the other could be described as shaped like a shallow letter “V.”

Neither represented a formal final design, but Ken Brown of the terminal design firm PGAL used them to explain how their footprints would be compatible with airplane traffic and security and baggage systems.

Excavation safety group - dlickr.com

An ordinance advanced by a Kansas City Council committee on Wednesday would require contractors to pluck the unsightly markers when their work is done.

Utility line excavation markers are required by law,  but the fluttering swatches of yellow and orange that  line lawns along roadways often remain long after they have served their purpose. 

Their wire stems may pose mowing hazards for several years to come.

Public Works Director Sherri McIntyre said the ordinance will require the removal of the flags before the contractor can close the permit on the job site.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

After more than a year of uncertainty, recommendations on the future of Kemper Arena are just weeks away. 

Kansas City Council Economic Development Chair Scott Taylor said on Wednesday that a special committee is wrapping up its work and he expects to submit recommendations to the full council sometime in March. 

Taylor said there will also be more public hearings before a final decision is made, including one to be held at Kemper Arena.

Landrum & Brown / Kansas City Aviation Department

An increase of $3 a day at some airport parking facilities and a modest but unspecified ticket price increase would be the only effect of a new billion-dollar terminal on travel costs. That was the essence of a report aviation officials presented to the Kansas City Council Airport Committee on Tuesday.

Aviation officials presented a financing scenario involving revenue bonds, federal grants and airline participation. 

Their numbers were based on 3 percent inflation, 6 percent interest rates on the bonds and a passenger traffic gradual increase of 40 percent by 2045.

A group that challenged tax breaks for a $310 million downtown Kansas City convention hotel announced Tuesday that it will not challenge a judge's ruling that the city does not have to honor their petition drive to force a public vote. 

A Jackson County judge ruled in agreement with the city that though Citizens for Responsible Government collected the required number of valid signatures to get the measure on the ballot, doing so could require the city to illegally default on already-signed development agreements.

cooltagged.com

A proposal for tax incentives to bring production of films, television series episodes and major TV commercials to Kansas City cleared a City Council committee Wednesday.

The details of the plan have been in the making for several months at the Film and Media Office of the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Development chair Scott Taylor told the Finance Committee that Kansas City is losing talent and production contracts to cities that offer the incentives. A particularly frustrating case, he said was losing a movie set in Kansas City to Atlanta.

A bill being heard this week by a Missouri legislative committee promotes shared parenting – a flexible arrangement in which children spend as close to equal time as possible with each parent after separation or divorce.

The legislation proposes adding language to the state’s child custody law to emphasize that the best interest of the child is equal access to both parents – a change that would encourage judges to pay more attention to research on the best interest of children.

Rendering courtesy of Crawford Architects

Airline consultants have rejected a proposal to renovate existing KCI terminals rather than build a new one.

Consultant Lou Salomon of AvAirPros told the Kansas City Council Airport Committee Tuesday that the renovation plan lacks the flexibility needed for a forecast 40 percent passenger traffic growth by 2040 and underestimates the costs.

“The major renovations are just less efficient,” Salomon said. “And they cost more – and not just from the initial capital costs perspective.  They cost more to operate and maintain and to finance.”

The Royale Inn at 6th and Paseo
Photo from Google Earth Street Views

Residents of the Northeast area of Kansas City have been trying for more than 15 years to get rid of the Royale Inn Motel. 

The now vacant motel was for years an eyesore, a trysting place, transient motel and the scene of numerous disturbances, drug deals and at least one murder.

“The Royale has been a thorn in the side of the Northeast,” is the way Northeast News Publisher Michael Bushnell put it when addressing a City Council committee on Thursday.

file photo

The “East Brookside” redevelopment plan is rolling forward.

The Kansas City Council Planning Zoning and Economic Development Corporation approved basic redevelopment plans for the area along 63rd Street from Oak to Troost Avenue on Wednesday. 

Google Earth

The full Kansas City Council followed a committee recommendation this week and voted down an ordinance that sought to preserve three apartment buildings in the 4700 block of Summit. 

The final vote was 9-3 not to seek historic status to save the buildings.

United Methodist Church of the Resurrection

A downtown Kansas City mainstream denomination church is bucking the trend of declining religious affiliation and shrinking church attendance.

The United Methodist  Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, established a downtown campus six years ago. 

Currently, Resurrection Downtown meets a brick commercial building at 1522 McGee that looks more like an industrial supply company than a church. But like the mega-church that gave it life, the downtown church is no average storefront church.  

A boutique hotel is planned for the Pendgergast Building and old Pabst brewery.
aprium.com

What may have been the headquarters of Boss Tom Pendergast's bootlegging operations during the prohibition era is slated to be reborn as a boutique hotel.

Pendergast was smart enough to cover those tracks, if the bootlegging rumors were accurate. Officially, the building  at 2101 Central St. housed his non-alcoholic beverage businesses.

The building and the industrial-style building adjacent were build for the Pabst Brewing Company in the early 1900s.

kcmo.org

The committee room in Jefferson City was packed with political, public safety, business and community leaders from Kansas City and St. Louis on Thursday. 

The Senate Ways and Means Committee was accepting testimony on a proposal sponsored by state Senator Kurt Schaefer to outlaw the earnings taxes that both cities.

The ban is supported by St. Louis libertarian activist Rex Sinquefield, who has given hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations to Schaefer and other lawmakers who are backing the plan.

Google Earth

Neighbors called the 1927 English Tudor-revival apartments charming and said they fit the character and history of the west edge of  Kansas City's Country Club Plaza.

Historic Kansas City Foundation preservation enthusiasts said the three half-timbered brick, stucco and stone buildings are examples of the work of prominent female Kansas City architect Nelle Peters and should be saved. 

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Updated after the city council meeting on January 7, 2016.

Now home to the American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the historic 18th and Vine District was reborn from crumbling eastside buildings in the early 1990s.  The sales tax that helped finance its rescue bore the name of Kansas City's first African-American mayor, Emanuel Cleaver, who was then in office.

Jackson County government

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders disclosed to The Kansas City Star in an interview Monday that he will resign Dec. 31 after nine years as the top elected official of the county. 

Sanders told the newspaper that he made the decision because he wants to spend more time with his family and has no plans to run for other public office at this time.  Rather, the article says, he would like to resume his private law practice. 

Wikipedia

A Kansas City Council Committee on Thursday endorsed the long-awaited new Midtown/Plaza Area Plan. Though the plan covers an area from 31st to 55th Street, State Line to Paseo and affects 27 neighborhoods, the peak interest was in what it prescribed for Kansas City's landmark Country Club Plaza.

This has been a matter of extra concern to Plaza purists because the second and current owner of the Plaza, Highwoods Properties, is offering it for sale.

Hyatt Hotels

Citizens for Responsible Government, the organization that collected petition signatures to send financing plans for a downtown Kansas City convention hotel has filed suit attempting to force the City Council to put their initiative on a ballot.

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