Brian Ellison | KCUR

Brian Ellison

Host/Contributor

Brian Ellison is host of the podcast Statehouse Blend Missouri and regular substitute host of Central Standard and Up to Date. He also contributes to KCUR news coverage, including political reporting, anchoring election night broadcasts and conducting interviews for the "Innovation KC" series. He has served in a variety of roles at KCUR since 2008, including as a producer of Up To Date and The Walt Bodine Show.

An ordained Presbyterian minister, Brian served as pastor of Parkville Presbyterian Church for 13 years and now is executive director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians. A graduate of Harvard University and Princeton Theological Seminary, he is also a freelance writer and an adjunct instructor in preaching at Saint Paul School of Theology.

Ways to Connect

Beautiful Lily/Flickr--CC

The U.S. House is set to take up the farm bill this week, after the Senate passed its version of the bill in early June. Both bills include about $500 billion in spending over five years. Few pieces of legislation can produce such sharp divisions, even by Washington standards—but few could have such immediate, significant impact on so many Americans.

Justin Hobson / WikiCommons

Last month, as we all know, a series of tornadoes devastated areas around Oklahoma City, with dozens killed and hundreds injured over several days of storms.

Among the casualties were three men who were well known in the meteorological community and, indeed, to television audiences: Storm chasers Tim Samaras, his son Paul Samaras and Carl Young were doing interviews and sending back footage the day of the EF-3 El Reno storm that changed direction on them and killed them.

In light of these tragic events we wonder, just what is a storm chaser anyway?

minds-eye/Flickr--Creative Commons

They spread disease and pollute the land. They devour birds and baby fauns. They have sharp teeth, weigh 300 pounds, and are now in 38 states across the US. It sounds like the stuff of nightmares, but the wild pig is real and they cause damage to farms and rural communities throughout America.

Riv / Flickr -- Creative Commons

It’s a question as old as humanity itself—why, in a world full of good options, do people still do bad things? Why do people who haven’t done anything wrong end up suffering, while those who use others for their own gain end up succeeding? And for heaven’s sake, how do we explain a Hitler? Or a Stalin? Or Idi Amin? How do we explain evil?

"Veteran in transition" Cailey McClurken / veteransinstem.org

They've mastered advanced battlefield operations planning. They’ve navigated years of overseas intricacies and family complexities. But now, can they master trigonometry?

The Veteran in STEM program seeks to support veterans in acquiring the education they need to pursue jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields.  While the process of retooling your education to focus on math or science might seem daunting to anybody, only half of STEM jobs require a bachelors degree or higher level of education, the other half typically require associate degrees or specific trade training.  Dean Kevin Truman of the School of Computing and Engineering and Alexis Petri, Co-Principal Investigator and Project Director of the KC BANCS program guide us through the unique supports and programing they've put together to help veterans advance their education and careers.

WhiteRabbitArt / Flickr -- Creative Commons

Just as many fountains as Rome? Perhaps. Whether Kansas City meets or falls short of these accolades the fountains, which began as a practical tool for keeping horses hydrated, have turned into a unique symbol of regional identity and pride. 

But, these fountains are at risk.  With decreasing city parks budgets maintaining these iconic fountains has been difficult. Currently, over half are in need of maintenance and a fourth are in critical condition.

N A I T / Flickr -- Creative Commons

If you're reading this right now you're consuming energy and that energy has to come from somewhere.  Typically, "we’re killing people in foreign lands in order to extract 200-million-year-old sunlight. Then we burn it... in order to boil water to create steam to drive a turbine to generate electricity. We frack our own backyards and pollute our rivers, or we blow up our mountaintops just miles from our nation’s capital for an hour of electricity, when we could just take what’s falling free from the sky.” Those words from Danny Kennedy, the founder of Sunergy, are the heart of any call for more investment in solar energy.  It’s a hot topic and in Kansas City, Missouri were  80 government buildings will soon be leasing solar panels and getting cheaper energy as a result. In light of that we take a look at our regions solar options with Chuck Caisleym, vice president of Marketing & Public affairs at KCP&L and Susan Brown, VP of Public Affairs at Brightergy.

j.o.h.n. walker via flickr

As the school year draws to a close and a new crop of students heads off to college this fall, the age-old challenge of paying for it is on the minds of many. But this year another group is taking up that challenge: Congress, and the President.

On July 1, the interest rate for federal education loans is going to increase from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent if Congress does not take action, which is where bill H.R. 1911 comes in.

This bill proposes tying the interest rate of education loans to the 10-year treasury note rate plus 2.5 percent.

Theresa L Wysocki / Flickr--Creative Commons

So imagine you’ve got a budget for home improvements. You’ve pared it down to the bare bones. You know exactly how much you can afford and you won’t spend any more than that. Now cut that budget in half. What things do you leave behind? And what are your top priorities?

This exact situation is happening to the Missouri Department of Transportation. With their budget being slashed to just about half, MoDOT is preparing to enter maintenance mode.

In 2011, the Army Corps of Engineers faced infrastructure issues, farmland destruction and reservoir management challenges as it dealt with the aftermath of the flooding. Runoff and drought forecasts for the summer show decreasing drought levels across the Midwest plains and increased soil moisture levels. (See here for more predictions from the Missouri DNR.) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Kansas City District produced a good summary of the problems they faced with the flooding and drought of 2011-2012. The Corps also had to defend the maintenance and management of the river’s infrastructure after the 2011 floods.

Most religions have rules, guidance, law of some kind. Christians look to the teachings of Jesus, or the commandments. Jewish people turn to Torah. And Muslims look to Shariah—the code of Islamic law that guides everything from what to eat and how to dress to bigger questions—like resolving marital disputes, or punishing violent crimes.

Grain: A Deadly Business

Mar 27, 2013

In 2011, an explosion at a grain elevator in Atchison, Kansas, killed six people—employees and inspectors there—and rocked a community. Federal prosecutors are now considering charges in the case, but with 2010 the worst year on record, why does this keep happening?

On today's Central Standard, we explore the world of safety and regulation in the grain industry. Investigative reports this week from NPR News' Howard Berkes, Harvest Public Media's Jeremy Bernfeld, and the Kansas City Star's Mike McGraw, have revealed that hundreds have died in explosions and drownings in grain elevators—even as business is thriving, including here in Kansas—which is second in the nation in grain deaths.

  It’s a mad, mad, mad March. And there’s nowhere more crazy about college basketball than Kansas City. From the Sprint Center to Municipal Auditorium, up and down the Power and Light District to living rooms everywhere, college hoops are here. Today on Central Standard, we tip off a conversation about the tournaments that are dominating our airwaves, namely the NCAA tournament that starts today and includes games later this week here in town, but also a tournament that gets less press but has been in town longer—much longer—the NAIA, whose championship game is tonight.

So are you planning to die? Are you ready for when you end up in the great beyond?  More to the point, what about your assets that don’t make the trip with you? Today on Central Standard, we’re talking about the not exactly uplifting, but nevertheless important topic of estate planning. Our Cash Money Crew is here and … you may not believe this ... but it’s not such a downer, really!  Financial planners will tell you that some good decisions now, now while you’re in the prime of life, can have an impact down the road: You can feel secure, live more comfortably now and through your retirement, and have an impact beyond your earthly years.

The Science of Energy

Mar 12, 2013

Decades ago, scientists and energy experts predicted that 2013 would include flying cars and that by now, oil would be a thing of the past. But the state of our energy consumption in America has stayed somewhat the same, while causing intense political discussion on the matter.


Abolishing Daylight Savings

Mar 12, 2013

Saturday night, as our clocks sprung forward and we lost an hour of our day, one man in Missouri was hoping this would be the last Daylight Savings Time he went through. Representative Delus Johnson of St. Joseph, Mo. proposed a bill that would extend the Daylight Savings change all year long.


Westboro Defectors

Mar 11, 2013

The Westboro Baptist Church is notorious in the area and nation-wide for their protests of soldier's funerals and anti-gay messages. Fred Phelps and his followers, based in Topeka, travel the country spreading their messages of hate and last year a petition to label them an official hate group was introduced.


The Religious Diet

Mar 11, 2013

As we find ourselves in the midst of Lent and with Passover on the horizon, the idea of food and the role it plays in various religions is on many people's minds. Why do Catholics not eat meat on Fridays, why do Jews not let their bread rise and why do members of Islam have permanent restrictions on what they can eat?


Like any metropolitan city, crime and violence are unfortunately a reality of life in Kansas City. Recently, the KCPD joined forces with many across the metro to organize the NOVA project, an initiative to combat gang violence in Kansas City.

Imagine growing up in a pretty standard nuclear family. Then when you’re 15, your dad announces that he’s gay and that he and your mom are getting a divorce.

  When surveyed, 20 to 25 percent of people admit to having an extramarital affair.  It also is one of the most destructive forces to a  relationship.  Why is this phenomena so common? Our resident psychologist Bruce Liese tackles the common misconceptions about affairs.


The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's traveling exhibit, Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945 opened at the Dean's Gallery at the Miller Nichols Library at UMKC. Stuart Hinds, head of Special Collections for UMKC libraries, joins us to talk about the exhibit and other events the museum is hosting to accompany the exhibit.


African-American Read In

Feb 19, 2013

As part of Black History Month activities, UMKC is hosting an African-American Read In Feb. 20 and 28. Employees of the UMKC library and the public will read aloud from some of their favorite African-American literature and writing.


Financial Behavior

Feb 18, 2013

Paying bills, making purchases and balancing a checkbook all seem like straight forward actions with money. But a person's behavior toward money and wealth and how they integrate it into their lives is a psychological and sociological issue as well.

Today on Central Standard, we talk about conflict, and resolving it. Why is it that our workplaces, our families, even the international community have such trouble getting along? Our resident psychologist Bruce Liese is here to try to help … and to give us some ideas about conflict resolution in our world and in our lives.

Back in the 1960s, long hair, political protests and nudity on stage were all taboo subjects to appear in the theater, but that changed when the musical Hair debuted. Over 40 years later the musical is still provocative to audiences in a contemporary way.

The show is currently on tour and opens in Kansas City tonight at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and runs through Sunday. Music Director Lilli Wosk and Noah Plomgren, who plays Claude, join Brian Ellison to talk about life on tour and how this ground-breaking musical is still relevant to today's audiences.

Central Standard takes a close look at the most recent homeless count in Kansas City and explore the implications of these findings on these often overlooked residents of our communities.  Our guests are Vickie Riddle, Executive Director of Homeless Services Coalition, Ehren Dohler, Kansas City 100,000 Homes Campaign manager and James Ponder, a former client of Dohler's who was once homeless and now lives in an apartment.

  Today we talk about the only thing some people care about from last night’s Super Bowl XLVII coverage: The ads--the hits, the duds, the mildly inappropriate, and the ones that never made it to the air.  Dr. J.

Immigration reform is a hot topic for legislators nationwide, and this week both President Obama and a bipartisan group of senators proposed changes to immigration policy. In a city located in the dead center of the country, it might seem illegal immigration is not the biggest issue facing Kansas City, but that is not the case.

Reverend Adam Hamilton, the Senior Pastor at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, did not believe his assistant when she told him the White House called and asked for his presence at this year's inauguration ceremony. Hamilton gave the sermon at the National Prayer Service, held at the National Cathedral the day after the inauguration ceremonies, which has been a tradition for every inauguration ceremony starting with George Washington.


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