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

In the battle over tax breaks for developers of a downtown Kansas City convention hotel, the ball is once again in the city's court.

The committee of petitioners hand-delivered a letter to the City Clerk on Thursday spelling out in some detail legal arguments that the City Council did not have the right to refuse to honor petition signatures calling for a public vote on the city's financial underwriting of the hotel. 

The letter cites specific sections of the Missouri Constitution as well as court decisions in Missouri and federal courts.


The governing bodies of both Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas, voted Thursday to raise the legal age for buying tobacco and electronic nicotine-vapor products from 18 to 21 in their communities.

Advocates have said studies indicate that as many as 95 percent of adult smokers say they started smoking prior to age 21. 

They also have pointed to studies showing that 18-year-old smokers often become the “connection” for younger members of their high school social network, some as young as 14.

A Kansas City council committee says concerns over the Paris terrorist attacks may help the city to get back on the list of metropolitan areas receiving federal emergency response grants.

The Kansas City area received as much as $8 million a year in Homeland Security money during the first seven years of  the Urban Areas Security Initiative, but the grants dwindled after 2010, with the city getting $1 million in some years and nothing in others, including 2015.

Graphic courtesy of Hyatt Hotels

Only one Kansas City council member voted Thursday to honor the petitions and submit the city's plans for tax incentives and other financial considerations to the voters. 

The Northland's Heather Hall said she simply did not believe the downtown convention hotel would produce the economic benefits developers speak of and that she has concerns about the effect on local businesses, particularly in the catering industry.

Kansas Law Enforcement photo

The Kansas Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of a convicted serial killer Friday. And the state’s Attorney General considers the decision a big victory.

Robinson was accused of killing seven women and a teenage girl in Kansas and Missouri, and the case received national attention 15 years ago when the bodies of some of the women were discovered in barrels on Robinson’s property and in a rented storage space.

Rendering courtesy of BNIM

The Kansas City council has approved tax breaks for a proposed building renovation in the Crossroads Arts District that has become a focal issue for groups that oppose incentives that the school district cannot afford. 

Ironically, the same project is being hailed as breaking new ground in the sustainability and green architecture movement.

The $13.2 million project would transform an old warehouse building into a headquarters and green architecture showcase for local architecture firm BNIM. 

The legal review committee of the Kansas City Council has accepted City Attorney Bill Geary's opinion and is recommending that the council not honor a recent petition drive that sought to force a public vote on the planned downtown convention hotel.

Geary opined that the state gives the council the power to approve Tax Increment Financing and allowing voters to overrule that would violate the state constitution. 

The Kansas City Council on Thursday grudgingly repealed the minimum wage ordinance it passed in July. 

The council instead endorsed efforts to get the minimum wage increased at the state level.

Council members unanimously said the repeal did not indicate abandonment of the minimum wage cause, and that the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the Missouri General Assembly.

Photo courtesy of Hyatt Hotel Corp.

Both groups opposing the planned 800-room convention hotel adjacent to Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City say they are standing their ground.

The City Council heard lengthy presentations on Thursday from city staff as well as representatives of the developers of the proposed hotel and convention and tourism officials.


The council is gathering information in preparation for a decision on what to do about a petition drive for a public vote on whether the city should be financially involved in developing the hotel.



A new proposal to use public financing to renovate a building in the Crossroads Arts District received unexpected opposition this month, surprising the respected Kansas City architectural firm at the heart of the proposal and its developer. 


The most adamant objections to the proposed tax increment financing, or TIF, plan were from school district parents and the Urban Summit of Greater Kansas City. But Kansas City School District Interim Superintendent Al Tunis joined in, asking to renegotiate a payment-in-lieu-of taxes agreement on the building.


Hyatt Hotels

As the Kansas City Council struggles with whether to honor a successful petition drive for a public vote on a planned downtown convention hotel, developers tell the council a delay for the election could be a deal-breaker.

Among the stakeholders in a lengthy Thursday presentation to city council members was Steven Rattner, a finance specialist with the developer of the 800-room hotel. Rattner rold the council that the developer began spending significant time and money on the project in May, after a detailed agreement was signed with the city.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Updated, Tuesday 7:14 a.m.:

Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi identified the two Kansas City firefighters killed in a blaze Monday night as Larry J. Leggio and John V. Mesh. 

Leggio was a 17-year veteran who worked on Truck 2, Station 17, as a fire apparatus operator. Mesh was a 13-year veteran firefighter assigned to Pumper 10.

An emotional Berardi said Leggio leaves behind his wife and mother. Mesh had a wife and four young daughters.

Kansas City's one percent earnings tax is up for renewal in 2016.  Since the passage of Missouri ballot initiative “Proposition A” in 2010, Kansas City and St. Louis must submit their e-taxes to the voters for renewal every five years. 

Kansas City voters overwhelmingly voted to renew the tax in April 2011. But uncertainty over whether it will be renewed again next year looms over city budgets and the city's credit rating.

Martin Gonzales - Wikipedia

Why doesn't the city of Kansas City, Missouri, foreclose on neglected properties and find buyers that will revitalize them?  After all, it's a common sight around parts of the city: boarded-up property that someone has clearly broken into, stripping out the wiring and plumbing, or even living inside.

The problem is that the current Missouri nuisance property foreclosure law defines “nuisance” only in terms of whether a property is structurally sound, says Holly Dodge of the city's legal department.


With Kansas City revved on Royals post-season play, a city council committee laid the groundwork for phase two of the development of the planned Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy in Parade Park near 18th and Vine.

Mayor Sly James announced the $14 million baseball project in late September, explaining that funding for phase one was in place. The Royals and, Major League Baseball had committed $2 million and the MLB Players Association another $1 million. The state of Missouri and the city were to combine resources to match those contributions.

Hyatt Hotels

Faced with the prospect of a lawsuit from petitioners if a referendum on a new downtown hotel does not go on the ballot, Kansas City council members worry that more costly lawsuits could result if they honor the 1,700 petition signatures filed. 

The outgoing city council approved the deal on the $311 million, 800-room hotel in July.  The deal involves $164 million in city participation, but the commitment does not add to the city's debt load, and City Manager Troy Schulte says all city cash obligations would come from tourism taxes, not from the general fund.

The South Kansas City Alliance will hold its second annual Economic Development Summit Saturday at Avila University. 

Alliance leaders say the aim of the conference is to encourage hopeful entrepreneurs while building relationships between area residents and businesses. 

Jarrett Stewart / Flickr-CC

A Prospect Avenue bus rapid transit corridor moved a step closer to reality at Thursday's meeting of the Kansas City City Council.

The resolution passed by the Kansas City council commits to partial matching funds so the ATA can proceed with its application for a $30 million federal grant to expand the “MAX” bus rapid transit system to what is now the city's second-most utilized bus route.

Councilman Jermaine Reed said the Prospect line has about 6,000 regular riders. The MAX now operates in two corridors: Troost Avenue and Main Street.

Sonya Keys / Flickr-CC

Kansas City's world-famous Country Club Plaza shopping and entertainment district is up for sale. 

Owner Highwoods Corporation released a statement late Wednesday afternoon saying it is seeking to divest itself of retail properties and focus on investing in office space, which the company says produces more return per dollar invested.

A Kansas City council committee advanced a rare redevelopment plan Wednesday: one that would renovate 304 apartments in the urban core. 

The issue is blight, one all too common in Kansas City's 3rd District.

Green Village Apartments along Topping between 17th and 23rd Streets were built in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

The 304-unit complex was kept nearly full for more than 20 years, but now 70 percent of the apartments are vacant.

Roxsen Koch of the Polsinelli law firm spoke on behalf of the developer who wants to renovate the 1-4 bedroom apartments. 

City of Kansas City, Missouri

This week's promise that the first of Kansas City's four streetcars will be delivered by Oct. 29 improved the chances of having the starter line open as hoped for Big-12 Tournament crowds in March.

A delivery date moved back from June to December would have made a March start virtually impossible.

City Manager Troy Sculte, streetcar project director Ralph Davis and Streetcar Authority Executive Director Tom Gerend all vowed Thursday to do their best to meet the March start goal.  And all believed it is possible if everything goes right. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The deadline has passed, and two proposals are in, but it may be a while before there's a decision on the fate of Kemper Arena in Kansas City's West Bottoms.

City Council Economic Development Chair Scott Taylor says city staff is vetting the proposals to make sure they are complete and thorough. Until that is determined, limited information about the two applicants will be released.

City of Kansas City. MO

Two city officials who went to Elmira, New York, to check on progress and attempt to speed up the process, if possible, have returned with better, if not definitely good news.  CAF U.S.A., the company custom-building four streetcars for Kansas City's starter line says the first car should be delivered by Oct. 29.

Earlier, CAF had alerted the city to the fact that delivery could be as late as December.  Because of DOT testing requirements, that would have made it unlikely Kansas City could have had a streetecar running in time for the Big 12 Tournament in March.

KC Aviation Department?Steve Bell

The Kansas City Council's new Airport Committee is making it clear that the airlines will not dictate the future of KCI. 

The committee held its first meeting on Tuesday, and the main course was a report from Aviation Director Mark VanLoh on the history and status of the airport.

Councilwoman Teresa Loar was perhaps the most assertive with VanLoh when he suggested that since the airlines will pay for whatever is done, they should have the most say in whether the airport terminal is renovated or replaced.

HDR / City of Kansas City

Kansas City could get more information on when its new streetcars will be delivered as early as Tuesday.

Tom Gerend, executive director of the Streetcar Authority and City Engineer Ralph Davis are in Elmira, New York at facilities of CAF U.S.A on what would be a routine progress visit – except the first streetcar was due in June. All four were supposed to be delivered by this month.

The Streetcar Authority Board meets on Thursday and Davis and Gerund hope to be able to report on whether the streetcar line can open in time for the Big-12 tournament as planned.

Chantex/Public Domain

It can be pretty frustrating: you have people in and it rains and the roof leaks. 

That is what has been happening for several years at Bartle Hall according to Kansas City Director of Convention and Entertainment Facilities Oscar McGaskey.

Mc Gaskey told the City Council Finance Committee on Wednesday that the roof at Bartle is beyond patchwork repairs and “in bad shape.”

He says exhibitors keep asking him when it will be repaired.

KCUR file photo

Red light traffic cameras could be coming back to life in Kansas City, Missouri. 

The cameras have been turned off for nearly two years as the city awaited decisions from the state Supreme Court on cases challenging the constitutionality of traffic camera ordinances in the St. Louis area. 

The question on the city's mind: whether the cameras themselves are unconstitutional.

The decision came Tuesday. Though the ordinances in the other communities were declared unconstitutional, the cameras were not. 

City of Kansas City. MO

Kansas Citians are more satisfied than ever, according to the latest Citizen Satisfaction Survey. And the city held events Thursday to thank both the citizenry and the employees who delivered the customer-pleasing performance.

Kate Bender of the office of performance management says the best gains were in the most important areas. 

Lane4 Properties

Updated August 14, 2015

For long-time south Kansas City residents, the faded shopping center at Holmes and Red Bridge Road is a sad sight to behold.  Once a popular destination for shopping, dining, an ice cream cone, a movie or bowling, Red Bridge is now almost a ghost town with 80 percent of the retail space in its two main sections vacant. The bowling alley, later converted to office space, is also empty and wears a huge banner proclaiming “29,948 square feet for lease.”

Willoughby Design, Inc.

The Kansas City streetcars could be very late arriving. And Mayor Sly James says that is becoming a “critical issue.”

City officials say they are having “very strong conversations” with CAF USA, the company building the streetcars after CAF USA notified the city that there could be a “significant delay” beyond the September delivery date for the first car. That date had already been moved back from June.

The city was hoping to have two cars tested and in operation for visitors to the Big 12 Tournament in March.