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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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. 

HDR / City of Kansas City

Kansas City and Cincinnati are in it together. Their streetcars are being built by the same company as part of the same order – to be delivered next month – allowing both cities a year for required testing before initiating rider service in 2016.

But CAF USA, the company building the streetcars said earlier this month delivery could be late. Leading to speculation the grand opening schedules would have to be pushed back.

Kansas City officials had little to say except that they had put the pressure on CAF to deliver on time or close to it.

dachs2danes.com /Creative Commons

A dog sweltering in a locked car on a 95 degree day – or tethered in the yard by a heavy chain for hours with no water. It's agonizing for an animal lover to see those sights. 

To avoid such scenarios, Kansas City is asking for help with improving its animal control ordinance. It contains the city's statutory rules on animal neglect and abuse.

Like animal lovers and animal rights activists, city leaders are frustrated. Responding to calls from concerned citizens, the city animal shelter took in 3900 abused or neglected animals last year. 

Cassie Mundt

The worn, forlorn Teddy bear clearly misses the little girl with him in the photograph from nearly 110 years ago. Mable was her name.

But more little girls will be coming now. Kansas City's Toy and Miniature Museum is open again.

After a year of renovation and redesign, the National Toy and Miniature Museum at 5235 Oak reopened Saturday.

Scott Wagner / LinkedIn

Kansas City's next Mayor ProTem is a Northlander. 

Mayor Sly James appointed the members and chairs of 11 Kansas City council committees on Thursday, and 1st District Councilman Scott Wagner got the nod to both be Mayor Pro Tem and to chair the important Finance Governance and Ethics Committee. 

The Northland is an economically robust and rapidly growing area and its residents have often expressed feelings of being given second-tier treatment by a council dominated by south-of-the-river seats. The last Northland Mayor Pro Tem was Bill Skaggs during the administration of Mark Funkhouser. But both Alvin Brooks, who proceeded Skaggs, and Cindy Circo, who succeeded him were from south of the river.

Caroline Kull / KCUR

A group opposing the new Kansas City, Missouri minimum wage ordinance have effectively blocked its implementation. 

Opponents of a higher minimum wage have filed only 100 of the 3400 signatures they need to send the repeal measure to the voters, but Caitlin Adams of Jobs With Justice believes there's more to the strategy than just getting it on the ballot.

“What this does is delay enforcement and implementation of the bill. It means it holds up a whole lot of Kansas City folks getting a raise until this gets figured out,” said Adams.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr-CC

An often easy crime – at least in the past, in Kansas City, Missouri — was to pawn stolen items for cash at a pawn shop.

Detective Jeff Mehrer says when he makes the connection in a case and goes to the shop, the items have usually been sold. 

The person who brought them in likely used a phony name and pawn shops are not required to keep records of who buys things. Your stuff is gone. Not recoverable.

As expected, the full Kansas City Council approved financing arrangements for a proposed downtown convention hotel on Thursday.

One by one, the council members each spoke in favor or the convention hotel. Then the body voted unanimously to issue $35 million in bonds for construction, provide $4.9 million worth of land between Bartle Hall and the Kauffman Center, and endorse property tax abatement for the hotel.

Proposed Convention Hotel
Hyatt Hotels

The full Kansas City Council is expected to vote Thursday on underwriting and tax abatement for a new downtown Hyatt convention hotel. 

A council committee on Wednesday approved a $35 million cash contribution, to be financed with bonds.  The bonds would be paid off from convention and tourism taxes.

That funding, plus tax breaks and a $4.5 million contribution of city-owned land would add up to more than half of the expected $311 million project cost.

The Kansas City, Missouri Election Board has completed its recount of ballots in the recent 4th district at-large city council race, and the results have not changed.

The recount found that former Jackson County Executive Katheryn Shields defeated incumbent Jim Glover by 173 votes. A total of almost 33,000 ballots were cast in the race citywide. 

Glover had requested the recount when the first count showed that he had lost by less than one percent of the total vote. The first count had him losing by 132 votes.

Neighbors and parishioners continued to do verbal battle with the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph as a Kansas City Council committee revisited the proposal to replace  the former St. Francis School with student apartments.

On Wednesday, the committee tossed the matter to the full City Council.

A guarantee of 55 more parking spaces for the St. Francis Xavier Church didn't appease opposition to the proposed 235-bedroom residential building. Neighborhood groups and church members have battled successive versions of the proposal for three years. 

Wikipedia Commons/K.C. Star

The Kansas City Council will vote next week on extending the tax abatement on the Kansas City Star's printing plant for another 15 years. 

A council committee endorsed the extension, though an advisory board did not.

The Chapter 353 Advisory Board said tough times in the newspaper industry notwithstanding, the Star received the 10-year tax abatement in the spirit of the law involved:  to end blight at 15th and Oak streets. 

With the building in place, the board said, the blight is now gone and the newspaper is not entitled to any more tax relief.

Text messaging 911 service is likely to come to one part of the metropolitan area within the year. But the startup will involve a special kind of texting technology for deaf persons using landline phones.

In a report to the Kansas City City Council, MARC Public Safety Director Keith Faddis says the main focus of early testing is mainly in Johnson County and on the TTY system.  Johnson County is the location of the Kansas School for the Deaf, and Faddis says it already has considerable TTY message traffic.

Wikipedia Commons/geograph.org.uk

The Kansas City City Council put the finishing touches on an update of city rules on pet potbellied pigs Thursday, and in the process eased some restrictions.

To make it easier to adopt the animals or find homes for strays, pedigree papers are no longer necessary for the pigs . The word of any veterinarian that the pet pig is of the Vietnamese potbellied variety will suffice. 

The weight limit of 95 pounds was removed.

An attempt by the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to circumvent three rejections from the City Plan Commission met strong citizen opposition in a Kansas City Council committee hearing Wednesday.

Members of the St. Francis Xavier Church and neighbors objected to the plan to build a 237-bedroom “Catholic-oriented living experience” for college students at the site of the former St. Francis School at 53rd Street and Troost Avenue.  Objections included parking problems, population density, design and the basic premise itself.

file photos

The Tuesday Kansas City, Missouri City Council election ballot features six races that do not have incumbent candidates.  One of those is for the 5th District At-Large seat, where Lee Barnes and Dennis Anthony square off in their first bids for membership in the city's governing body.

An ordinance that met significant opposition from some building owners has passed The Kansas City Council. Owners of large buildings in Kansas City, Missouri will be required to make information public on energy and water consumption. 

The reporting program will begin with municipal buildings and voluntary business participants, but by May, 2017 owners of buildings over 100,000 square feet will be required to calculate so-called energy “benchmarks” or face fines. The data goes public in the fall of 2018. 

Wikimedia/Creative Commons

Larger demand for distinctive craft beers is opening up opportunities for smaller breweries.  And the Kansas City, Missouri  city council has taken action to make it easier to open a "nanobrewery."

Hyatt Hotels

Plans for an 800-room, $300 million downtown convention hotel continues to advance at a whirlwind pace. 

The full Kansas City council approved the basics of the deal Thursday, including a contribution of $13 million in city-owned land and $35 million in cash. 

Mayor Sly James said the hotel was part of his pre-election vision, but the plan is not about personal aggrandizement. 

“This was done because everybody on this council, I think, agrees that this was something we needed to get done,” he said.

Sedalia, MO Police Department

The manhunt continues for James Horn, now wanted in connection with the murder of his former girlfriend, Sandra Sutton, and her 17-year-old son. The  bodies of the woman and her son were found in her brother's home in Clinton, Missouri Thursday morning. 

Sutton's stolen car was found in Sedalia just two blocks from the house where she said Horn had kept her prisoner for months, sometimes confining her in a wooden box. Warrants had been out for Horn in connection with those crimes for about three weeks.

Clinton Police Lt. Sonny Lynch said his department had not been aware that the woman was staying in their community.

“She was advised by a couple of different victim advocates to get a protection order and to inform law enforcement of her location. That was done. But she felt as though she was safe over here staying with her family member, and from talking with the victim advocate folks, she just did not feel like she wanted to do that,” Lynch said.

With the August ballot deadline a week away, a group of faith-based and social justice organizations presented more than enough petition signatures to send a “living wage” initiative to Kansas City, Missouri voters.

That would allow it to pass before a Missouri bill forbidding cities from raising the minimum wage could take effect, assuming Gov. Nixon signs the bill into law.

The initiative would raise Kansas City's minimum wage to $10 an hour this year, and to $15 by 2020. 

A Kansas City, Missouri city council committee has endorsed a plan to require owners of buildings over 50,000 square feet to audit their energy consumption each year.

The ordinance requires calculating energy usage and making the data available to the public.

Supporters say that will encourage energy efficiency, but not mandate it.

Still, it would require owners of buildings over 100,000 square feet to start calculating energy usage in 2017 or face fines.

The smaller buildings between 50,000 and 100,000 square feet would have an additional year to comply.

The idea of a unified metro-wide emergency dispatch system for area law enforcement got a first hearing in a Kansas City council committee Wednesday. 

Assistant City Manager Mike Schumacher told the public safety committee that with existing separate dispatch systems, a crime can occur within a block of a police car, but those officers don't get a call because the need is in a different municipality. And the dispatcher for that municipality doesn't even know the officers are close.

Some digital signs will be allowed in Kansas City, Missouri residential neighborhoods under an ordinance passed Thursday. 

The battle went on for nearly two years, according to ordinance sponsor Councilman Ed Ford. Churches and schools said the new signs were modern, convenient and efficient. Homeowners worried that they could be glaring, garish and constantly changing.

Ford said the compromise ordinance allows the signs at institutions with 15-acre sights (10 acres on busy thoroughfares).

A proposal to require Kansas City, Missouri building owners to make energy efficiency figures on the buildings public met mixed reactions at a city council committee hearing Wednesday. 

The plan would require owners to compile energy usage figures and submit them to the city or face a fine for not doing so. Proponents representing environmental groups, civic groups and some building owners said the ordinance would further enhance Kansas City's image as a sustainability-focused community while helping to improve air quality, reduce energy use and make lower rents possible for many low or fixed income apartment dwellers.

Americasroof / Wikimedia -- CC

A Kansas City council committee took the next step in an attempt to sell Kemper Arena Wednesday. 

The plans, zoning and economic development approved a basic schedule for sending out requests for proposals. The invitations would go out next month, with 90 days for responses to come in. 

Chair Ed Ford said to try to get as many offers as possible the city shouldn't put many restrictions on intended use for the old arena.

"We may get someone who wants to put in a beer garden or a mega-church or move it to the riverfront and make an aquarium," he quipped.

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