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
7:04 am
Fri December 12, 2014

Compromise: Put Leon Jordan's Name On Campus, Not Police Station

The Kansas City Council has come up with a compromise they hope will satisfy those who wanted the new East Patrol police station named after Leon Jordan, a former police officer and the founder of Freedom, Inc, while also satisfying those who opposed it.

Councilman Jermaine Reed explained the idea: name the campus, not the police station.

A parade of black community leaders and former council members spoke in favor of the naming to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  All cited the historic contributions made by Jordan to the city and to law enforcement.

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Government
7:20 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Kansas City To Extend Pension Benefits To Same-Sex Couples

Update, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11:

The Kansas City, Mo., City Council voted Thursday to extend city pension benefits currently offered to couples in conventional marriages to legally-married same-sex couples.

“So this is just one more example of our commitment to being inclusive to all of our citizens in Kansas City,” Councilwoman Jan Marcason said before the unanimous vote.

The original post continues below.

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Government
6:03 am
Wed November 26, 2014

American Royal Withdraws Kemper Arena Replacement Proposal

The fate of Kansas City's Kemper Arena is perhaps in more doubt than ever after the American Royal Association board of directors withdrew its proposal that the arena be torn down and replaced with a smaller one.

Kansas City, Mo., city council committee chair Ed Ford received a letter from the Royal's attorneys Monday indicating that the association was scrapping its proposal and had no desire to engage in future discussions with the city.  The reason cited was "negative dialogue ... detrimental to the American Royal and its core mission."

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Government
11:51 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

American Royal Kemper Plan Faces Opposition

The ongoing struggle between the Kansas City Council and the American Royal to decide what to do with Kemper Arena continues.
Credit Americasroof / Wikimedia Commons

A special committee of the Kansas City Council held its first hearing Thursday on the American Royal proposal to replace Kemper Arena. The idea of demolishing the old arena and building a smaller one met some determined opposition.

Representatives of the American Royal and Sporting Kansas City said their plan is a boost for a venerable institution, youth sports and the West Bottoms. 

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Government
5:40 pm
Wed October 29, 2014

Foutch Withdraws Proposal To Convert Kemper For Youth Sports

Kemper Arena
Credit Flickr, Creative Commons

A big surprise in a city council committee meeting Wednesday afternoon:

After weeks of discussions about the future of Kemper Arena and the American Royal Complex, Foutch Brothers Developers sent a statement to the council that, due to circumstances beyond its control, it no longer was able to pursue a plan to convert the aging arena into a youth sports facility.

But it's not an automatic win for an American Royal plan to tear down Kemper and replace it with a new, smaller arena, according to committee chair Ed Ford.

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Election 2014
7:00 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Both Sides Abandon Kansas City Sales Tax Ballot Questions

There have been no ads promoting the taxes and no campaign opposing them, but there are two questions going before Kansas City, Missouri, voters on Nov. 4.

So why are they on the ballot? Questions 1 and 2 are the legacy of a transit activist and a 3-year court battle. The 1/4-cent and 1/8-cent sales taxes are the ruins of Clay Chastain's successful 2011 light rail initiative petition drive.

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Government
8:16 am
Fri October 24, 2014

City Council Reacts To Developer's Federal Fair Housing Complaint

Kansas City is offering some assurances to a developer who filed a complaint with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Eagle Point Development is charging the city with attempting to force low-income African-American tenants out of their apartments on East Armour Boulevard.

The City Council has made no public comment.  But the full body and the Housing Committee spent several hours in closed session this week, presumably discussing the legal issues. 

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Government
6:46 am
Thu October 23, 2014

Consultant says Kemper Youth-Sports Plan Is Sound But Ambitious

Credit CC: SA2.5

A consultant hired by the Kansas City council to analyze whether a plan to convert Kemper arena into a youth sports and fitness complex has told a council committee the plan has great opportunities for exciting success, but Dale Neuberger of TSE Consulting also added a caveat.

"The plan is sound – albeit one that you take a ... a big gulp when you think about the monthly revenue and the monthly members. It's a lot of people and it's a lot of money. And that's somewhat the reality of doing business in this field,” Newberger said.

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Kemper Arena
7:52 am
Sun October 19, 2014

American Royal Still Wants $30 Million For Kemper Plan

City council will decide if Kemper Arena should be renovated or razed soon.
Credit bizjournals.com

The city council found out Friday that they were wrong in their assumption that Cerner Founder Neal Patterson's offer to pay the costs of razing Kemper Arena to make way for a smaller facility would knock down their asking price. 

Attorney Chase Simmons told the council that despite Patterson's remark to a civic group, the American Royal Board has not reduced the amount of incentives it is asking for to $25 million.

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Government
7:47 am
Sun October 19, 2014

Residential Development A Poser For Committees Revising Incentives

Two Kansas City council committees are facing difficulties coming up with hard numbers as they delve into the mayor's request for a more consistent process in determining how large incentives for property developers.

Some school and library districts and many taxpayers complain that the city gives up tax revenues that could be put to good use. Some contend that for-profit businesses should pay their own way, without any tax abatement.

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Government
10:23 am
Sun October 12, 2014

Kansas City Mayor's Proposal To Cut Development Incentives Meets Resistance

A Kansas City council committee began debate this week on Mayor Sly James's proposal to reduce tax abatement for developers. The ordinance he proposed would reduce the maximum for developers from 100 percent to 50 percent.

Concerns were immediately raised by some business and economic development leaders and several council members that cutting back on tax breaks would cast a pall over development, and businesses would build in competing communities.

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Government
7:43 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Missouri Open Carry Law Forces Local Change

The Kansas City, Missouri City Council modified the city's ban on open carry of firearms Thursday to bring it into compliance with a new state law. That law was passed by the Legislature over the veto of Gov. Jay Nixon.

Presenting the changes for a final vote, Councilman John Sharp explained that to continue to prohibit open carry for most people, the city now must exempt some persons.

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Sports
7:38 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Kansas City Officials To Change Baltimore Avenue To 'Royals Avenue'

Councilman Dick Davis and Mayor Sly James show off a new "temporary street sign" for Baltimore Ave.
Credit City of Kansas City, Missouri.

Baltimore Avenue in Kansas City has a new name ... for now.

Mayor Sly James explained the temporary blue and white street signs to his fellow council members during Thursday's business session.

As his colleagues chuckled, James declared, “There are a number of people who live on Baltimore Avenue that do not want to live on Baltimore during the playoffs and they have asked that we try to rename it – so we will be introducing a resolution temporarily renaming Baltimore Avenue to "Royals Avenue.”

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Government
7:55 am
Thu October 9, 2014

Kansas City Council Still Pondering Kemper Arena Future

Credit City of Kansas City, Mo.

A Kansas City Council Committee continues to debate the future of Kemper Arena. And this week's developments included a staff report, a consultant's opinion and a letter with a lot of signatures.

A consulting firm hired by the city filed a report saying a Foutch Brothers proposal to convert Kemper to a youth sports facility was dynamic and achievable, though challenging in part.

From those who side with the American Royal Association and would tear down the arena came a letter of endorsement signed by 75 business and civic leaders.

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Government
5:41 am
Fri October 3, 2014

Kansas City Spent $1.1 Million On Thwarted Streetcar Expansion

The bills are totaled up on what the city of Kansas City, Mo., spent on the voter-rejected Phase 2 of the downtown streetcar system. 

The city council approved contracts with two engineering firms, HDR and Burns and McDonnell, for route planning, studies of construction obstacles and communication with the public.

In total, the two contracts came to about $8.1 million.

Streetcar Project Director Ralph Davis says spending stopped with the defeat of the streetcar expansion at the polls.

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Government
5:37 am
Thu October 2, 2014

Kansas City Ordinance Targets Persons Intimidating Bike Riders, Walkers

A Kansas City City Council committee has finalized an ordinance making it illegal to intimidate walkers and bike riders on Kansas City, Mo., streets.

Maggie Priesmeyer, who volunteers for an organization that helps provide bikes to needy people, was among those who shared stories about rude, intimidating and inconsiderate motorists.

She told the Public Safety Committee the story of a homeless, jobless veteran named Joe who came in for for help with bike repairs wearing a sling and brace of the type used to support a broken collarbone.

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Government
7:48 am
Tue September 30, 2014

Blunt Cool To Federal Restrictions On Police Militarization

Missouri U.S. Senator Roy Blunt made Kansas City his first stop in a statewide series of "listening sessions" with law enforcement officials on Monday. Blunt is co-chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Committee.

The Senator said the first conference included county and suburban Missouri law enforcement leaders as well as those from Kansas City. The discussion, he said, centered on what the federal government could do to help local enforcers in emergency and homeland security crisis situations.

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Government
4:47 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Kansas City Council Toughens Domestic Violence Enforcement

Kansas City, Mo., toughened its protections against domestic violence Thursday, giving city prosecutors the power to take violators of ex parte orders of protection to court.

The ordinance was back on the floor after a revision to address Councilman Ed Ford's insistence that it be modified to make it clear that persons could only be prosecutors if they had received notice of the protection order. He still objected that the revised ordinance could make it difficult for estranged couples to communicate about children or other important matters.

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Government
4:43 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Council Approves Tax Abatement for Kansas City Research Park

A biotech research park in south Kansas City and 25-year property tax abatement to support it gets the go-ahead from the Kansas City council.

The idea of the research park and rezoning to allow it sailed through on Thursday. But the council wrangled over the tax abatement for Oxford on the Blue for about an hour and a half.

Councilman Russ Johnson tried to convince the group it was time to stop - as he put it "giving away the farm."

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Government
8:13 am
Thu September 11, 2014

Tax Breaks Advance For Biotech Research Park

Tax abatement for a 344-acre biotech office park south of the Cerner Three Trails Campus has cleared committee and advances to the city council floor.

The Plans Zoning and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday agreed with PIEA development authorities that Oxford on the Blue merits 26-year property tax abatement.

The proposal calls for 100 percent abatement for 10 years and 50 percent for an additional 15 year, but Councilman Ed Ford explained that not every part of the project is expected to get the full 25-year break.

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Government
7:48 am
Thu September 4, 2014

Kansas City Ordinance Will Let Municipal Courts Enforce Ex Parte Orders

Updated Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Kansas City City Council is seeking to further curb domestic violence by letting the municipal courts enforce orders made by judges without all parties present, also known as ex parte orders.

The ordinance the public safety committee approved Wednesday makes violating any ex-parte order a municipal offense.

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Government
6:13 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

Pat Roberts Faces Tough U.S. Senate Race After Field Narrows

Sen. Pat Roberts
Credit Wikimedia Commons -- CC

A Wednesday shake-up in Kansas politics even has seasoned pundits amazed. 

Chad Taylor, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate, has withdrawn from the race, leaving Kansas Republican Pat Roberts facing his toughest political test in decades.

Steve Kraske, host of Up To Date on KCUR and Kansas City Star political commentator, says the change spells bad news for the incumbent.

"Pat Roberts is suddenly in very deep trouble in Kansas," Kraske says. "His polling numbers have not been good. He was ahead only because he was in a three-way contest."

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Government
8:00 am
Fri August 29, 2014

Kansas City Council Repeals Outsourcing Of Ambulance Billing

Faced with a successful referendum drive that could force the repeal of plans to outsource Kansas City ambulance service billing, the city council has repealed the plan.

The issue was contentious from the start. City Manager Troy Schulte proposed having a private company manage the billing because, he said, it would increase revenues from insurance collections while saving money. 

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Government
12:32 am
Fri August 22, 2014

Kansas City Council Sidesteps Chastain Lawsuit Threat, Reaffirms Ballot Language

Legal maneuvering continued Thursday over a court order to put a Clay Chastain light rail proposal on the Kansas City ballot. The city still appeared to stay a step ahead of the perennial activist.

After the Kansas City Council voted to put the two sales taxes Clay Chastain proposed to pay for his light rail initiative on the ballot with no mention of the plan or light rail, Chastain threatened to sue charging that the council failed to give the public the required 24 hours notice of their final vote.

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Transportation
11:56 am
Mon August 18, 2014

Transit Benefits Could Become Condition For KC Companies Seeking Incentives

The Kansas City Council could rule to make public transit benefits a requirement for large companies seeking incentives from the city.
Credit Stephen Rees/Flickr-CC

The Kansas City city council is considering making group public transit benefit plans a requirement for companies to get economic development incentives. 

"UMKC —All the students have through their student ID a bus pass. That actually where this idea started," says transit chair Russ Johnson.

Johnson says companies with more than 100 employees would have to provide employee bus passes to get the incentives. The cost would be up to 0.1 percent of company payroll.

The plan, he says, would help support public transit, thereby boosting economic development.

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Government
8:54 am
Fri August 15, 2014

Tear Down Kemper Arena, American Royal Insists

The American Royal is sticking to its guns, insisting that Kemper Arena be torn down to make way for a new, smaller arena.

A council committee was looking favorably at a Foutch Brothers Developers' plan for a youth sports facility would save Kemper Arena. But the American Royal's plan now includes a youth sports aspect backed by Sporting Kansas City. And given that, plus disruption to the parking area and the annual barbecue contest, American Royal chairman Mariner Kemper says the old arena has to go.

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Government
8:43 am
Fri August 15, 2014

Chastain Rail Plan To Voters With No Mention Of Light Rail

Clay Chastain's latest light rail proposals will go to the voters in November as the Missouri Supreme Court ordered, but not in a form voters would easily recognize.

The city council is taking advantage of a loophole in the court order that allows them not to mention a plan or even “light rail.” Instead, one tax initiative is listed as for “capital improvements” and the other for “public transportation.”

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Government
1:37 am
Thu August 14, 2014

Sanders Confident On Katy Trail Expansion To Kansas City

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders says a deal is in place with the Union Pacific Railroad to extend the Katy Trail the 25 miles from its present terminus to the Truman Sports Complex.

That would not only make it possible to hike or bike to St. Louis, but, Sanders says, also is a major step toward an area light rail system.

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Government
1:12 am
Tue August 12, 2014

SEC Charges Kansas With Securities Fraud

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Kansas with fraud Monday for failing to inform purchasers of state bonds about underfunding of the state employees pension fund.

The charges centered on the sale of $273 million in bonds in 2009 and 2010.

The Brownback administration quickly released a statement saying that the risk  disclosure is now being made and strides have been made toward better pension system funding.

Kansas City securities attorney Diane Nygard says though the SEC did not issue a fine the problem is not completely solved.

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Government
7:35 am
Fri August 8, 2014

Kansas City Council Committee Hears Plan To Save Kemper Arena

A Kansas City council committee responded favorably Thursday to a proposal to convert Kemper Arena into a youth sports complex, but it's too early to declare the aging arena safe from the wrecking ball.

Developer Steve Foutch told the council committee: there's no need to tear down Kemper to make way for a new, smaller American Royal complex, there's plenty of room for two separate arenas to coexist.

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