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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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.

Kansas City and Uber have come to terms on regulations for the ride-hiring network and its drivers. 

The compromise ordinance was unveiled at the council business session Thursday and passed shortly after 5 p.m. It replaces one passed two weeks ago that prompted Uber to say it was being forced out of Kansas City.

The city agreed to drop the permit fee for individual drivers for companies willing to pay a $45,000 annual blanket fee. 

Rendering courtesy of Cordish Co.

A second Power and Light District apartment tower at Truman Road and Grand has won big dollar incentives from the Kansas City council.

The council Thursday approved underwriting construction of the 24-story Two Light luxury apartment tower and its parking garage for up to $17 million and endorsed what amounts to 50 percent property tax abatement for 25 years.

Councilman Jim Glover told colleagues to think of it not as a subsidy, but an investment.

In its business session  Thursday the Kansas City Council heard a report on the future of the now mostly vacant Bannister Federal Complex in south Kansas City. Kevin Breslin of Centerpoint Properties, which is assisting the GSA in repurposing the facility said the existing Bannister buildings, with the exception of the facilities occupied by the U.S. Marines,  will be torn down.

Breslin said the old structures have outlived their usefulness and starting fresh will allow for a more aggressive environmental clean-up while allowing private businesses to re-create the complex in a manner that suits its "next future."

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Kansas City, Missouri's newly approved budget for the coming year still calls for fewer people and no raises.  But last minute revisions eased some of the cuts in the original version.

The $1.5 billion spending plan the city council approved still pumps $80 million into long neglected pension funds and honors a fire department call for $10.5 million more to cover overtime and operating expenses. 

But improved collections for ambulance services inspired number crunchers to restore a portion of cuts planned in three notable areas.

flickr user j.s. clark / Creative Commons

The Kansas City city council votes Thursday on putting Kemper Arena on the market nationally as “surplus property.” 

Councilman Ed Ford, who chairs the economic development committee says assuming full-council approval, the city will send out a request for proposals on Kemper in early April, hoping to get at least one feasible offer. 

"If there is none, then the city is going to have to determine whether it makes economic sense to to tear it down or to mothball it, because status quo it's not working.  It's costing the city too much money to keep it open for too few events,” said Ford.

Wikimedia Commons - CC

Two items that have been on the back burner for some time for the Kansas City City Council will move to the foreground next week. 

Ordinances were introduced Thursday addressing the future of Kemper Arena and regulation of ride-share services like Lyft and Uber. 

A committee will start refining an ordinance declaring Kemper Arena “surplus property” and starting a nationwide request for proposals on what to do with it. 

Zenoir/Creative Commons

A request from the hospitality industry to put an end to individual liquor server licenses in Kansas City, Missouri, gets thumbs down from a city council committee. 

Representatives of the Restaurant Association have argued that requiring liquor cards is burdensome for workers and inconsistent with policies of other municipalities in the metro. But the Public Safety Committee voted 3-2 for only minor changes. 

"You need a liquor card for the job” is something job applicants often hear in Kansas City, Mo. But City Councilman Scott Wagner has introduced an ordinance to change that.

Kansas City requires the personal licenses for people who sell alcohol in the name of public safety – protecting credit cards and personal ID information from someone who has a serious felony record. 

But at a committee hearing on Wednesday, Laura McDonald of the More-Square Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity was one of several witnesses who questioned that logic.

Kansas City, Missouri officials have made their first public comments on the proposed city budget for next year, including the proposed one-year wage freeze.

With a 3.5 percent spending increase in the plan and millions more for the fire department, some are asking why there won't be employee raises. 

City Manager Troy Schulte said it comes down to dollars and cents: raises vs. jobs.

Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James and City Manager Troy Schulte have unveiled their proposal for next year's city budget. 

The mayor and city manager would increase city spending 3.5 percent next year, with the largest area of increase  for the fire department. 

That roughly $10 million is primarily to cover costs of operating the city ambulance system. City communications director Chris Hernandez said more than $700,000 of that is for installing new equipment on fire trucks to create a larger force for medical emergency response. 

The Kansas City, Mo., city council votes Thursday afternoon on on ordinance that would keep a reserve fund for streetcar system expansion planning. 

It is part of plans for spending more than $8 million left over from the $10 million it borrowed to jump-start a streetcar system expansion that voters rejected.

The ordinance would devote most of the unspent bond money to already planned projects including a community center tornado shelter and Bartle Hall roof repairs.

Amayleben / Wikimedia-CC

The matter of digital signs outside of schools and churches in Kansas City, Mo., remains stalled in a Kansas City council committee after a second week of public hearings.

A lot of schools and churches like the idea of digital signs – capable of multiple messages that are easy to change without braving frigid or blistering weather. Some also say they are more effective at communicating with parents and parishioners than the old style letter-board signs.

Kansas City Police Helicopters
City of Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas City, Missouri police helicopters will be able to transmit bird's eye video like media news and traffic copters.

The city has received a nearly $66,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to pay three-fourths of the cost of video capabilities many citizens may have thought the police already had.

Liaison officer Eric Winebrenner explained the downlink system to city council members.

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.

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.

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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