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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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."

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.

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.

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Chad Taylor, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate, has withdrawn from the race, leaving Kansas Republican Pat Roberts facing his toughest political test in decades.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

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

The Kansas City, Mo., city council voted Thursday to ban open carry of firearms. 

Delivering the pitch that sealed the ban's passage, Mayor Sly James told the council that openly carrying exposed guns is intimidating, invites accidental shootings and killings out of rage, and is particularly undesirable because unlike concealed carry it requires no permit or training.

The public safety committee of the Kansas City city council unanimously endorsed Mayor Sly James's proposal to ban the open carry of firearms Wednesday.

Citing a recent move by the town of Lake Ozark, Mo., to ban open carry because of its negative effect on tourism, the mayor said that if a Missouri city makes its gun ordinances exactly mirror state law, there is no reason open carry can not be outlawed by a local community.

Landrum & Brown / Kansas City Aviation Department

The recommendation to replace the three terminals at the Kansas City International Airport with one new building is still controversial among the general public.

But according to its final report, the mayor's airport advisory commission didn't find it was controversial at all.

Commission co-chairman Dave Fowler said Thursday that the panel began its study of the airport as a group divided in opinion, but finished in nearly complete agreement.

Noah Jeppson / Flickr--CC

 Updated 6:11 p.m.:

The Kansas City City Council has postponed the vote on the Power and Light building so city officials can conduct another hearing on the proposal's financial implications.

The original post begins here:

The Kansas City City Council votes Thursday afternoon on declaring the historic Power and Light Building and several blocks surrounding it a blighted area.

Finding a job may be getting a little easier in Kansas City, Mo., for some people convicted of crimes.

Some of them will no longer have to wait four years to get a “liquor card.”

In Kansas City, all people involved in the sale of alcoholic beverages in restaurants, bars and retail stores have to be licensed by the city.

People convicted of violent crimes are not eligible.  And until now, those with nonviolent felony convictions, including drunk driving, had a four-year wait after they had served any time involved.

City manager Troy Schulte and finance chair Jan Marcason said signing up with

Advanced Data Processing Inc., a company that already does billing for several cities in the metro, would save $800,000 and increase collections.

“For the taxpayers and for the city this is a good deal and I think we should approve it today,” Marcason told her council colleagues.

Courtesy: Hoefer Wysocki Architecture

A Kansas City council committee approved zoning changes for a 14-story office tower on the north edge of the Country Club Plaza on Wednesday. There appears to be no organized effort to stop its construction.

In recent years, plans for a North-Plaza law office high-rise and a luxury hotel were derailed by opposition. But this time there is no business opposition and Dan Cofran of Friends of the Plaza says his group does not want to stop or delay the Block Real Estate project.

درفش کاویانی / Wikimedia-CC

Kansas City's city council turned down an ordinance regulating the distribution of food to the homeless Thursday after it was opposed by social services organizations, including the Salvation Army.

A frustrated Councilman Scott Wagner insisted throughout the debate that the ordinance he spent a year putting together was simply what it appeared to be on the surface – a matter of food safety and sanitation.

But colleague Ed Ford said the discussions that began the process may have doomed the ordinance before it was written.

A number of organizations that help feed the homeless were heard but not heeded Wednesday as a city council committee revisited an ordinance requiring setting standards for charitable food sharing.

The plan would require all individuals and organizations providing food for the homeless to have a city food sharing permit, that all food preparation areas meet city standards. The organizations would be responsible for trash disposal and other sanitation matters.

The pleas of the two dozen people who spoke against the food sharing permit ordinance were often impassioned.

Kansas City, MO Aviation Department

Children's Mercy Hospital joined with federal and local law enforcement Tuesday at Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City, Mo., to promote a 90-day crackdown on people who point hand-held lasers at flying aircraft.

Children's Mercy displayed its “Just for Kids” helicopter as an example of the kind of aircraft that could be downed by a misplaced laser beam in a pilot's eyes. 

Kansas City police helicopter pilot Cord Laws said he could recount five times when the police chopper has been lasered, including during one difficult landing on a helipad. 

Kansas City's development incentives policy becomes more structured under a measure passed by the city council Thursday. The city will adopt a scorecard system to determine which projects get incentives and how large those incentives are.

City of Kansas City, Mo.

There will be no blue ribbon citizens panel to decide the future of Kemper Arena. The Kansas City, Mo., city council Economic Development Committee has decided to tackle the matter itself.

Freshly returned from Thursday's ground breaking for phase one of the streetcar system, the Kansas City city council committed $8 million to getting started on phase two.

Two area firms – HDR Engineering and Burns and McDonnell – were chosen to plan southward and eastward extensions of the streetcar line.

Kansas City, Mo., residents can expect to be asked to renew a sales tax in August. But meeting fire department needs may take more than that.

The quarter-cent sales tax created 14 years ago currently funds less than 14 percent of the fire department's $145 million budget. Personnel costs account for 90 percent of that budget.

City Finance Director Randall Landes says renewing the tax is essential, but even with the renewal the department won't be able to replace aging fire stations and equipment.

 

Via Tsuji / Flickr / Creative Commons

Transportation company Lyft says it will find you a friend with a car via mobile device app. But, the Kansas City, Mo., City Council says the company is running a taxi cab service and trying to loophole its way out of city regulations covering drivers, vehicles and insurance.

Police photo

A 27-year-old Kansas City man faces multiple charges including first-degree murder in a gas station shooting that left a man dead and his ten-year-old son paralyzed.

At a Thursday news conference, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker was visibly moved by the police work that led to the arrest of Dontae Jefferson.

"I asked you for heroes to step up and step forward and help solve this case ... help us bring this family justicen... and that happened," the prosecutor said.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced charges Friday against a man tied to recent highway shootings in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

The afternoon announcement revealed Mohammed Whitaker, 27, of Grandview, Mo., faces 18 felony counts, including class A and class B felonies related to shooting into a vehicle.

The charges stem from a series of at least a dozen shootings on Kansas City area highways. Three people have been hurt as a result.

KMBC

Updated 2:03 p.m. April 18:

On Friday, Jackson County prosecutors named Mohammed Whitaker, 27, as the suspect in the recent highway shootings in Kansas City. He was charged with at least 18 counts tied to a series of at least a dozen shootings.

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A suspect is in custody in connection with a series of at least a dozen shootings on Kansas City highways, law enforcement officials announced Thursday night.

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