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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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.

The original post begins here:

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.

Dr. William Lewis Corporon, 69, was taking his grandson Reat Underwood, 14, to a singing audition at the Jewish Community Center when both were fatally shot Sunday afternoon.

Corporon and his wife of 49 years, Melinda, moved to Johnson County, Kan., in 2003 to be closer to his family. Before that, he practiced family medicine in Oklahoma for more than 25 years.  He continued to see patients in the Kansas City area.

Kansas City Zoo visitors were locked up indoors for an hour Thursday while seven chimpanzees ran free outdoors in an area accessible only to zoo personnel.

Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff told TV-9 the chimps using a tree branch for a ladder was an example of primate intelligence and strength.

"Chimps are so much stronger than humans that they can go up in a tree and pull on something long enough and pull a piece of log off, that's apparently what happened," he said.

Eight hundred tons of streetcar rail – 50 truckloads – will be delivered to Kansas City next week, marking the end of bargaining and a final negotiated maximum price for the project: $102 million.

City engineering service manager Ralph Davis assured the city council Thursday that they're getting a good deal. Davis said the city has worked through a "value engineering" process to eliminate unnecessary costs, and in doing so saved about $5 million. He said city representatives had also negotiated down the contractors' fees and charges. 

A city council committee is recommending that e-cigarettes and similar nicotine delivery devices be banned from Kansas City buses and streetcars.

The city already bans tobacco smoking of any kind on public transit vehicles and other public facilities, but some smokers have been using e-cigarettes, cigars or pipes to circumvent those bans.

Dr. Rex Archer of the Health Department told the Public Safety committee there is no data on adverse health effects of the vapors emitted from the devices, but there is no question about the danger of the liquids that fuel them.

Dignitaries applaud as Governor Sam Brownback signs a bill lowering employers' unemloyment insurance costs.
Steve Bell

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback was in kansas City, Kansas Tuesday for the official signing of a bill that substantially reduces the percentage rate employers are required to pay into the state's Unemployment Trust Fund.

Brownback used the occasion to tout what he called a call, growing Kansas economy.

"People have said you can't cut taxes, create a business-friendly environment and fund state government," he said, adding, "Well, yes you can, and we are."

After the ceremony, the governor also commented on several bills on or soon coming to his desk.

Attorneys for the group that sued Kansas over school funding have issued a statement critical of the plan the Legislature sent to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback Sunday.

Attorney John Robb expressed concerns that the plan shifts money from some programs for at-risk students, allows more well-to-do districts to increase local funding, and reduces revenues that could go for schools by offering tax credits for private school scholarships.

City of Kansas City, Mo.

The Kansas City city council was in an infrastructure-improving mood Thursday — some of its very old infrastructure.  The city council took several steps toward replacing crumbling sewer and water lines.

The full council gave its approval to rehabilitation of sewer lines around 22nd and Paseo. Infrastructure chair Russ Johnson emphasized how old they were.

"That was constructed in 1890," he said. "It's time to rehab it.”

The other council members agreed, and approved spending $1.48 million in existing bond money to do the job.

Next Tuesday, Kansas Citians will decide whether to make changes to the city charter. The city council has submitted voters three charter-revision ballot questions. Most city council members hope one of them will “warm up” voters attitudes on city elections.

Question 3 would move the city Mayor-Council primary election from late February to early April. And the city general election would move from late March to Early June.

The thinking is: “better weather equals better turnout.”

City of Kansas City, Missouri

Phase two of Kansas City's streetcar system moved ahead again Thursday, but it won't be rolling through Brookside.

The city council approved a streetcar system expansion of about 8 miles – a south extension along main to the UMKC area, east on Independence Avenue to Benton and east on Linwood to Prospect. A proposal for the southward extension to run to Brookside or Waldo was set aside because it was too expensive for projected revenue.

Kansas City's city council is asking the Legislature not to pass a bill that would restrict local Missouri animal control ordinances.

Supporters say the bill was created to prevent cities from outlawing pit bulls. The proposed state law forbids animal control rules directed at any specific breed.

Pit bulls are not illegal in Kansas City, Mo., but they must be spayed or neutered and the city has a program offering the spaying and neutering at no cost to the owner.

Fights and gunshots in a Kansas City Zoo parking lot are prompting a debate on the future of “free admission days” that are held four times a year. Monday's was the second such event marked by unruly behavior and fighting among young people.

No injuries were reported, but many of the throng of 20,000 zoo visitors reported they witnessed fights and heard the crack of gunshots coming from one of the Swope Park parking lots.

The Kansas City council voted Thursday not to allow intoxicated persons to carry loaded guns. The ordinance was expected to pass even though everyone on the council thinks it's a bad idea.

City Attorney Bill Geary advised the council public safety committee that a new Missouri gun rights law conflicts with a city ordinance that prohibits carrying a firearm while “under the influence.”

KC Aviation Department

Collaboration on the future of the KCI airport was the focus Thursday as the Kansas City council promised the airlines and the voters their voices will be heard.

The council approved a lease renewal agreement with eight airlines that also includes structure for airline input into whether the city will renovate or replace its aging airport terminals.

Transportation and infrastructure chair Russ Johnson told his colleagues the airlines' viewpoint is important to the process.

Missouri is no longer threatening a quick take-over of the Kansas City school district.

The state's latest proposal instead centers around performance contracts, advice and financial help from the state and a five-tiered school performance ranking system. If an unaccredited district like Kansas City's fails to meet its goals, it would fall to the lowest, or “lapsed” category and likely be taken over by the state.

 

Representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration told Kansas City's Airport Terminal Advisory Committee Monday that their agency wouldn't pay very much of the cost of building a new terminal. But a consultants report suggested a new terminal building might help pay for itself.

Sandwiches, coffee and soft drinks could help pay for a new terminal according to Garfield Eaton of transportation consultants Frasca & Associates. He says KCI finished in last place for concession revenues among 20 airports studied - about 66 cents for each departing passenger.

Preparing for a week off to attend meetings of the Missouri Municipal League, Kansas City's city council moved ahead with programs to benefit the young and the elderly yesterday.

After establishing a commission of young people to advise the city on youth programs, such as those at community centers, the council turned its attention to a discounted non-profit taxi service for the elderly and blind persons.

Councilman John Sharp, a sponsor of the plan, called it "a great asset to our older citizens, some of whom are getting rather frail to drive."

A snow storm that went on and on coupled with extreme cold and gusty winds has Kansas City, Mo., changing the way it handles snow removal.

With snowfall of over an inch and a half an hour plus drifting Tuesday it was hard to keep traffic arteries cleared. So late in the day Mayor Sly James announced that the city would be using tandem plow teams in areas and at times of day single plows would usually be deployed.

The snow storm approaching the Kansas City metro area could deliver the deepest blanket of white this year.  The storm is prompting calls for people to stay off the streets Tuesday – when the heaviest snowfall is expected between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. 

The prospect of further clogged highways and streets in and around Kansas City has brought pleas from both the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Police Chief Daryl Forte
KCCG Channel 2

Kansas City's police chief answered questions about bias in enforcement of the city's youth curfew Wednesday. Chief Darryl Forte gave his report to a city council committee.

Only 62 young people were hauled in city-wide for curfew violations last year, and only 20 of those involved congregating and rowdy behavior in entertainment districts.

But the fact that about 90 percent were African-American caused concern for some council members. Chief Forte' said those concerns were unfounded.

Kansas Citians will vote on changes to their city charter in April. But the two controversial proposals won't be on the ballot.

The council voted against sending voters a proposal from some minority organizations to change the structure of city government.  No one on the council thought smaller districts and no at-large council seats was a good idea. But five, including Mayor Sly James, voted to put it on the ballot.

The mayor says he too, opposed the change.

Plans for an election on changing the Kansas City, Mo., charter are heading into the home stretch, but there is still some disagreement on what should go on the ballot.

One sticking point as the full city council debated the changes Wednesay was: “why send the voters any proposed change most council members consider a bad idea?” – for example doing away with at-large council seats.

Mayor Sly James's answer: because some citizen groups have proposed the changes and the Charter Review Commission thought the voters should consider them.

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