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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With Kansas City revved on Royals post-season play, a city council committee laid the groundwork for phase two of the development of the planned Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy in Parade Park near 18th and Vine.

Mayor Sly James announced the $14 million baseball project in late September, explaining that funding for phase one was in place. The Royals and, Major League Baseball had committed $2 million and the MLB Players Association another $1 million. The state of Missouri and the city were to combine resources to match those contributions.

Hyatt Hotels

Faced with the prospect of a lawsuit from petitioners if a referendum on a new downtown hotel does not go on the ballot, Kansas City council members worry that more costly lawsuits could result if they honor the 1,700 petition signatures filed. 

The outgoing city council approved the deal on the $311 million, 800-room hotel in July.  The deal involves $164 million in city participation, but the commitment does not add to the city's debt load, and City Manager Troy Schulte says all city cash obligations would come from tourism taxes, not from the general fund.

The South Kansas City Alliance will hold its second annual Economic Development Summit Saturday at Avila University. 

Alliance leaders say the aim of the conference is to encourage hopeful entrepreneurs while building relationships between area residents and businesses. 

Jarrett Stewart / Flickr-CC

A Prospect Avenue bus rapid transit corridor moved a step closer to reality at Thursday's meeting of the Kansas City City Council.

The resolution passed by the Kansas City council commits to partial matching funds so the ATA can proceed with its application for a $30 million federal grant to expand the “MAX” bus rapid transit system to what is now the city's second-most utilized bus route.

Councilman Jermaine Reed said the Prospect line has about 6,000 regular riders. The MAX now operates in two corridors: Troost Avenue and Main Street.

Sonya Keys / Flickr-CC

Kansas City's world-famous Country Club Plaza shopping and entertainment district is up for sale. 

Owner Highwoods Corporation released a statement late Wednesday afternoon saying it is seeking to divest itself of retail properties and focus on investing in office space, which the company says produces more return per dollar invested.

A Kansas City council committee advanced a rare redevelopment plan Wednesday: one that would renovate 304 apartments in the urban core. 

The issue is blight, one all too common in Kansas City's 3rd District.

Green Village Apartments along Topping between 17th and 23rd Streets were built in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

The 304-unit complex was kept nearly full for more than 20 years, but now 70 percent of the apartments are vacant.

Roxsen Koch of the Polsinelli law firm spoke on behalf of the developer who wants to renovate the 1-4 bedroom apartments. 

City of Kansas City, Missouri

This week's promise that the first of Kansas City's four streetcars will be delivered by Oct. 29 improved the chances of having the starter line open as hoped for Big-12 Tournament crowds in March.

A delivery date moved back from June to December would have made a March start virtually impossible.

City Manager Troy Sculte, streetcar project director Ralph Davis and Streetcar Authority Executive Director Tom Gerend all vowed Thursday to do their best to meet the March start goal.  And all believed it is possible if everything goes right. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The deadline has passed, and two proposals are in, but it may be a while before there's a decision on the fate of Kemper Arena in Kansas City's West Bottoms.

City Council Economic Development Chair Scott Taylor says city staff is vetting the proposals to make sure they are complete and thorough. Until that is determined, limited information about the two applicants will be released.

City of Kansas City. MO

Two city officials who went to Elmira, New York, to check on progress and attempt to speed up the process, if possible, have returned with better, if not definitely good news.  CAF U.S.A., the company custom-building four streetcars for Kansas City's starter line says the first car should be delivered by Oct. 29.

Earlier, CAF had alerted the city to the fact that delivery could be as late as December.  Because of DOT testing requirements, that would have made it unlikely Kansas City could have had a streetecar running in time for the Big 12 Tournament in March.

KC Aviation Department?Steve Bell

The Kansas City Council's new Airport Committee is making it clear that the airlines will not dictate the future of KCI. 

The committee held its first meeting on Tuesday, and the main course was a report from Aviation Director Mark VanLoh on the history and status of the airport.

Councilwoman Teresa Loar was perhaps the most assertive with VanLoh when he suggested that since the airlines will pay for whatever is done, they should have the most say in whether the airport terminal is renovated or replaced.

HDR / City of Kansas City

Kansas City could get more information on when its new streetcars will be delivered as early as Tuesday.

Tom Gerend, executive director of the Streetcar Authority and City Engineer Ralph Davis are in Elmira, New York at facilities of CAF U.S.A on what would be a routine progress visit – except the first streetcar was due in June. All four were supposed to be delivered by this month.

The Streetcar Authority Board meets on Thursday and Davis and Gerund hope to be able to report on whether the streetcar line can open in time for the Big-12 tournament as planned.

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.

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.

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