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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KCMO City Hall
3:07 am
Thu June 10, 2010

Committee Approves Option On Convention Hotel Site

Kansas City, Mo. – A city council committee is recommending that the city council allocate a quarter of a million dollars on an option to buy the block that contains the Power and Light building for a downtown convention hotel.

The planning and zoning committee is sending the full council resolutions to continue studying the possibility of a 1,000 room hotel and to pay New York's Gailord Enterprises $250,000 to take the property off the market for the year or so that study is expected to take.

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KCMO City Hall
12:42 pm
Fri June 4, 2010

$90 Million Bond Issue Will Rebuild Throroughfares

Kansas City, MO – The Kansas City city council wouldn't go along with Mayor Funkhouser's plan for a large bond issue for infrastructure around schools, but it approved its own 90 million bond issue package Thursday.

The bonds the council allocated were approved by the voters in 2004 and 2005, but never actually sold.

Councilman Terry Riley characterized the bond package as a local economic stimulus.

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KCMO City Hall
2:28 am
Thu June 3, 2010

Urban Agriculture Ordinance Clears Committee

Kansas City, Mo. – After months of discussion and weeks of committee hearings, Kansas City's Planning and Zoning finally sent the full city council an urban agriculture ordinance Wednesday.

The committee added a number of restrictions including a prohibition on row crops in front yards, restriction of sales to fresh produce and requiring community gardens to get approval from the Board of Zoning Adjustment.

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KCMO City Hall
1:53 am
Fri May 28, 2010

Councilwomen Stand By Marcason

Councilwoman Jan Marcason listens as colleagues praise her committee work.

Kansas City, Mo. – Five Kansas City Councilwomen took the floor Thursday to take Mayor Mark Funkhouser to task for stripping away all of their colleague Jan Marcason's committee positions.

The women added their comments to scheduled debate on a shoo-in ordinance taking the next step toward a computer based traffic ticket and municipal court case management system.

Finance committee chair Deb Hermann briefly endorsed the ordinance, then turned the discussion to lavish praise for Marcason's ability, hard work and excellent performance.

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Heists
3:08 am
Thu May 27, 2010

KU Uncovers Million-Dollar Ticket Heist

Kansas City, Mo. – An independent investigation into the University of Kansas Athletic Department says at least a million dollars worth of tickets were sold inappropriately over the past five years -- and it may have gone on longer than that.

The investigation conducted by a Wichita law firm showed that five KU athletics staffers and a consultant sold or used more than 17,500 basketball tickets, and more than 2,000 football tickets.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little told the media:

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KCMO City Hall
2:51 am
Thu May 27, 2010

Funkhouser Ends Marcason Committee Duties

Councilwoman Jan Marcason: the mayor removed her from two powerful council committees.
Photo courtesy of KCCG, Channel 2.

Kansas City, MO – Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser shook up city council committees again Wednesday with the unexpected removal of councilwoman Jan Marcason from all her committee assignments.

Until this week, Jan Marcason has served on two of the most powerful city council committees: Finance and Audit and Transportation and Infrastructure.

The mayor's memo to the council and the media gave no rationale for stripping Marcason of all her committee duties, but she says she did get a terse explanation in a voicemail message.

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KCMO City Hall
2:29 am
Fri May 21, 2010

Council Endorses Sanders' Commuter Rail Plan

The regional commuter rail system County Executive Mike Sanders presented to the city council earlier this month.
Click to enlarge.

Kansas City, Mo. – The Kansas City, Missouri city council made it formal Thursday: They endorse the idea of a regional rapid rail transit system proposed by Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders.

There was no mention of Clay Chastain's latest petition drive for a competing Kansas City only light rail plan as the council endorsed Sanders' tri-county transit system proposal. Sanders says his can be done less expensively by routing commuter rail trains along existing unused or under-used right-of-way.

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KCUR News
9:41 am
Fri May 14, 2010

Urban Agriculture Debate Continues In KC

Kansas City, Mo. – Kansas City's city council still hasn't finalized a ordinance on community gardens and urban agriculture, but it did complete public hearings on the subject yesterday.

A number of center-city groups and businesses that help low income neighborhoods are emerging as supporting the ordinance to encourage better nutrition and economic opportunities in the inner city.

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KCMO City Hall
9:36 am
Fri May 14, 2010

Mayor's 'School's First' Program Greeted By Silence In Committee

Kansas City, Mo. – The first phase of Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser's "Schools First" program was sidelined in a council committee meeting yesterday. A number of citizens testified for the infrastructure improvement plan, and the mayor put in his pitch, including that the only expense next year would be $2 million in debt service.

"When you're spending $3 to $5 million a year and need to be spending many multiples of that, when you have a $1.6 billion backlog, which is what they tell us we have in sidewalks, you have to start somewhere," says Funkhouser.

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KCMO City Hall
1:30 am
Fri May 14, 2010

Capital Projects Management Department Passes On New Vote

Kansas City, Mo. – Kansas City, Missouri will create a city department in charge of overseeing city construction projects after all.

The ordinance to create a city Capital Improvements Management Department failed last week on a tie vote with 12 council members present. Councilman John Sharp brought it up for reconsideration yesterday with the tie-breaking vote present.

Supporters, including the mayor and city manager said it will speed up backlogged city construction projects.

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KCUR News
11:22 am
Wed May 12, 2010

Nixon Pushes To Ensure Claycomo Jobs

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon addresses workers at Ford's Claycomo assembly plant.
KCUR

Kansas City, Mo. – While Missouri's state senators were playing golf on a day off at the Lake of the Ozarks, Governor Nixon was talking to them - from Claycomo. Governor Nixon was in town promoting a bill that would give Ford Motor Company tax credits for keeping its Claycomo plant open and developing new assembly lines there.

Ford has announced that the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner, Claycomo's two sales stars, will be produced elsewhere and hasn't announced any models for production at the Kansas City plant.

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KCMO City Hall
2:37 am
Fri May 7, 2010

Sanders Transit Pitch Strong As Chastain Warms Up

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders pitches the Kansas City city council on his regional transit plan.
Video freeze frame courtesy of KCCG, Channel 2.

Kansas City, Mo. – The Kansas City city has tentatively agreed to support Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders' transit plan.

Sanders and TranSystems consultant Jim Terry told the council Thursday that by using existing and abandoned rail routes, the tri-county Missouri side of the metro area can have a 134-mile rail-based transit system for about a billion dollars - 8 million a mile.

The system could be expanded to include Johnson and Wyandotte Counties, and would be based on a Union Station hub.

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KCMO City Hall
1:32 am
Wed May 5, 2010

KC, St. Louis Push To Avoid Traffic Cam Ban

Mayor Mark Funkhouser tells reporters that red light cameras are effective safety devices and should not be banned.
Video frame courtesy of KMBC TV-9.

Kansas City, Mo. – Mayor Mark Funkhouser talked with reporters Wednesday about Kansas City's efforts to save its red light cameras from being banned by an amendment to the transportation bill sponsored by State Senator Jim Lembke.

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KCMO City Hall
2:28 am
Fri April 30, 2010

Funkhouser School Office Plan Back To Committee

Mayor Mark Funkhouser responds to council member Cindy Circo.
Video frame courtesy of KCCG, Channel 2.

Kansas City, Mo. – Mayor Mark Funkhouser saw his plans for an office of school support sent back to committee yesterday.

The underlying theme of most objections seemed to be unwillingness to let a vote for a study of creating the office be taken as a vote for the office as conceived by the mayor and the his proposed "schools first" program. Council member Cindy Circo went so far as to suggest that the main purpose of the office was to enhance the Funkhouser's reelection chances.

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KCMO City Hall
12:33 am
Thu April 22, 2010

First Small Step For "Schools First" Plan

Kansas City, Mo. – Mayor Mark Funkhouser got a start on his "schools first" initiative Wednesday.

The city council finance and audit committee approved a resolution to designate a School Support and Public Engagement person at City Hall.

That person would be responsible for coordinating with all schools and school districts in the city - for example, to coordinate information on snow removal and school closings and to get the word out on recreational activities the city already offers for young people.

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KCMO City Hall
1:24 am
Thu April 15, 2010

Council Committee Contemplates Plaza Melee

Photo courtesy of Country Club Plaza Association.

Kansas City, Mo. – A clearer picture of Saturday night's "flash mob" conflicts on the Plaza emerged in a city council committee meeting Wednesday. But it was also a meeting with conflicts of its own.

Most of the 900 or so young people police dispersed from the upscale shopping area were 16 or under. Many arrived by bus. Only a few, mostly among the older youths, were involved in fights.

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KCUR News
2:45 am
Fri April 2, 2010

"Equality Index" Shows Recession Tough On Metro Blacks

Urban League president Gwendolyn Grant tells the city council the recession has been particularly tough on African-Americans.
Photo courtesy of KCCG, Channel 2.

Kansas City, Mo. – Urban league president Gwen Grant gave the city council an overview of the latest "State of Black Kansas City" study Thursday, and said the recession has been very hard on African-Americans.

The study shows an unemployment rate for blacks 3 times that for whites in Missouri counties, 2 times in Kansas. More blacks than whites were stopped, searched and arrested though when stopped whites were more likely to be carrying contraband. African-American test score averages were five points below the cutoff for college admission.

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KCUR News
2:01 am
Fri March 26, 2010

New KCMO Budget Preserves Services, Raises Fees

Kansas City, Mo. – Kansas City, Missouri has an official city budget for the year beginning May first.

The $1.2 billion in spending the council approved preserves basic city services. But parks and boulevard medians will be mowed less frequently and fees for water, sewers and extra trash bag stickers will go up.

There's a property tax increase, but most owners won't feel it because it's designed offset lower property values.

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KCMO City Hall
2:20 am
Fri March 12, 2010

Council Nixes New Department, Reinstates Another

Kansas City, Mo. – Kansas City, Missouri will not get a new city department to manage construction projects. The city council voted that down 7 to 6 yesterday. But the city Human Relations Department was re-empowered in a last-minute move.

The Human Relations Department has always been a department according to the city charter. But former city manager Wayne Cauthen gave it division status within his office. That means HRD didn't have its own separate budget, and some council members also said it "degraded the status" of HRD.

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KCUR News
2:13 am
Thu March 11, 2010

50-Cent Increase For Downtown Events?

Kansas City, Mo. – The price of attending most events at Bartle Hall or Municipal Auditorium will go up a little if the city council approves a plan approved by the Finance and Audit Committee Yesterday. The committee approved a flat fifty-cent increase in the city's one-dollar-per-ticket-sold use fee.

It's the first increase in the fee in 14 years, and Oscar McGaskey, who is in charge of Kansas City's event facilities says it is low compared with the fee charged by other similar-sized cities, some of which charge as much as $2.45.

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KCUR News
2:14 am
Fri March 5, 2010

Council Told Convention Efforts Need Boost

Kemper Arena: The council is told the white arena is a white elephant that will lose $1.6 million next year.
Photo courtesy of City of Kansas City.

Kansas City, Mo. – Kansas City, Missouri's city council continued hearing from departments on next year's budget yesterday. They discussed items including public health, public works and the city's convention and tourism efforts.

Oscar McGaskey, who is in charge of the city's convention facilities told the council that in addition to declining major convention business, the city continues to be saddled with a large deficit for Kemper Arena, projected to lose $1.6 million next year.

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KCUR News
2:01 am
Fri February 26, 2010

Council Rejects Northland Annexation

Kansas City, Mo. – Kansas City, Missouri will not annex 316 acres near the airport. The city council voted the proposal down Thursday, 8 to 5.

Sponsor Ed Ford called it "a gift from heaven" and a net revenue producer. The mayor, often a rival, joined with him in supporting annexing 316 acres near the airport that would eventually contain a subdivision of more than 659 new middle class homes.

But it was the reasoning of Jan Marcasson that prevailed.

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KCUR News
6:52 pm
Thu February 18, 2010

Bannister Complex Air Safe, More Tests to Come

Behind this wall at the soon-to-be retired Bannister Federal Complex is a defense plant that used toxic solvents.
File photo.

Kansas City , Mo. – The old Bannister Federal Complex passed round one of EPA testing for hazardous pollution this week, but there are more tests to follow.

The environmental agency remained silent until the results were in. Volatile solvents, some of them carcinogens, have left no traces at the old Honeywell plant that pose a health hazard from breathing the air inside the buildings.

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KCUR News
2:40 am
Fri February 5, 2010

Council Finalizes Defense Plant, Fixes Zoning Glitch

Architect's rendering of the proposed Honeywell Botts Road defense plant.
Click to enlarge.

Kansas City, Mo. – The Kansas City city council endorsed the new Honeywell defense plant project yesterday and allocated almost $21 million in bond proceeds toward its construction.

The new facility, known as the Botts Road plant, will replace the aging structures on Bannister Road where non-nuclear components for nuclear weapons are made.

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KCUR News
12:57 am
Thu February 4, 2010

Northland Annexation Clears Council Committee

Kansas City, Mo. – Kansas City, Missouri moved one notch closer to annexing 316 Northland acres near Platte City into its boundaries Wednesday when an annexation proposal was approved by a city council committee.

There definitely is opposition to the annexation requested by Tomahawke Ridge developer Tim Dougherty. He wants to build 657 single-family homes in the area around Highway 92 and North Winan Road over the next 20 years.

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KCUR News
1:40 am
Wed February 3, 2010

Bartle Testifies For 'Pay To Play' Grand Jury

State Senator Matt Bartle talks with reporters on the courthouse steps about a bill he sponsored that some say was killed in a \"pay to play\" maneuver.
Video frame courtesy of KMBC, TV-9

Kansas City, Mo. – A federal grand jury investigating whether there is a "pay to play" system in the Missouri legislature heard testimony Tuesday from Lee's Summit Republican Senator Matt Bartle and the chairman of a political committee involved in money transactions that some allege led to the killing of a Bartle bill toughening restrictions on the adult entertainment industry.

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KCUR News
7:23 pm
Wed January 27, 2010

Snow Storms Drain City Rainy Day Fund

Orange snow plows contrasted with gray skies and white snowbanks as 2010 began.
File photo.

Kansas City, Mo. – Kansas City Public Works Director Stan Harris told the council Finance and Audit Committee Wednesday that the full year's 2.5 million snow removal budget was no match for the series of storms that ushered in 2010.

Harris said as of January 3, at the end of that storm, his department had expended a total of roughly 2.8 million dollars, about 300,000 dollars over the budget for the full year.

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KCUR News
5:17 pm
Wed January 27, 2010

Feds Say KC No Longer Tops List For Mercury Storage Site

Kansas City, Mo. – To a neighborhood's relief, the federal government is backing off from the idea of making the Bannister Road federal complex a toxic waste storage site after the defense plant there closes.

The idea of storing tons of toxic mercury at the site drew the unanimous objection of the city council over the summer because the facility is in a residential area and also in a flood-plain, raising the possibility of contaminating the water supply.

Councilman John Sharp called making it a waste dump a stupid idea as early as July.

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KCUR News
3:06 am
Fri January 22, 2010

Council Approves Overhaul Base Lease

The American Airlines overhaul base at KCI.
Photo courtesy of KMBC TV-9 News.

Kansas City, Mo. – The Kansas City city council wasted no time in approving a lease on the overhaul base at KCI. The proposed deal with Jet Midwest was first announced last week, and today the contract is ready for the inking.

What can you say when you come up with a deal to fill most of a space due to soon become vacant for about $700,000 a year... with the possibility of up to 600 good-paying jobs within three or so years?

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KCUR News
7:18 pm
Wed January 20, 2010

Council Girds To Defend E-Tax

Kansas City, Mo. – With an eastern Missouri millionaire contributing a half-million dollars to a campaign to end earnings taxes, Kansas City's city council is the threat to revenues seriously.

Council Finance and Audit chair Deb Hermann says it's not that City Hall is in love with the idea of an earnings tax, but that the tax contributes $200 million a year toward paying the city's bills. She says, "loss of that revenue without something in place ahead of time to replace it would be devastating."

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