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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KCUR News
2:22 am
Sat August 14, 2010

City Files Suit to Stop E-Tax Vote

Kansas City, MO – Mayor Mark Funkhouser says: "We're going to war on the e-tax."

Kansas City filed suit late Friday, challenging the constitutionality of the ballot measure that would force a vote on the city's earnings tax every five years and prohibit other Missouri cities from taxing incomes.

The suit says the initiative violates the state's single-subject rule, fails to make necessary distinctions between personal and business versions of the tax and mandates elections without funding them... an unfunded mandate.

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KCUR News
3:07 am
Thu August 5, 2010

Council Buys Time On Sales Tax Plan

Kansas City, MO – With the November ballot deadline looming and the public safety sales tax due to expire, the Kansas City city council is still divided on exactly what to put before the voters.

Some council members want to go with the plan presented by the police board and Chief Jim Corwin: keep things the way they are and dedicate the tax renewal to new police stations, a crime lab and replacing Vietnam War era helicopters.

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KCUR News
1:24 am
Fri July 30, 2010

Blue Car Lights Get Red Light In KC

Blue headlights like these are illegal under a Kansas City, MO ordinance passed Thursday.
Click to enlarge.

Blue lights will now be illegal on motor vehicles in Kansas City, Missouri. Yes, blue lights.

There was a time when police cars, fire vehicles and ambulances were distinguished by their flashing red lights. But in recent years, emergency vehicles have started sporting blue warning lights or a combination of red and blue.

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Redistricting
3:07 am
Fri July 23, 2010

Council Slows Redistricting Pace

Urban League president Gwen Grant tells the council if it redistricts without data on ethnic distribution it will face a voting rights lawsuit.
Photo courtesy of KCCG, Channel 2.

The Kansas City, Missouri City Council put the brakes on its last minute rush to redistricting Thursday.

Cathy Jolly spoke for the majority of the council early in the first public hearing on charter-mandated redistricting when she said: "I really believe that it's quite ridiculous, to be honest with you, that we are sitting here today at the last minute telling the public to come down here and put something together with an election looming."

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KCUR News
2:48 am
Thu July 22, 2010

Funkhouser, Hermann Butt Heads on TIF Audit

John Sharp and Beth Gottstein listen as Mayor Mark Funkhouser and committee chair Deb Hermann have their chilly conversation.
Photo courtesy of KCCG, Channel 2.

Having two mayoral candidates on one influential committee triggered late July fireworks at City Hall Wednesday.

The conflict was over a resolution introduced by Deb Hermann to have city staff set guidelines for an audit of the TIF Commission. She said the mayor 's plan to give the responsibility to the commission ignored the city charter and the council.

The mayor it was perfectly in line with the charter.

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KCUR News
9:19 am
Fri July 16, 2010

6,000 Trees, 75 Power Poles, 10 Miles of Cable

A KCP&L crew prepares to replace one of the many power poles felled by a storm in the morning hours of July 11.
Photo courtesy of Kansas City Power and Light Co.

Kansas City, MO – Kansas City Power and Light gave its final report Thursday on the weekend storm that devastated parts of Ruskin Heights and Hickman Mills.

KCP&L vice-president Bill Herdegen said 85 percent of power outages were restored within 24 hours, and all within 72, which he said was good considering the extent of the damage.

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KCUR News
1:06 am
Fri July 16, 2010

Redistricting Planning Prompts Council Clash

Council members Sanders-Brooks, Curls and Johnson clash over how redistricting should be handled.
Photo courtesy of KCCG, Channel 2. Click to enlarge.

Kansas City, MO – A necessary redistricting sparked a contentious hour-long argument in Kansas City's city council Thursday.

Population changes in the 12 years since Kansas City's council districts were redrawn require shrinking the growing northland districts and expanding the third district.

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KCUR News
2:19 am
Thu July 15, 2010

Council Members Comment on P & L District Subsidy

The crowd listens to a band Wednesday night at the Power and Light District.
Photo courtesy of KMBC, TV-9. Click to enlarge.

Kansas City, MO – City Manager Troy Schulte's comments to the Kansas City Star that the city will have to pay millions of dollars for up to ten years to subsidize Power and Light District TIFs prompted responses from several Kansas City council members Wednesday.

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KCMO City Hall
2:38 am
Fri July 2, 2010

Council Funds Stadiums Over Mayor's Objections

Russ Johnson tells the council the lawsuit against the Mayor's wife cost the city more than the proposed stadiums appropriation.
Video frame courtesy of KCCG-TV.

Kansas City, MO – Preparing for a July fourth week off, Kansas City's City Council turned out a prolific load of legislation Thursday, finalizing a computerized traffic ticket system, new-home security standards, a loan to pay off TIF obligations, art for the KC-Live District, appropriations for street repairs, and an ethics reform project.

And the council went head to head with the mayor, on funding for the Sports Complex.

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KCMO City Hall
1:18 am
Thu July 1, 2010

KC Spending Cuts Pay Off In Strong Fund Balance

Kansas City, MO – The Kansas City, Mo., finance department verified Wednesday that after two years of major spending cuts the city has money in the bank. And the mayor and council members immediately started talking about how much more the city should borrow.

The 34.2 million dollars the city has in its general fund today, day one of its new fiscal year, is about 8 percent of this year's budget. That's the largest balance in a decade, and the city's credit rating is also at its highest in ten years.

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KCMO CIty Hall
2:07 am
Fri June 25, 2010

Council Expects 100:1 Return On All-Star Game

Kansas City will host Major League Baseball's All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium in July of 2012.
Photo courtesy of the Kansas City Royals

Kansas City, MO – Kansas City's city council honored the old adage "it takes money to make money" yesterday, voting to pick up the tab for the considerable expenses related to hosting the 2012 All-Star Game.


City Manager Troy Schulte gave the council what might have been a staggering cost estimate if not for his projected return-on-investment. Schulte told the council his staff estimates the city's expenses at $500,000, but expect an economic impact of over $50 million in return.

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KCMO CIty Hall
2:08 am
Fri June 18, 2010

Funkhouser Decries Past Spending, Wants New Chamber of Commerce

Mayor Mark Funkhouser looks stern as he defends his leadership style and blasts tax incentives for tourist and entertainment projects.
Photo courtesy of KCCG, Channel 2.

Kansas City, MO – Mayor Mark Funkhouser delivered his State of the City address on Thursday. Many said it was a kickoff event for his campaign for reelection.

The mayor said the the city has made progress under his leadership, tightening the budget, reining in tax incentives and eliminating 90 percent of the metal plates covering uncompleted street repairs.

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KCUR News
2:53 am
Thu June 17, 2010

New Police Station Holds Promise For Prospect

Kansas City, MO – Wednesday marked the ribbon cutting for the new Metro Patrol Division Station of the Kansas City police department. The 28,000-square-foot facility at 75th and Prospect is much larger and more modern than the old Metro Patrol Station on 63rd Street.

The Metro Patrol covers the area between 47th and 95th Streets. It's in Councilman Terry Riley's District, and he told the crowd that the new building will kick-start re-development along the Prospect corridor.

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KCMO City Hall
1:11 am
Fri June 11, 2010

Council Buys Option On Power And Light Building

Kansas City, MO – Kansas City will pay a $250,000 deposit to take the Power and Light Building and the block around it off the market while studies continue on creating a new convention hotel on the site. But Mayor Funkhouser still thinks it's a bad idea.

The city will lose the quarter of a million it doesn't build a hotel on the property, and the mayor says the "found money" from the restaurant tax could be better spent on neighborhood infrastructure or marketing existing hotels.

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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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