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
1:31 am
Fri September 4, 2009

Kansas Citians Happier With Services, Less So With Leaders

Mayor Mark Funkhouser enjoys some banter about improving city communications services after reading improved citizen satisfaction numbers.
Click to enlarge.

Kansas City, MO – Mayor Mark Funkhouser's "City that Works" campaign may be starting to work according to a new survey of citizen satisfaction released by the auditor's office Thursday.

Over a thousand households polled in June and July report Kansas City doing a better job for its citizens than a group questioned a year ago. The city's ratings improved on 47 items, and though it remains to be seen if those gains will hold up in the next quarter's survey, the Mayor was pleased.

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KCUR News
2:23 am
Fri August 28, 2009

Council Repeals Funeral Picketing Ordinance

A member of the Westboro Baptist Church smiles as she displays the group's message.
Photo from the Westboro Baptist Church web site.

Kansas City, MO – It is no longer illegal to picket at funerals in Kansas City, Missouri. The city council repealed what was said to be the nation's first municipal funeral picketing law Thursday.

Kansas City's leaders passed an ordinance prohibiting picketing at funerals several years before Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church started picketing the funerals of servicemen killed in action. But the ordinance was never enforced, even on the occasions the Church picketed military funerals in Kansas City.

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KCUR News
12:36 pm
Thu August 27, 2009

Liberty Memorial Asks To Tap Endowment Interest

Kansas City, MO – Facing a budget trimmed $300,000 by the city council, Liberty Memorial officials are asking permission to use 90 percent of the interest from the Liberty Memorial Endowment fund for routine maintenance on the Kansas City landmark.

The Liberty Memorial endowment fund was originally intended to grow by compounding interest for future major maintenance projects.

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KCUR News
1:24 am
Fri August 14, 2009

Funkhouser Veto Survives Override Attempt

Kansas City, MO mayor Mark Funkhouser and his wive, Gloria Squitiro.
Photo from Funk's Front Porch Internet blog.

Kansas City, MO – When a judge said the limitations that banned the mayor's wife from her City Hall volunteer post were unconstitutional, the council re-wrote them and put them back.

On Thursday, the mayor announced that he was vetoing the restoration.

His opponents were caught on legislative day with two supporters of the changes absent and needing 8 votes to override. They got five.

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KCUR News
2:32 am
Thu August 13, 2009

Council Looks at Funeral Picketing, Trash, Taxes and Loose Lips.

Assistant City Attorney Bill Geary tells a council committee that the funeral picketing ordinance is unlikely to withstand the scrutiny of the 8th District Circuit Court.
Video frame courtesy of KCCG, channel 2.

Kansas City, MO – The Kansas City city council had a busy day in its committees yesterday, making decisions related to taxes, confidentiality leaks, the troubled new bulky items pickup system and the ordinance banning picketing at funerals. KCUR's Steve Bell reports.

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KCUR News
9:38 am
Tue August 11, 2009

New Radios To Improve City's Emergency Response

Kansas City, MO – Kansas City emergency responders are looking forward to a new communication system that will let fire, police and ambulance crews talk to each other, and eventually, with units from other neighboring cities. KCUR's Steve Bell reports.

When every second counts, having to have a dispatcher serve as intermediary can be frustrating and time consuming. But that method will end when new interoperable radios are installed in all Kansas City, Missouri emergency response vehicles.

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KCUR News
1:50 am
Fri August 7, 2009

Council Revives Volunteer Limits Ordinance

Mayor Mark Funkhouser and his controversial wife, Gloria Squitiro, tell TV viewers of their battles over her volunteer service in his office.
Photo courtesy of TV-9.

Kansas City, MO – The battle over the volunteer duty of the wife of Kansas City's mayor is on again. The city council passed a revision of the volunteer ordinance that sponsor Ed Ford said addressed the points raised by a judge that declared the original ordinance unconstitutional last week.

Specifically, Ford's changes expand the limits on family members volunteering to include appointed officials and city employees, and define the "regular volunteer work" the first ordinance prohibited as anything over ten hours per month.

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KCUR News
1:24 am
Thu August 6, 2009

KC Trolley-Bus Plan Revived

Rubber tired trolley buses would run from the River Market to Waldo, evenings only, under a new plan.
Photo courtesy of Lamers Trolleys.

Kansas City, MO – The proposal for rubber-tired trolleys transporting people through Kansas City's various entertainment districts from the River Market to Waldo is back, in a scaled-down version.

The original plan involved a $400,000 loan from the city and daytime and evening operation. But the contractor had concerns about profitability, so the new plan is for a $200,000 loan and nighttime operation only.

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KCUR News
2:46 am
Thu July 30, 2009

KC May Repeal Funeral Picketing Ordinance

A Westboro Baptist Church member pickets the funeral of a service member killed in the Middle East.
Photo from the Westboro Baptist Church web site.

Kansas City, MO – A threat of a lawsuit made by the Fred Phelps family and their Westboro Baptist Church was met with defiance by a city council committee yesterday, but its members are calling it a "lose-lose situation."

The Phelps family sends an ultimatum: repeal the city's ordinance prohibiting picketing at funerals or face a first amendment lawsuit - a suit city legal advisors say the city would likely lose. A loss would invalidate the ordinance and force the city to pay the Phelps's court costs - upwards of $30,000.

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KCUR News
9:49 am
Fri July 24, 2009

Council Settles Bates Lawsuit For $550,000

Mayor Mark Funkhouser made a brief statement to media outside council chambers. He said he was \"disappointed,\" but ready to move on.

Kansas City, MO – The Kansas City city council has settled the Ruth Bates bias suit against the City and Mayor Funkhouser out of court... ending months of controversy and averting a trial that could have started next week.

Mayor Mark Funkhouser expressed disappointment. He said he was ready to go to trial and confident he would have been vindicated, but he had been focusing on his agenda, and "now, we can put this behind us and we can do that."

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KCUR News
1:29 am
Fri July 17, 2009

Council Moves To Settle Bates Discrimination Suit

Mark Funkhouser and his wife Gloria Squitiro. Former mayor's employee Ruth Bates says Squitiro made inappropriate racial and sexual comments.
KMBC TV-9 photo.

Kansas City, MO – With the trial set to start July 27, Kansas City's city council set the wheels in motion for a possible out-of-court settlement of a discrimination lawsuit against the city and the mayor.

Meeting behind closed doors, the council gave the city attorney the go-ahead on attempting negotiations on a lawsuit filed by former mayoral office employee Ruth Bates. Bates claims she was treated unfairly because of her gender and suffered racial insults from the mayor's wife, Gloria Squitiro.

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KCUR News
2:25 am
Thu July 16, 2009

Trolleys On Hold, Trash Piling Up

A bulky item waits by the curb for collection. In south Kansas City recently it has taken 3 weeks to schedule a pickup.

Kansas City, MO – Kansas City Missouri's new bulky-item pickup by appointment only program and a $400,000 loan to provide event and entertainment transit on rubber-tired trolleys came before city council committees Wednesday, with disappointment on both issues.

Public works officials told a council committee that it is taking as long as three months for some southland residents to get appointments to have bulky items picked up, but they hope to get everything back to the planned two-month schedule.

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KCUR News
1:10 am
Thu July 9, 2009

Chastain Takes Light Rail To Mo. Supreme Court

Kansas City, MO – Light rail activist Clay Chastain won't be back in Kansas City shopping centers circulating petitions this summer, but it doesn't mean he's giving up.

Chastain announced Wednesday that he is appealing his lawsuit to overturn the city council's repeal of his light rail plan that voters approved to the state Supreme Court.

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KCUR News
12:03 pm
Fri June 26, 2009

Council Advances Defense Plant, Stalls Citadel

Architect's rendering of the proposed Grandview Honeywell defense plant. It would replace the one at the Bannister Road Federal Complex.

Kansas City, MO – The city council endorsed a defense plant, but held off on a shopping center Thursday.

Rezoning and planning activities necessary to relocate the Bannister Road "Honeywell Defense Plant" to a site off Highway 150 in Grandview sailed through the council by a unanimous vote.

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KCUR News
1:31 am
Thu June 25, 2009

City Faces Bond Rating Downgrade

City Treasurer Randall Landes warns the Finance and Audit Committee of a probable bond rating downgrade.
Photo courtesy of KCCG, Channel 2.

Kansas City, MO – As Kansas City prepares to sell municipal bonds for the Performing Arts Center parking garage, the city council Finance and Audit Committee got the news Wednesday that one of three companies that rate municipal bonds may be poised to downgrade Kansas City's bond ratings.

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KCUR News
1:19 am
Fri June 12, 2009

63rd & Prospect Shopping Center Plan Revived

Kansas City, MO – The proposed Citadel Plaza shopping center at 63rd and Prospect did not die with the light rail plan that featured it as the southern terminus. A new lead developer gave a progress report to a city council committee Thursday.

Developer Steve Block says the legal and tax questions are out of the way and he has an anchor tenant. Block said he has brought "significant capital" to the project, and as early as next Thursday will ask the council for $20 million worth of backing to purchase land and finalize planning efforts.

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KCUR News
3:20 am
Fri June 5, 2009

Community Focus For Funkhouser Education Summit

Libraries CEO Crosby Kemper III tells the city council about the plight of American education.
Photo courtesy of KCCG, Channel 2.

Kansas City, MO – When Mayor Mark Funkhouser spoke of an Education Summit in his State of the City address most people thought he was talking about intervening in the troubled Kansas City, Missouri public school district. It turns out he was talking about a lot more.

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KCUR News
6:29 pm
Thu June 4, 2009

Foundation Funds Programs For Regional Jail

Jane Mosley of the Health Foundation of Grater Kansas City tells a council committee the new jail will get to keep the old jail's mental health grant.
Video frame courtesy of KCCG, Channel 2.

Kansas City, MO – Plans for the new regional jail are moving ahead, with the same mental health and social services program that is in place in the Kansas City correctional Institute.

A council committee got the good news Wednesday that the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City will continue its $900,000, three year grant that finances the programs.

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KCUR News
9:36 am
Tue June 2, 2009

Activist Clay Chastain Gathers Petition Signatures In Kansas City

Kansas City, MO – Clay Chastain was back in Kansas City over the weekend, collecting petition signatures in Brookside. And this time he wants to amend the City Charter. KCUR's Steve Bell reports.

The activist says he is circulating petitions on two issues. One is the latest revision of his long-running push to create a light rail system in Kansas City. The other would end the right of the city council to repeal voter-approved initiatives - as they did when his light rail plan passed three years ago.

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KCUR News
9:27 am
Tue June 2, 2009

Legal Challenges For Tiller's Clinic Likely To End

Kansas City, MO – Dr. George Tiller's Wichita clinic is closed for the rest of the week as a gesture of morning the slain physician. It will reopen Monday staffed by three out-of-state doctors who have worked there on a rotating basis for several years. One of them, Dr. LeRoy Carhart, told reporters yesterday that the clinic will continue to offer "all of the services it has in the past."

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KCUR News
12:04 am
Fri May 29, 2009

Mayor Sticks To Basics In State Of City Address

Mayor Mark Funkhouser delivers his second State of the City message.
Photo courtesy of the City of Kansas City, MO.

Kansas City, MO – It was State of the City day at City Hall Thursday. And with the city clerk's office counting recall election petition signatures, Mark Funkhouser's first remarks were on the State of the Mayor.

Funkhouser's references to those who would oust him were brief, but emphatic: "Let there be no misunderstanding: I will be giving my third State of the City address at this time next year."

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KCUR News
3:14 am
Fri May 22, 2009

Cautious Council Likes Downtown Hotel Idea

The new Hyatt in Denver is a recent example of a public-private partnership to add to convention sales.
Photo courtesy of Hyatt Hotel Corp.

Kansas City, MO – The Kansas City city council received the first report on a proposed new 1,000-room downtown hotel with cautious enthusiasm yesterday.

It takes seven hotels to accommodate a convention of 2,000 persons - and two of them are more than a mile and a half from the convention center. That, according to the Convention and Visitors Association will have cost the city 4 Billion dollars in convention business by 2014.

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KCUR News
1:40 pm
Thu May 21, 2009

KC Pools, Spraygrounds To Open On Time

Funding has been restored for Kansas City's 12 summer \"spraygrounds,\" wading pools and other summer recreation programs.
Photo courtesy of the K.C. Convention and Visitors Association.

Kansas City, MO – Wading pools and spraygrounds in Kansas City, Missouri will open on schedule this year, after a city council committee restored $250,000 the city manager withheld from the Parks Department budget.

Last Friday, a little over a week before the city's wading pools were set to open, the city manager's office put a freeze on the funding that would operate those facilities, "sprayground" play areas and the Night Hoops and Night Kicks youth programs.

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KCUR News
1:30 am
Fri May 15, 2009

New KC Zoning Plan In The Works

Behind this attractive cover photo are the 362 pages of a proposed new Kansas City development/ zoning ordinance.
Graphic courtesy of the City of Kansas City, MO.

Kansas City, MO – The city council was confronted with a 362-page ordinance yesterday - one that would change the zoning laws of the entire city.

Planning and Zoning chair Terry Riley said the massive document will update zoning provisions that date back as far as the 1930s, focus more on mixed-use development and make it easier for businesses to negotiate the zoning maze.

City Planning and Development Director Tom Coyle reassured the council, "If you were zoned residential before the update, you will be zoned residential after."

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KCUR News
6:49 pm
Thu May 14, 2009

City May Get Tough On Underage Drinking

Kansas City, MO – Concerns about underage drinking have prompted the Kansas City city council to consider redefining the term "minor in possession."

Kansas City, Missouri has an ordinance prohibiting persons under 21 from "possessing" alchohol, which now means police must see a young person with a container of the beverage.

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KCUR News
2:46 am
Fri May 8, 2009

Protest Disrupts Council Meeting

A Channel 2 cameraman continues shooting video as city staff order protesters to leave the legislative session.

Kansas City, MO – Thursday's Kansas City city council meeting included an example of cooperation, a small protest demonstration and an expression of indignation.

Cooperation between the city and Jackson County will give Sheriff's officers the power to make routine arrests for small offenses within the city limits where till now they had to call a Kansas City police officer to make the arrest, do the paperwork and follow through with court appearances.

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KCUR News
9:52 am
Thu May 7, 2009

Performing Arts Parking Garage Moves Ahead

Kansas City, MO – As the superstructure of Kansas City's new performing arts center begins to reveal its shape, the focus this week turns again to its parking facilities. Performing Arts Center development manager Ken Dvorak gave a city council committee a forecast on the parking garage yesterday.

Ken Dvorak: "That excavation will be complete in about a month or so. The construction documents: they're completed right now, out for review by the city, to the owner, to get owner comments, city comments back, and then put it out for bid in about two weeks."

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KCUR News
2:18 am
Thu May 7, 2009

Minority Enterprise Program Leaders Respond To Audit

K.D. Human Relations Director Phillip Yelder.
Video frame courtesy of KCCG. Channel 2.

Kansas City, MO – About three weeks ago, an audit of Kansas City's program to ensure that minority and women-owned business get a share of city contracts said it took too long to certify the businesses that applied. Yesterday, the city human relations department gave its response.

Human Relations Director Phillip Yelder told the committee that the problem wasn't a slow process or lost applications - it was in the applications that were filed.

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KCUR News
11:13 am
Sun May 3, 2009

Northeast Area To Dealers, Hookers: 'Stay Out'

Neighborhood leader Will Royster says a \"stay out\" program for parolees can end prostitution and drug dealing problems along Independence Avenue.

Kansas City, MO – A consortium of neighborhood organizations says SOAP and SODA can eliminate drug traffic and prostitution in the Northeast area. And their plan goes to the Kansas City City Council Floor on Thursday.

SOAP and SODA stand for "stay out of areas of prostitution" and "stay out of drug areas." Those are the orders the neighborhood groups would have parole officers give to their charges with conviction records in the two critical areas -- thus ending the revolving door of jail... out of jail... back on the block.

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KCUR News
1:14 am
Thu April 30, 2009

Health Director Gives Swine Flu Status Report

Health Department Director Dr. Rex Archer gave a council commmittee a status report on pandemic plans on Wednesday.
Video freeze frame courtesy of KCCG, Channel 2. Right click to enlarge.

Kansas City, MO – The Kansas City Public Safety and Neighborhoods committee heard a report from the Health Department on the city's preparedness for a possible swine flu outbreak Wednesday.

Dr. Rex Archer emphasized that the virus that appears to have showed up in the Kansas City area Wednesday is new and may still be mutating, so no one knows if it is as potent as the one that has caused a large number of deaths in Mexico.

But if an epidemic develops, he says the city is well-prepared, and offers this status report:

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