Sam Zeff | KCUR

Sam Zeff

Metro Reporter

Sam is KCUR's Metro Reporter, focusing on Jackson County government, Kansas City and the KCPD. Before that, he covered education for KCUR. Before joining the station in August 2014 he covered health and education for KCPT.

Sam began his career at KANU in Lawrence. He hosted Morning Edition at WHYY in Philadelphia where he also covered organized crime, politics and government corruption.

The Overland Park, Kansas native has won a National News and Documentary Emmy for investigative reporting, four Edward R. Murrow awards and four National Headliner Awards.  Sam was assistant news director at the ABC station in the Twin Cities, executive producer at the NBC station in St. Louis and executive producer of special projects at the CBS stations in Minneapolis and Kansas City.

Sam was educated at the University of Kansas.

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The tussle between community groups and bar owners in Kansas City over background checks for servers will continue for at least another week.

The city council's Neighborhood and Public Safety Committee has been struggling over various proposals that range from doing away with liquor cards to easing restrictions on who can sell alcohol to not changing a thing.

Yoder and Davids campaigns

In the final month before the November elections, Republicans and some Democrats are asking: where is Sharice Davids?

Davids, a Democratic newcomer, seems to be leading the race against Republican incumbent Congressman Kevin Yoder in the 3rd District of Kansas.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Rep. Kevin Yoder acknowledged Wednesday that he may lose his campaign for a fifth term in Congress. “Well, I think we may be the underdog in this race," he said before addressing the Johnson County Bar Association.

However, Yoder suggested his Democratic opponent Sharice Davids is taking the campaign for granted.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Democrat Sharice Davids walloped incumbent Rep. Kevin Yoder in fundraising last quarter.

The Davids campaign says the first-time candidate raised $2.7 million between July and September. In that same period Yoder, running for a fifth term in the Kansas 3rd District, raised almost $1.3 million.

file photo / KCUR

The National Republican Congressional Committee has pulled more than $1 million in advertising support from Rep. Kevin Yoder's re-election campaign in the Kansas 3rd District, according to The Hill newspaper.

The Hill broke the story late Sunday and quotes an unnamed source "familiar with the NRCC's strategic thinking."

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The fight over how or even whether to change the Jackson County Charter won't end after the November election. Instead, the debate will stretch into next year.

County Executive Frank White confirms that he will appoint a charter change commission that will most likely start work in January.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

All four major political ratings organizations currently consider the race for Kansas' 3rd Congressional District a toss-up.

FiveThirtyEight moved the race Saturday from "leans Republican" to a "toss-up" between incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder and Democrat Sharice Davids.

It comes on the heels of two pieces of good news for Davids, a lawyer who is making her first run for office, though she still lags behind Yoder, the incumbent, in fundraising.

uscourts.gov

The U.S. Attorney in Kansas City is continuing to investigate potential federal crimes in Jackson County, according to Department of Justice lawyers at a sentencing hearing Thursday at the federal courthouse in downtown Kansas City.

It is "very much an active investigation," DOJ prosecutor Lauren Bell said.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The man who many Democrats thought could go all the way to the Missouri governor's mansion instead will be going to federal prison for more than two years.

Former Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders was sentenced Wednesday to 27 months in prison for a wire fraud conviction in connection with a kickback scheme that netted Sanders at least $40,000.

KCPD

In an unexpected move on Monday, the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners rescinded an award it had given to a pair of officers involved in the killing of Ryan Stokes as he was leaving the Power & Light District five years ago.

Stokes, 24, was shot by Officer William Thompson, a desk officer who was on special assignment that night in the busy entertainment district, which the KCPD flagged at the time as a "hot spot" with a high potential for crime. Thompson's partner, Officer Tamara Jones, also a desk officer, did not fire her weapon.

Democrats attempting to regain control of the U.S. House are going after a couple of Kansas congressional seats. And this week developments in the 2nd and 3rd Districts caught the eye of Jim McLean and Stephen Koranda of the Kansas News Service and KCUR's Sam Zeff. 


Yoder and Davids campaigns

With Hurricane Florence bearing down on the Carolina coasts there is now controversy over the transfer of $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. One of the people responsible for this transfer is Kansas 3rd District Rep. Kevin Yoder, who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the Department of Homeland Security budget.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Former Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders has asked a federal judge to spare him prison time because of his past history of public service and time in the military.

But the Department of Justice is having none of it. In the first paragraph of its sentencing memo filed Wednesday, the DOJ said Sanders, as county executive and prosecuting attorney, had a "duty to uphold and execute the laws of the county."

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The chairman of the Kansas City Zoo Board says a $75 million proposed aquarium project might be dead if the city can't come up with $7 million.

“I’m concerned that it does not happen without that investment, without that partnership,” Todd LaSala said Thursday after appearing before City Council's Finance and Governance Committee.

The zoo has $22 million in private pledges to help pay for the 65,000 square foot aquarium. In addition, money will be used from the Zoo District's sales tax.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County property owners should brace for a property tax hike when they get their December bill.

County legislators Wednesday voted 9-0 to roll back a property tax cut from several years ago.

The "intent of the Legislature" resolution had been kicked down the road twice in the past month as lawmakers and Jackson County Executive Frank White decided how to spend the additional $19 million a year.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County legislators Monday overrode a veto by County Executive Frank White of sweeping changes proposed for  the county charter.

It was a six-to-three vote with the same old discussion and the same old division on the nine-member legislature.

Yoder and Davids campaigns

As much of the American political world looks with interest at the Kansas 3rd Congressional District race, a poll shows challenger Sharice Davids with a three-point edge over incumbant Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder.

The poll was paid for by the Davids' campaign. Still, it's the only poll that's been made public since Davids won the primary earlier this month.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

It's rare that one industry can confound police, firefighters and neighborhood groups. But businesses in Kansas City that recycle scrap metal did just that Wednesday at a packed city council committee hearing.

“The single largest cause of blight in the urban core of Kansas City is the recycling centers,” lawyer Gregg Lombardi told the Neighborhood and Public Safety Committee.

Samuel King/KCUR

Missouri taxpayers generally have no say and little information about some 400 tax districts across the state, according to a new report from the state auditor.

“The law allows for sales taxes to be charged without a vote. The law allows for a lack of transparency and a lack of accountability," Auditor Nicole Galloway said Wednesday during a news conference in Kansas City.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Updated 10:01 p.m. Tuesday:

The brief race for the Democratic nomination for Jackson County Sheriff wasn’t close Tuesday night. The county Democratic Committee overwhelmingly went for interim Sheriff Darryl Forte, who received more votes than his two challengers combined did.  

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

One of the biggest names in Jackson County politics will be sentenced in federal court in a month for a kickback scheme.

Mike Sanders was Jackson County Prosecutor, county executive and former Missouri Democratic Party chairman.

He’ll find out how long he will spend in prison, how big a fine he might pay and how much of his ill-gotten gains will be forfeited on September 19.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Segment 1: After the incumbent's endorsement, Kris Kobach emerges as the GOP nominee to face Greg Orman and Laura Kelly in November's midterm.

With the field set for this fall's gubernatorial election in Kansas, the three campaigns left standing will turn their full attention to winning in November. Before we follow suit, we invited political watchers in Topeka to consider the implications a Kobach-Hartman ticket will have on down-ballot Republicans hoping to appeal to moderate voters.

Rebekah Hange / KCUR 89.3

A new property tax to help seniors stay in their homes seemed like such a good idea in April that the entire Jackson County Legislature co-sponsored the ordinance to put it on the November ballot.

Now it is likely that legislators will repeal the ordinance at its Monday meeting, killing the program before it gets off the ground.

Scott Burnett, chairman of the Jackson County Legislature, says there was little chance voters would approve it.

“It polls so poorly,” he says, “that you couldn’t go to funders” for money to mount a campaign.

Kansas Historical Society

As of Thursday, the Republican primary for Kansas governor was a long way from being decided.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Just hours after winning the Democratic nomination for the 3rd Congressional District of Kansas, political newcomer Sharice Davids stood on stage with her former rivals. All of them pledged to work together to oust incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder in November.

“I think the 3rd District is seeing a candidate they’ve never seen before,” Davids said after the rally.

Rebecca Hange / KCUR 89.3

While Kansas City police can't explain it, this was another busy weekend for detectives — the latest spike in gun crime over the last few weeks.

Since last Wednesday afternoon alone, 24 people have been shot and five have died. None of the crimes seems to be connected.

“Each one of these seems to be individual scenes at this point in time. There’s really nothing pointing towards any group that’s responsible for multiple scenes,” KCPD spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina said at a news conference Monday morning.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Police blotter since Wednesday tells the story. Eight shooting incidents. Fourteen victims. Three dead.

“Not a lot of people are going home early from the police department,” KCPD Chief Rick Smith said Friday morning at a hastily called news conference outside of police headquarters downtown.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

This story was updated at 9:06 p.m. to include comments from some of the candidates.

A judge has canceled the Aug. 7 primary election for Jackson County sheriff, ruling it was not legally authorized in the wake of the April resignation of Sheriff Mike Sharp.

Pablo Tupin-Noriega / Wikimedia Commons

Segment 1: Park University to introduce esports as varsity program.

Attercop311 / Wikimedia Commons

Segment 1: Kansas farmers hope to boost agricultural economy with new cash crop.

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer in April signed off on a bill that included the Alternative Crop Research Act, which effectively allows the Kansas Department of Agriculture to oversee the cultivation of industrial hemp. Although hemp is famously difficult to maintain, both seasoned and novice Kansas farmers are eager to cash in on one of the most lucrative crops in American history.

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