Laura Ziegler

Special Correspondent

Laura Ziegler began her career at KCUR as a reporter more than 20 years ago. She became the news director in the mid 1980's and  in 1988,  went to National Public Radio in Washington, D.C. as a producer for Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon.

In 1993, she came back to Kansas City as the Midwest correspondent for National Public Radio. Among the stories she covered - the floods of 1993, the ongoing farm crisis and rural affairs, and presidential campaigns.

After the birth of her 3rd child, Laura returned to KCUR as producer of Under the Clock, a weekly talk show broadcast live from Union Station. It was hosted by former Kansas City mayor Emanuel Cleaver. When he was elected 5th district Congressman in 2002, Laura returned to KCUR as a part-time reporter and producer.

Laura has won numerous awards for her work, including three regional Edward R. Murrow awards.

In 1992, Laura was awarded a Jefferson Fellowship in Journalism with the East West Center at the University of Hawaii which took her to China, Japan, Burma, Bangladesh and Thailand.  In 1990, she was part of a reporting trip to the then -Soviet Union with the American Center for International Leadership.

Laura graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Anthropology from Vassar College.

She, her husband, and their three children - Julia, Ellie, and Benjamin, live with Laura's father in the house in which she was born.

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Just who is the middle class?  The Wall Street Journal wondered in a piece earlier this year. The paper points out the term means little, and that’s why politicians love to use it.

Middle class in the Kansas City metro is certainly different than middle class in San Francisco, but how should we decide who fits into that category?

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Law enforcement across the country has been forced to confront violent acts of terrorism, and with the shootings at Jewish sites in Overland Park just a year ago – officials realize we’re as vulnerable here as anywhere.

A bill currently waiting to be heard on the floor of the Kansas House is aimed at helping police intervene in incidents across the Missouri-Kansas state line. The bill is known as the Critical Incidents Bill, named for the type of incidents it applies to — those that could cause serious injury or loss of life.

Speaking to more than 700 people at the Pride Breakfast on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Thursday morning, Nico Leone, general manager at KCUR, announced the station will be bringing the national storytelling project StoryCorps to Kansas City.

In partnership with the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America (GLAMA) at UMKC, KCUR and StoryCorps will capture the stories of the LGBTQ community in the Kansas City metro this June.

essentialeducator.org --CC

The mother of a boy who was severely beaten in a Liberty, Missouri middle school lunchroom in February said she’d written to the school a month earlier — telling administrators her son was being picked on.

Blake Kitchen has Asperger’s Syndrome and as part of his condition, he likes routine. For example, he likes eating in the same spot in the lunchroom each day. When Blake put his tray down in that spot, an older student allegedly beat him so badly he ended up in the hospital with a broken skull and jaw.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

The top-security animal disease laboratory already being built in Kansas is one step closer to being done.

The final $300 million in funding for The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility was part of a bill passed by Congress this week. It had been held up by the battle over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, the agency that will operate the lab.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

In 2012, Democratic Sen. Pat Pettey was elected to represent Kansas' 6th district. Redistricting had just added a small part of Johnson County to a district that was previously only Wyandotte County. Today, the 6th district covers part of Kansas City, Kan., west to Edwardsville. It also covers parts of Merriam and Overland Park in Johnson County.

Neil Nakahodo / for KCUR

As we embark on our next exploration for Beyond our Borders, our dive into lines that unite and divide our metro, we are now turning our attention to Wyandotte and Johnson counties.

As part of our Tell KCUR initiative, we recently asked: What do we get wrong about Wyandotte and/or Johnson Counties?

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Joe Reardon, the former mayor and CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, will be the new president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, the organization announced Wednesday.

Reardon has long been a supporter and facilitator of both public transit and regional cooperation.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Members of Kansas City’s Ukrainian community gathered Sunday at an Overland Park church to collect coats for  friends and families in the war-ravaged Ukraine.

Although there are only a few hundred Ukrainians in the area, most have loved ones in parts of Ukraine where the fighting with pro-Russian rebels continues to be intense, in spite of a weekend truce.

Even though both Wyandotte and Johnson Counties were founded with connections to Native American tribes, the two have evolved into dramatically different places.

As we pursue the next segment of our look into lines that unite and divide the metro, we're turning our attention the boundary between Wyandotte and Johnson Counties. What do you know to be true about these counties? What have you heard that isn't true? 

Tell KCUR: What do people get wrong about Wyandotte and/or Johnson Counties?

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

At two public meetings on Wednesday, officials with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority shared the latest work on a broad vision for transit in downtown Kansas City, Mo.

Around 60 downtown residents, business people, and commuters heard about changes to bus routes, efforts to beautify and fortify transit stations, and improved pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

Last summer the public told the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority transit downtown is about much more than commuters now.

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As legislators in Kansas and Missouri get back to work, we thought it a good time to ask you, the people of Kansas City, what you would like to ask them. Or tell them, if you're so inclined. 

We got an array of responses back.

@Mattk2 tweeted: if given the choice between funding education and cutting taxes, which would you choose and who (did you) listen to?

A number of you referred money in politics.

The Princeton Review, an influential list used by colleges and universities for recruitment and development,  has dropped University of Missouri-Kansas City's business school from the 2014 list of top 25 entrepreneurship programs in the country.

The Princeton Review made the decision after an independent audit revealed administrators with the Henry W. Bloch School of Management had inflated data about enrollment and programs.

As the legislative sessions in both Kansas and Missouri get under way, lawmakers face a number of challenging and controversial issues.

In Kansas, education funding and state finances are at the center of debate. In Missouri, school transfers and ethics are at the top of a long agenda.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Right before James “Jimmy” Bowers died in 1995, his local dive, Jimmy's Jigger, was bought by a local restaurateur who converted it to a New Orleans-style food and drink joint called Jazz. The company preserved the booze-soaked wooden floor and bar and brought in live music seven nights a week.

Like "The Jigger," as it was called, Jazz remains a hangout for staff and students from KU Medical Center across State Line.

Jazz manager Marty Elton says the relationship with the hospital always has been — and continues to be — essential.

It may seem counterintuitive, but officials at the University of Kansas say they’re pleased they saw an increase in the number of discrimination complaints in 2014.

The office that handles allegations of discrimination received 169 complaints last year. In 2013, that number was 85.

Jane McQueeny, director of the KU Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, says most of the complaints are under the category of Title IX violations. That's the federal law regulating sexual harassment and violence on campuses.

About a third of the complaint were rape allegations.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

People who live near the University of Kansas Hospital — particularly those across the state line in the Kansas City, Mo., Volker neighborhood  — talk about the medical center as the "behemoth" in the neighborhood.

Linda Mawby isn't one of them. And she's arguably the person most affected — at least at this point — by the hospital's growth.

The 67-year-old former truck driver lives with her cats and a dog in a brown house at the top of a hill  just north of the hospital, right where plans are underway for the institution to build two new towers and additional parking.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

The University of Kansas Hospital and University of Kansas Medical Center run along State Line Road adjacent to Kansas City, Missouri's Volker neighborhood. A tight-knit few blocks, where students unwind in neighborhood bars and long-time homeowners chat while walking dogs.

The institution is growing, and like many "town and gown" situations, the expansion has created some challenges.

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Services for Rev. Nelson "Fuzzy" Thompson have been scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 17. Visitation will be from 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. The funeral will be at 1:00 p.m. at St. James United Methodist Church, 5540 Wayne Ave., Kansas City.

A giant of Kansas City's civil rights movement and an outspoken — often controversial — crusader against racism and discrimination has died.  

The Rev. Nelson "Fuzzy" Thompson passed away early Sunday. He was 70 years old. 

Daniel Wildi / Flickr -- Creative Commons

Emergency room doctors at the University of Kansas Hospital say there are a few practical ways NOT to be one of the weather-related patients they’ve been seeing during this cold snap.

But doctors advise those who go outside to remember:

espie (on and off) / Flickr--CC

The United Way of Greater Kansas City is making a list of so-called "warming centers" available to those looking for respite from this week’s bitterly cold weather.

Courtesy photo / KCUR

Finn Bullers guides his $30,000 electric wheelchair by using the bright beam of a light lodged in its frame.

The 51-year-old has been battling Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a rare form of muscular dystrophy, since he was growing up in Iowa.

As a young boy, Bullers would stuff his clothes with pillows to defy his already atrophying body and spend hours on a frozen farm pond trying to skate like the other kids.

The University Of Kansas placed the Kappa Sigma fraternity on probation for two years on Wednesday because of violations of the Student Code of Rights and Responsibilities.

The sanctions are the result of an investigation of alleged sexual assault at the fraternity the weekend of Sept. 26.

According to a statement from the University, the sanctions against the Kappa Sigma fraternity include:

Laura Ziegler / K

Kansas City, like many cities across the world, saw a public outcry to what many felt was an injustice in the Ferguson, Mo., grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown.

As anticipated, the decision set off immediate violence in the St. Louis suburb. The ruling reverberated with demonstrations and protests from New York to San Diego, and as far away as Sydney, Australia.

Here in Kansas City, the response was quick and vocal, but mostly peaceful.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Martha Tolbert has lived directly across from the Linwood Presbyterian Church and adjacent Harold Thomas Center for more than 50 years.

The massive complex at Linwood Boulevard and U.S. Highway 71 has been an architectural icon in the Ivanhoe neighborhood since its construction around the turn of the century.  

But for decades, the buildings have been vacant, the majestic bell tower crumbling and the brick walls  increasingly dilapidated.

Julia Davis / KCUR

From the Country Club Plaza to the federal courthouse to a church at 46th and Benton Boulevard, activists in Kansas City, Mo., protested passionately, but generally with civility Tuesday in the wake of the controversial decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown.

Four people were arrested for blocking traffic and one for assaulting a Kansas City police officer's horse, according to Kansas City Police Department spokesman Darin Snapp.  Otherwise, peaceful marches took place around Westport and the Plaza.  

Wikipedia -- Creative Commons

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, calls Kansas City, Mo., “a beacon of hope” for the LGBT community.

Kansas City, Kan., however, represents a city “at the opposite end of the spectrum” in terms of LGBT rights, according to a new report.

“The simple reality is LGBT people in Kansas City are living in two completely different worlds divided by a line,” the Washington-based group says in a statement.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

As the future of our country, millennials have not distinguished themselves as a group vitally enthusiastic about participating in the electoral process.

Last week's mid-term elections proved to be no exception with young people turning out in significantly lower numbers than older voters.

Seventeen-year-old Ricardo Gonzales, a senior at Sumner Academy in Kansas City, Kan., blames part of the apathy on grown-ups who talk down to teenagers.

He said he's been told not to take elections seriously until he's of voting age.  He believes that's a mistake.

About 35 percent of Missouri voters took part in Tuesday’s midterm elections, according to Secretary of State Jason Kander. That’s about 1.5 million of the state's 4 million registered voters.

Knox and Schuyler counties in northeast Missouri and Worth County in northwest Missouri had the largest turnout.

Missouri sent its two only Democratic house members, Lacy Clay in St. Louis and Emanuel Cleaver in Kansas City, back to Washington.

Voters also approved two of four ballot amendments last night:

It’s still early to have much except anecdotal turnout numbers, but we are hearing back from people about their voting experiences.

Pretty uniformly, early voters are saying they've experienced a robust voting electorate. Some said they waited up to 30 minutes in line.

Jeffrey Benes told us when he voted in Westwood, Kan., at 7:10 a.m., he waited 20 minutes.

"It was good to see so many people turning out to vote," Benes said, "but I don't believe it is emblematic of the whole."

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