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.

Ways To Connect

Maria Carter / KCUR

 This story was updated on June 17 at 4:32 p.m. 

A federal judge has thrown out a race discrimination suit against Cordish Companies Inc., operator of the Power & Light District in Kansas City.

U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith ruled earlier this week that the case brought by Dante A. R. Combs and Adam S. Williams was not supported by the evidence.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

After years of environmental and safety reviews, Congress approved final funding for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas this year.  And last week, a who's who of the power elite gathered for a ceremonial groundbreaking. Two cabinet secretaries, most of the Kansas Congressional delegation, military personnel and several state lawmakers joined the Kansas Lt. Governor and Gov. Sam Brownback, who had been wooing NBAF for more than a decade.

"NBAF is finally here!" Brownback shouted to the cheers of an ecstatic crowd.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Most of the Kansas Congressional delegation, state and local officials as well as the Secretaries of both Agriculture and Homeland Security smiled, shook hands, even hugged as they came together for the latest in a series of ceremonial groundbreakings for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF.

The Manhattan, Kansas facility has been in the works for 16 years, said Sen. Pat Roberts, the grandfather of the project, who first pushed for greater food and agriculture safety with Kansas State University officials in 1999.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

A newly appointed official with the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF, said Thursday the facility’s main laboratory will be under construction within a month at the site in Manhattan, Kansas.

Marty Vanier told the Agriculture Business Council of Kansas City the release of several million dollars in funds from Washington finalized the federal government’s commitment, allowing The Department of Homeland Security to move forward with the lab.

The state of Kansas has committed more than $300 million in state funds.

Earthworm / Flickr--CC

As a nation we have been talking about race a lot lately. And with Mother's Day just ahead we thought we would pair two unlikely subjects.

"How did your mother talk with you about race?" we asked.

What you told us ran the gamut from “my mother didn’t talk to me about race,” to “she let us know her feelings, but indirectly,” to “she told us exactly what she thought and what she wanted us to know.”

Connecting for Good

Connecting for Good, a Kansas City-area non-profit that’s working to provide digital literacy and computer access across the metro, established a computer lab last year across from the Juniper Gardens Housing Project in Kansas City, Kansas. The organization recently added 25 computers, because the lab became so popular.

KCUR

We’re linking two slightly unlikely topics this week for our Tell KCUR question.

As we consider the unrest in Baltimore, Ferguson, and other places around the country and as Mother’s Day approaches, we thought it was a good opportunity to ask about race — and your mother.

Tell KCUR: How did your mother talk to you about race?

Did she talk to you about it at all, and if so, was it direct, coded, comfortable or uncomfortable?

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

With a towering physical stature and soft spoken, solicitous style, Archbishop Joseph Naumann knows he has a difficult task before him as he takes over the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on an interim basis after the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn.

He's encouraging the grieving and still angry parishioners to reach toward their faith.

"I think we need to ask the Lord to help each of us to heal. There are people who have experienced wounds on both sides," Naumann said in an interview Monday at the Diocese headquarters in downtown Kansas City. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

By midday Tuesday, there were still many among the flock of Catholics in Kansas City who didn’t yet know that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of their Bishop — Robert William Finn.

Finn has been at the center of controversy for years. He became the highest ranking official of the church to be convicted of a crime when he was found guilty of failing to report allegations of child abuse in 2012.

Kansas City-area Catholics reacting to the news revealed a wide range of opinions.

Cara McClain / KCUR

Rebecca Koop stood by Saturday watching as workers carted away the boards painted with images of gigantic playing cards. The artwork had covered the windows and doors of an abandoned apartment building at 702 Indiana in Kansas City's Historic Northeast neighborhood.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

When Sister Berta Sailor called Kansas City Mayor Sly James' cell phone a couple of weeks ago, he picked up.

The director of the child care and social service agency Operation Breakthrough told the mayor some of her patrons wanted to participate in events marking the one year anniversary of the shootings at Jewish sites in Overland Park — but there was a problem. The march and candlelight vigil were to start at the Jewish Community Center, and she didn’t have a way to get her people there.

Kevin Harber / Flickr--CC

The 2014 American League Champion Kansas City Royals  face the Chicago White Sox in their home opener Monday afternoon. And to get ready, we asked you to imagine yourself in the line up. What music would you want to hear blasted over the speakers at Kauffman Stadium as you stepped up to bat?

We had a deluge of Tweets, Facebook comments and phone calls with a range of responses — from the silence of John Cage’s "4'33"" (hmmmm ...)  to "You Sexy Thing" by Hot Chocolate, to George Frederic Handel’s Royal Fireworks Suite.

Bennie Campbell called to say he’d like hear Jim Neighbors singing "To Dream the Impossible Dream." Come on, Bennie, have a little confidence!

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.

Wikimedia Commons - CC

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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