Laura Ziegler | KCUR

Laura Ziegler

Community Reporter

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

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.8

Years of effort on the part of local activists and historians to designate the Quindaro ruins in Kansas City, Kansas, as a National Historic Landmark may be entering the final stages.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, along with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, have co-sponsored legislation to give the site the prestigious status. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

High poverty rates, aging infrastructure and vacant homes.

These are problems that commonly occur together and that discourage community revitilization.

The Marlborough Community Coalition in south Kansas City, five neighborhoods come together as one, is trying to do things differently.

FEMA

A handful of Johnson County's 197 sirens designed to warn residents of a tornado didn’t go off in South Johnson County, where an EF-1 tornado touched down the night of May 2.

“There were some sirens that we found out didn’t activate when they were supposed to and we’re running that down right now,” says Trent Pittman, Johnson County's assistant director of Community Preparedness.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

With the help of a rented plane, Jerry Eisterhold found the perfect place to start a vineyard with grapes native to the Midwest, grapes that no one had cultivated for more than 150 years.

Wikipedia / Creative Commons

This month has brought renewed attention to the historic Underground Railroad site known as the Quindaro Ruins in Kansas City, Kansas.

After a gathering of community members, historians and scholars sought to raise awareness about the importance of the site last week, Congressman Kevin Yoder has announced that he would introduce legislation to designate Quindaro a National Historic Landmark.

The Old Quindaro Township in Kansas City, Kansas, finally may be getting the recognition it deserves.

Between 1857 and 1862, Quindaro was a busy commercial port on the Missouri River. It was a mecca for abolitionists and settlers and considered a melting pot of Indians, European-Americans and freed slaves.  New England progressives came in the hopes of making Kansas an anti-slave state. It's best known as an important stop on the Underground Railroad.

Pete O'Neal

In an interview from his remote village in Tanzania, Kansas City native and self-exiled founder of the Kansas City Chapter of the Black Panthers, Lindsey “Pete” O’Neal, says he regrets some of the actions for which he's been vilified and feared.

Labudde Special Collections, Miller Nichols Library/UMKC

It started with high school students.

On Tuesday, April 9, 1968, five days after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, and the day of his funeral, the Kansas City, Kansas school district canceled classes.

But in Kansas City, Missouri, the school board and police department felt it would be safer to have students in class and off the streets.

Michael Ali was a student at the mostly-black Central High School.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Carmen Xavier, a candidate for the Board of Education in Smithville, Missouri, has been very deliberate about letting voters know she is transgender. But she’s also been very clear that she believes her decades of public service qualify her for the job.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

The total number of homicides has been rising and falling for decades here in Kansas City, Missouri. Right now, we're in the midst of a scary climb. It's easy in times like these to ask, why? We always seem to start there. We want to change the conversation. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Law enforcement officers in Kansas City are engaged in an innovative approach to fighting violent crime.

In 2016, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office and the Kansas City Police Department won grants from the U.S. Department of Justice to use data and community involvement to attack the city’s violent crime rate. Funds are being matched locally.

It’s led by a Yale Law School graduate with roots in the Mennonite community of Newton, Kansas.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Leaders of the India Association of Kansas City were meeting at a Scooter's Coffee in south Overland Park Wednesday night to plan the first India Day celebration.

Most of these men did not know Srinivas Kutchibhotla, the 32 year old Garmin engineer and Indian immigrant who was shot and killed on Feb. 22, 2017, at Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe. Nor did they know his best friend, Alok Madasini, or Ian Grillot, a bar patron who intervened.

Harvest Public Media

Since its inception over a decade ago, the Department of Homeland Security has had authority over the $1.25 billion National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, under construction on the campus of Kansas State University.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Johnson County Commissioners on Thursday morning committed $300,000 to the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority for expanded bus service to south Johnson County.

The additional routes will cater to the fast-growing labor market at Logistics Park KC, a massive transportation and distribution hub in Edgerton, Kansas, and to the New Century Air Center in Olathe.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

OK, so we're not Hershey, Pennsylvania.

But Kansas City has a respectable history of candy-making. We all know about Russell Stover, but several other vintage candies are, or have been, made in the area, and there's no better time than Valentine's Day for making note of that legacy. 

Love them or hate them, these are confectionary standards that your great-grandparents might have bought (for a nickel).

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Employers in Johnson County, Kan., had a problem: lots of jobs, but no way to get their workers from Kansas City, Mo., to this mushrooming suburban job market.

So transit authorities in both areas – along with some private companies – have cooked up a possible solution to the staffing problem.

Ride KC Job Access, a customized public transit system created by Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, Johnson County Transportation Council and private vehicle rental companies, will provide vans that accommodate a greater variety of work schedules.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

At the end of President Donald Trump's first year in office, KCUR wanted to know how his agenda was affecting the Kansas City metro, and how residents thought the president had been doing. 

We did a series of stories and talk show discussions on the topic, and spent time at sites around the region gathering people's thoughts. We plan to do more of this in the future, but for this first round of conversations we went to Parkville, Missouri; Midtown and Northeast Kansas City, Missouri; and Orrick, Missouri. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Five days after he was inaugurated as president, Donald Trump issued an executive order cracking down on illegal immigration.

It included money for tighter security at the border, plans for a border wall with Mexico and tougher standards for becoming a U.S. citizen.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

"Where are the brave ones?" 

Academic coach Charlette Wafer looks out across an auditorium of students, administrators and community members at Central Academy of Excellence. She's reciting a poem. 

"Where are the brave ones? The ones who don't use guns to solve problems. The ones who are mentors and provide support before things get started. The ones who aren't afraid to snitch. The ones who are brave enough to stitch ... Our wounds, our community, our families, our city back together. Where are the brave ones?"

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Sunayana Dumala says February 22, 2017 is a day she doesn't want to remember.  It was that evening police came to her door in Olathe, Kansas, to tell her her husband had been murdered.

Srinivas Kuchibhotla had decided to go for a drink at Austin's Bar and Grill in Olathe with his friend and colleague from Garmin, where they were both engineers. An angry patron had shouted hate rhetoric at the men, both Indian-born, and returned with a firearm. Kuchibhotla was fatally shot.

Courtesy photo / Twitter

The armed assailant who entered a Lenexa Costco store on Sunday was a 58-year-old Kansas man who was shot by an off-duty policeman who happened to be shopping at the store.

Lenexa police say the gunman was Ronald O. Hunt of Edwardsville, Kansas. No other details about the man or his motives have been released.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

“Let’s hear what you've got,” Nathan Louis Jackson says to Roben Pope, a junior at Central Academy of Excellence in Kansas City, Missouri.

Jackson rests his elbows on the table so he’s at the same level as Pope, one of a dozen students in a special creative writing class here. He’s relaxed and informal.

“Doesn’t matter how much," he says. "Got just a few lines, got an idea? Let’s just hear whatever there is.”

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

As Kansas City continues to see increases in violent crime, new Kansas City, Missouri, Police Chief Rick Smith says he’s doubling down on community policing.

The chief, who was selected in July, says he wants to expand the number of community interaction officers.

HuffPost

A federal judge on Monday partially blocked President Trump's ban on transgender recruits to the military.

In a 76-page opinion Monday, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia said parts of the president's ban are not supported by the evidence.

The judge's opinion reinstates Obama-era policy toward transgender service men and women, which lifted long-standing restrictions. For decades, the military identified gender non-conformity as a mental illness.  

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Updated, Wednesday, 1:45 p.m.

The victim of a Wednesday morning drive-by shooting in Brookside was Thomas Pickert, a personal injury lawyer for the law firm Fowler Pickert Eisenmenger.

Police have not yet confirmed the victim's identity.

Kansas City Police Sgt. Kari D. Thompson says the man was on the front porch of his Brookside home when he was killed Wednesday morning. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

 

Courtesy photo / Kansas City Public Library

Editors note: This story was updated at 10:35 A.M. Wednesday with comments from Irv Hockaday.

Laura Rollins Hockaday died Tuesday at St. Luke's Hospital.  She was 79.

Hockaday, who for decades chronicled the comings and goings of the social elite for the Kansas City Star, is being remembered today as a humble woman whose greatest legacy is the respect with which she related to all people.

headshot of Rep Kevin Yoder
yoder.house.gov

National Democrats are targeting four-term Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder as vulnerable in their attempt to retake Congress in 2018.

Six Democrats are competing for the right to challenge Yoder next November.

If third quarter campaign finance reports are any indication, the Republican incumbent's campaign is mounting a serious defense. By the filing deadline Sunday, the campaign says Yoder out-raised all six of the potential Democratic challengers with a war chest of roughly $1.4 million. The Center for Responsive Politics shows that contributions to the 3rd District race are significantly higher than those in the other three Kansas districts at this point.

HuffPost

The walls and shelves of Suzanne Wheeler’s home office in Shawnee, Kansas, are filled with awards and memorabilia from her 32 years in the Army. At the height of her career, she was in charge of plans, operations and training for the Kansas National Guard, responsible for 7,400 soldiers and airmen. She did combat tours in Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and retired last year as a colonel.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

On Friday, July 21, Maria Wakondo, a refugee from the Congo, was held up at knifepoint while walking home to her apartment. The robber took her whole purse, including $600 from her just-cashed paycheck. 

She wasn’t hurt, but the incident highlights some of the reasons new refugees can be vulnerable to crime.

Wakondo and her family recently moved to a new brick house in Kansas City's Historic Northeast.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

There's no doubt that violence can have a profound impact on young people. But accessing feelings doesn't always come easy.

Toward that end, the Kansas City Public School District has created a special class at Central Academy of Excellence to give students an opportunity to create an artistic expression that might unlock hidden feelings about violence.

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