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

Just what is a “Smart City?” 

If you've been paying attention since Google rolled out its first-in-the-country high speed internet in the Kansas City area five years ago,  you're probably familiar with smart city technology.

As the city prepares to roll out the second phase of the project, we wanted to see wanted to see what's happened so far.

What we found  are a lot of questions from  citizens and even the project's promoters.

Downtown: The epicenter

Laura Ziegler KCUR 89-3

Taher Barazi left his parents and siblings in Damascus, Syria last month to study at Park University in Parkville, Missouri.

He's on a student visa. He's not one of 10,000 Syrian refugees who’ve come to the United States under the United States resettlement program, which just reached its quota at the end of August.

Pexels / CC

Twenty small businesses are finalists for $500,000 in public-private grant money to help the metro area nurture its tech and entrepreneurial environment.

LaunchKC, part of the city's economic development effort, will select 10 of the 20 finalists during Techweek in September.

Agriculture and health technology companies are heavily represented among the winners in the contest - only in it's second year.

KCUR 89.3

Think we would all get along better if we lived under one flag – from Olathe to Leavenworth, Liberty to Grandview?

Some young Kansas City-metro entrepreneurs do.

Thirty-three year old Graham Ripple and some of his buddies have started a website – OneFlag.co — to raise funds and solicit designs for a banner that every municipality in the metro could fly — one flag that would represent all 14 counties in the Kansas City Region.

Swope Health Services

In a roundtable conversation on Thursday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon heard from police and mental health workers about their collaboration in efforts to provide treatment, not punishment, for the mentally ill.

There are five so-called "community mental health liaisons" in the Kansas City area, thanks to a three-year effort by Nixon's administration. These liaisons assist law enforcement in crisis situations such as a threatened suicide or person suffering from delusions.  

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

If you just want to see the video, scroll down

It's makes for dramatic pictures but more importantly, it's improving the neighborhood.

Kansas City — in partnership with donated services from Kissick Construction and Industrial Wrecking — started tearing down blighted homes Tuesday morning in the 2000 block of Chelsea Ave. It's the second phase of a $10 million dollar program. 

Mayor Sly James says the city will start with 23 homes the  city owns in it's Land Bank.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Last week, in an interview with The Kansas City Star, Kansas City, Missouri Police Chief Darryl Forté blamed recent police shootings of young black men on what he called “unreasonable fear” by some officers and “institutional racism” in law enforcement. 

The comments drew the ire of both the Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri police unions.

KCK Fraternal Order of Police President Scott Kirkpatrick posted a long open letter on the union's Facebook Page. In it he calls Forté's remarks "misguided, ridiculous and uninformed," and says the chief had "torn ...healing wounds wide open," in reference to the recent shooting death of two of their colleagues.

Laura Ziegler
KCUR 89.3

Family, friends, and colleagues of Capt. Robert Melton gathered Wednesday evening on the plaza outside Kansas City, Kansas, City Hall to remember the 16-year veteran of the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department. Melton was killed while pursuing a suspect on Tuesday.

Under a row of flags flying at half staff, there was a prayer, some music and words of condolence for Melton's family from Chief Terry Ziegler. Ziegler and his force are still grieving the death of another fallen officer, Det. Brad Lancaster, who was killed in May.

Laura Ziegler
KCKUR 89.3

Yesterday's killing of Capt. Robert D. Melton, 46, of the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department was a casualty of the job, Chief Terry Zeigler said at a press conference this morning.

The killing was not an ambush, he said, addressing concern that his city would become the latest site of targeted violence against law enforcement.

"This crime does not fall into the national narrative of planned attacks against police officers," the chief said in his prepared remarks. 

But he pleaded for an end to the vitriol and violence.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

More than 100 members — about half white, half African-American, mostly middle age or younger — of two Methodist churches came together Thursday night to pray, read and discuss their personal experiences of race relations.

Sam Zeff KCUR 89-3

    

In an announcement Thursday morning, the White House said President Obama will congratulate the Royals on their 2015 World Series victory. 

The message came from the White House and via this Tweet from the Royals' official Twitter account. It features Kansas City native, White House Press Secretary and Royals fan, Josh Earnest. 

Courtesy photo - Storycorps

This story was updated on Tuesday to add remarks by U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs. 

Scott Wright, a federal judge in Kansas City for 35 years, died today. He was 93.

Wright was nominated to the federal bench in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. He was chief judge from 1985 to 1990 and took senior status in 1991, but continued to handle a full caseload until ill health forced him to step down a couple of years ago.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

"We need to finish the 18th and Vine District," said Kansas City, Missouri, Manager Troy Schulte in an opening statement at Wednesday evening's public forum on three different but intersecting plans for the historic Jazz District.

Schulte was joined on the pulpit of the Centennial United Methodist Church by 3rd District Councilman-at-Large Quinton Lucas and Harrietta Harris, a plaintiff in the court challenge to a private development plan for the Parade Park Homes.

Courtesy photo - Creative Commons

A top official with Kansas City, Missouri, says the city is committed to moving forward with digital innovations.

That's despite this week's news that Kansas City lost it's bid for a $50 million grant to create a so-called "Smart City." Columbus, Ohio, won the prize.

Bob Bennett, the city's Chief Innovation Officer, says private partners have committed somewhere in the neighborhood of $36 million toward executing important parts of the city's proposal.

Courtesy Photo: Kansas City Zoo

Yes, it's going to be a warm weekend, but at 11 o'clock Saturday morning, you'll be treated to something special if you're at the Kansas City Zoo. Some of the zoo's penguins will be parading around the Helzberg Penguin Plaza, greeting guests.

"The birds actually seem to like it," says Director of Zoological Operations, Sean Putney."When we go in to get them, they don't quite smile, but when we walk toward the door, they follow us immediately." 

Laura Ziegler KCUR 89-3

As late afternoon sun streamed through the towering church windows of the Village Presbytarian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas, Wednesday, more than a hundred people gathered to remember the dead and pray for survivors.

"For those grieving, those clinging to life, and those welcomed into God's hands, let us gather to worship," said Rev. Tom Are, Jr., softly. "We've learned that when life is broken, it's important to be in God's presence as a source of healing."

Courtesy photo - Creative Commons

If you're a Kansas City, Kansas resident, you may have noticed your trash got picked up late this week.

A spokesperson for Deffenbaugh Industries, Inc., which contracts for trash pick-up in the area, says the recent Memorial Day holiday and severe storms have caused delays in trash pick- up.

And Deffenbaugh spokesperson Lisa Disbrow says it may happen again.

"We are working to get back on track but there may still be some delays this week," she says.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Ribs. In KC, we think barbecue when we hear the word, but there are so many other ways of fixing them. We visit a Mexican-Korean fusion restaurant that serves a short-rib sandwich, then a primer from a butcher on different cuts of meat (spare ribs vs. short ribs and more).

Then, our food critics search out the best ribs in and around KC.

Guests:

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Collaboration. Open data. Public private partnerships. Streetcars.

These are a handful of reasons local leaders today told Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx  why Kansas City deserves the $40 million the U.S. Department of Transportation will award to one city later this year.

The secretary picked on one of these points after an hour-long  pitch in which officials, community leaders and tech businesses praised the local plan. 

The streetcar, he told them, had Kansas City moving.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

The historic district at 18th and Vine in Kansas City, Missouri , a half mile east of the flourishing Crossroads Arts District , is itself at a crossroads.    

Again. 

The city will soon hold hearings on a $28 million dollar package of renovations. Projects include improvements for the Negro Leagues and American Jazz Museums, the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey and beautification projects.

Laura Ziegler KCUR 89-3

More than 300 people gathered downtown Friday to watch officials ranging from the mayor to the acting administrator of the Federal Transit Administration open Kansas City's new streetcar line.

Mayor Sly James acknowledged it had been a long and sometimes difficult process to secure the streetcar.

"This is our moment," the mayor said to the jubilant crowd. 

Acting Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration Carolyn Flowers said in an interview that Kansas City used the special Transportation Development District in a new way to its credit.  

Zach Lowry / Kansas State Interfraternity Council

Update 10:15 Thursday

Kansas State University officials responded to yesterdays student protest in a statement KCUR received last night. The statement says the university will publish clarifications about when and where it will investigate allegations of discrimination, including sexual assault. The direct response to the students can be read here.

The original post begins here.

Creative Commons-Flickr

Two Kansas State University students are suing the university for refusing to investigate their claims of rape because the violence occurred in fraternities located off campus.

In separate suits filed Wednesday in federal court in Kansas, the students allege the university was indifferent to their reports of rape. The women also allege the university violated their rights as consumers of public education in the state.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

We've been hearing a lot about Kansas City's program to demolish or sell off dilapidated homes. Around 800 properties are on the "dangerous buildings" list and thousands more are vacant or abandoned.

The large amount of blighted homes in Kansas City has a lot to do with the housing crisis, and a lingering question is whether outside investors have been part of the problem or part of the solution.

A local contractor seeking local buyer

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

The city of Kansas City, Missouri recently announced $10 million in its budget to demolish hundreds of homes that are rotting in urban neighborhoods.

These homes are not only an eyesore, but attract squatters and crime.

The funds are meant to help get rid of more than 800 homes on the city’s dangerous buildings list. But when residents got wind of the program, they cried out to save some of the homes. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

From the Country Club District to Midtown, Independence to the West Side, to east of Prospect and north of the river, Kansas Citians on the Missouri side were voting at the crack of dawn today.

Polls opened at 6 a.m. Shelly Freeman entered her polling place at Country Club Christian Church in the dark, thanks to daylight savings time.

"Every election is important," she says. "As a woman we had to fight to get the vote."

She sees this year as exceptional — not necessarily because of the unusual level of hostile rhetoric between the candidates.

Tristan Bowersox / Creative Commons-Flickr

A lawsuit against the University of Kansas by the parents of a student who was allegedly raped in one of its dorms seeks to break new legal ground.

Unlike other legal actions against universities over their handling of sexual assaults, this one seeks class action status and alleges violations of the state’s consumer protection law.

Steve Mencher / KCPT

At University of Missouri-Kansas City's Pierson Hall Monday, the group agreed on one thing - that the Kansas City area hasn't seen as much of a backlash against Muslims as there has been elsewhere in the country.

Mahnaz Shabbir, President of Shabbir Advisors and long engaged in interfaith advocacy, says people here are well informed.

"For more than 20 years we've been doing a lot of education on interfaith issues," she said in an interview.

But there was some sparring once the panel discussion got under way.

Courtesy photo / KBA

The Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee heard testimony this week on a bill that would essentially sever financial ties between the state and the Kansas Bioscience Authority, according to the committee's vice chairman  Jim Denning, a Republican from Overland Park. 

“It’s unwinding it from any state influence and further state funding,” Denning says.

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