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

Courtesy - Johnson County

Thursday's vote by the Johnson County Commission authorizes the spending of revenues from a quarter-cent sales tax voters approved last November.

The money will be used to demolish the old courthouse in downtown Olathe and replace it with a new nine story building across the street.  It will also subsidize a $20 million coroner's facility at 119th and Ridgeview for autopsies and toxicology exams.

The project is not to exceed $245 million.

Chief Counsel Don Jarrett says construction won't start until the existing courthouse is completely torn down.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was passed over for cabinet level posts as head of the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, but reports  now suggest the Trump administration may be creating a special post just for him – that of “immigration czar.”

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was in New York on Thursday for another meeting with President-elect Donald Trump.

After his highly-publicized first meeting with Trump in New Jersey on Nov. 20, Republican party officials in Kansas are speculating this second round is more than a suggestion that Kobach will land a job in the new administration.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

At 3 o’clock in the morning on Saturday, Alvin Sykes sent a text followed by a phone call to North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr who was still on the floor of the Senate.

He didn’t hear back, so he assumed the worst. His bill was dead.

But at 5:33 a.m. Kansas City time, Burr responded. 

“He sent a text,” Sykes told me over coffee at a Kansas City, Kansas diner.

”He said 'It just happened. Sorry it took all night, but it’s done.’”

Stephen Koranda / KPR

After certifying the Kansas election results, Secretary of State Kris Kobach told reporters in Topeka this week he agrees with President-elect Donald Trump's unsubstantiated claim that ballots cast by non-citizens cost him the popular vote.

It comes as no surprise. Trump's assertion sounds like something that could have come from the secretary himself. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

It goes without saying that religious communities are not monolithic. That may be especially true after this election.

So when I got an assignment to get “the response of religious communities” to the presidential election, my impulse was to visit with every religious institution in the area. Not possible. So I arbitrarily selected representatives of a few denominations, knowing it would be but a sample, a snapshot, of what some houses of worship were feeling.

I began with mosques. 

Laura Ziegler 89-3

An anti-establishment wave that rippled across the country Tuesday night didn't seem to put a damper on support for a host of tax increases in Kansas and Missouri. Voters in a number of counties supported sales and property taxes to fund public services in a number of municipalities.

Here's a look at them:

The Combat Tax

Anzacosf2010 / Wikimedia Commons

Do you get a thrill of wearing your "I Voted" sticker on Election Day? If so, transit officials hope to make it simpler for you to vote Tuesday in the Kansas City metro.

Some 134,000 people voted early in Johnson County, Kansas, already (Missouri doesn't have early voting.)

But for anyone who couldn't vote early, buses from the major four systems in the region will be free all day Tuesday.

Courtesy photo - Creative Commons

“There’s no question the law has worked well in some areas and it’s still struggling in others.”

That’s the response from former Secretary of Health and Human Services and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to a question about the signature initiative of the Obama administration.

“We definitely need in the future to have more competition in the states,” Sebelius said in a telephone interview with KCUR 89.3 on Thursday.

KCStat, the city agency charged with using data to improve government efficiency, expects the new Kansas City Assessment and Triage Center (KC-ATC) that opened Monday to reduce the use of emergency rooms and jails.  

Data show that 8,000 people with substance abuse problems and 9,000 with mental health issues visited area emergency rooms between 2012 and 2014. Some of them showed up in the emergency room more than 100 times.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Some started preparing their turn-of-the-century homes along stately Gladstone Boulevard on Sunday; others planned to start as early as 6 a.m. on Halloween morning.

These aren’t your run-of-the-mill plastic skeletons or blow-up black cats.

Homeowners along the boulevard near the Kansas City Museum have worked for years with the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association to create Halloween blowouts featuring music, sound effects and displays with multiple moving pieces.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Police Department recently made changes in how it approaches community policing. In a controversial decision, Chief Darryl Forte recently dissolved the position of community interaction officer, in favor of having all officers considered community cops.

Some people in high crime areas say they've seen a benefit from having the same officer show up at neighborhood meetings and deal with their specific needs. And this story of an officer and a homeless woman with a felony drug conviction points to the successes of the recently abandoned program.

Courtesy Kansas City Public LIbrary

A handful of residents who live at Parade Park filed suit in April against the board of their co-op association and their neighbors.

At issue was a $76 million redevelopment plan for the complex, proposed by a Lee's Summit developer. 

There's widespread agreement the 55-year-old complex needs a facelift, and many approved of the developer's plan. But discussions about it at a number of community meetings pitted neighbor against neighbor in angry debate.

Tex Texin / Wikimedia -- CC

Kansas City’s murder rate is getting a lot of attention.

The number of lives lost to murder in Kansas City, Missouri, spiked 40 percent between 2014 and 2015.  And that put the murder rate at 23 per 100,000 residents — among the nation’s leaders, according to FBI data released last month.  

Courtesy photo - KCMO

The White House on Monday recognized  Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas, as places where innovative tech things are happening.

On the first day of the Smart Cities Week conference in Washington, D.C., the White House unveiled a broad set of  initiatives to support internet-based efforts nationwide. And metro Kansas City is involved directly or tangentially in a number of them.

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.

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