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 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.

Kansas City Public Library

When we think of the civil rights debate in the context of the Kansas City area, we tend to remember the landmark Topeka school desegregation case — Brown v. Board of Education.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

If you look at the travel brochures about Kansas City, or talk to the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association, the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District is always listed among the top destinations.

People come from all over the world in search of that distinctive Kansas City sound.

Courtesy Photo / Ziegler family

Most of the people older than 65 in the Kansas City area live either on their own or with family, meaning a spouse or child or a grandchild. 

But most older people living with grandchildren are the caregivers in the house.  

It was different for me. When my mother died, my husband and three young children moved into the family home to live with my aging father. We lived together for 17 years.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran faced a mostly Democratic crowd at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas, and he more than once had to respectfully disagree with his questioners' points of view.  

But in a civil conversation that lasted an hour and a half, Moran said he wanted to hear it all. 

“You all will be my last dose of common sense and good judgment before I return to Washington D.C.,” he told the crowd. Below are some of the conversation highlights:

Harvesters

Kansas City-based Harvesters Community Food Network has seen its elderly clients more than double in the past few years.

The organization says today about 20 percent of those receiving food from  the agencies Harvesters serves are seniors.

Harvesters provides food to more than 600 not-for-profits in 26 counties in Kansas and Missouri.

The lion's share of the Sunday's Kansas City Star was devoted to a report on the Oct. 12 fire that killed two firefighters and seriously injured two others.

The headline: "Firefighters killed in alley shouldn't have been there."

Members of the Islamic Center of Johnson County called police Friday afternoon after an unknown man wearing a Marine jacket planted himself on the sidewalk next to the entrance of their mosque as dozens of members streamed in for prayers, a center spokesman said.  

"When I approached him he said something to the effect 'we don't want you here,'" according to Arif Ahmad, Secretary of the center. Police talked the man and he left.

"Police later tell me he was protesting," Ahamd said.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Kansas City artist Shane Evans was raised by a mother and father whose racial and cultural backgrounds were different from one another. But to Evans they were just mom and dad. He’s also raising a mixed-race daughter.

That’s why Evans was eager to collaborate with his friend, actor Taye Diggs, on a children’s book that takes on the complex issues of growing up in a mixed-race household. Diggs has a six-year-old son with actress and singer Idina Menzel, who is white.

Courtesy of the family

Parents expect to raise the child born to them. So, when a child takes on a different gender identity, they take on a unique set of challenges.

With heightened public awareness of transgender issues, an increasing number of parents are facing these challenges.

Debi Jackson is one of them. Her daughter transitioned socially (as opposed to medically) to a girl at four years old.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Kansas City-area Muslims say anxiety among the community is as high as it’s been since 9/11.

Terrorist attacks in Paris and around the world combined with increased anti-Muslim rhetoric has caused a spike in hate mail and venomous posts on social media.

There have been overt acts of aggression against Muslims in several cities in the United States in recent days. Local leaders say the issue of Syrian refugees has fueled Islamophobia, as well.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

The phrase reads “Not In My Name" and local Muslims with the Islamic Center of Johnson County want to see it on banners and T-shirts across the Islamic community in the Kansas City region.

Sporting a white T-shirt with #NotInMyName in bold blue letters across the front, local real estate broker Afir Ahmad says Muslims must publicly denounce acts of terrorism in the name of Islam.

“We want to disassociate ourselves from these murderers," he said in an interview after a midday prayer service Friday.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

The 18 employees of Snyder’s grocery store at 2620 Independence Avenue in Kansas City's Historic Northeast got paychecks this week, even though they haven’t been to work for over a month.

The family owned business just east of Paseo has been there for 48 years, and the James family has run it for the last 28.

The building sits directly east of where a deadly fire killed two firefighters on Oct. 12. The west walls of  Snyder's were totally blown out, and their entire inventory destroyed.

Courtesy of psychowyco.com

Trail Runner magazine says Wyandotte County offers some of the most challenging and fun trails for running and hiking in the country.

In an upcoming issue, the magazine ranks Kansas City, Kansas, as the third best trail running site in the country, saying "Kansas City is serious about its trail running."

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

The first few days of this week brought the resignation of both the University of Missouri President, Tim Wolfe, and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin in Columbia — and those events left staff and students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City asking questions about the racial climate on their campus.

Timothy Dorset / Stinson Leonard Street LLP

It’s not often you see a bunch of high priced lawyers sitting side by side community activists in a neighborhood meeting hall.

That’s what happened Friday.

They showed up at the Marlborough Community Center at 82nd and Paseo in Kansas City, Missouri because Legal Aid of Western Missouri was getting a grant.

Legal Aid received $257,441 to fund a program that pairs private law firms with blighted neighborhoods. The project is called Adopt-A –Neighborhood.

The Western District Missouri Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that a man's claim of discrimination against his former employer, Cook Paper Recycling Corp., was not covered under Missouri Law.

James Pittman alleged he'd been harassed for years and subsequently fired because he was gay.

In the opinion, Chief Judge James Welch wrote that if the state meant to cover sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination law, it would have said so. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

It's not the norm, but it's not uncommon for fraternities to recruit high school seniors to join their organizations. Those that do often reach out to high school athletic coaches, and tap legacies (students with generational ties to the fraternity) and siblings for a night out on the town or a ball game.

At the University of Kansas, it is an age-old tradition.

Jane McQueeny, Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access (IOA) at the University of Kansas, has resigned.

McQueeny has been the face of the university’s response to an increase in the number of sexual assault and discrimination complaints under the federal Title IX law. The increase does not necessarily mean an increase in the incidence of cases, but an increase in reporting. In the past, McQueeny has said higher numbers of complaints is a good thing because it means more people are coming forward.

“Jane was first person to head the newly-created Title IX office in 2012,” said Erin Barcomb-Peterson, with the KU Office of Public Affairs. “She spearheaded the role of the university’s response to sex discrimination complaints.”

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

As the brisk morning morphed into a warm autumn afternoon, residents and business owners began to gather on the perimeters of the site along Kansas City's Independence Avenue where two veteran firefighters died saving civilians in an apartment building fire Monday night.

Seventeen-year Kansas City firefighter Larry Leggio and John Mesh, 13 years with the force, died outside the structure when part of the burning building crashed down on them .  According to reports, they had just brought two residents from upper story apartments to safety.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Draped in fashion of Royal blue, caps bobbing up and down in a sea of fans, they lined up Grand Avenue and wrapped around 13th Street to squeeze into the noon rally at The Power & Light District Wednesday.

There was Royals swag and spirit, and the chance to get nostalgic with veterans of the 1985 Championship Royals team.

Outfielder and speedster Willie Wilson, five-time All Star second baseman Frank White, and starter Dennis Leanord were among those who shared stories about their careers and cheered on the 2015 team.

In response to the recommendations of a special sexual assault task force, the University of Kansas will now officially collaborate with an off-campus rape crisis center.

University officials say they don't know how many victims fail to report incidents of sexual violence, but they know the number is high. Victims often want anonymity, and seek services off campus to reduce their chances of running into other students, faculty or staff.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

A hotel ballroom in Independence, Missouri, packed with local South Sudanese erupted into applause, song and ululations Saturday as their vice president entered the room. 

Vice President James Wani Igga was swept up into a spontaneous parade, greeting men and women with outstretched hands and warm embraces.

Some had traveled from as far as Minnesota and Iowa to hear what the vice president had to say about the most recent peace treaty, signed in August, between the four-year-old South Sudanese government and rebel forces.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

As the nation's Capitol was humming with activity around the pope's visit, Catholics in Kansas City came together Thursday at Rockhurst University to watch the historic address to a joint session of Congress. 

A large crowd gathered in the auditorium of Pedre Arrupe, S.J. Hall on the Rockhurst campus. Students, faculty and staff, and members of the community watched the pope on two large screens at the front of the hall, applauding vigorously almost every time they saw Congress clap. There was also a giant screen feeding live tweets from around the country.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

If you’ve driven down State Line Road just north of 39th Street recently, you’ve seen the bustling construction under way. It’s a multi-million dollar addition to the University of Kansas Hospital that will include new beds, department offices and operating rooms.

And right there in the middle of the humming machinery and hard-hatted workers is Linda Mawby’s house.

file photo

Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed Springfield-Cape Girardeau Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. as the new bishop for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. 

Johnston, 55, replaces Archbishop Joseph Naumann, who had been leading the diocese on an interim basis since the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn in April.

Archbishop Naumann introduced Bishop Johnston to Chancery staff at the Catholic Center in downtown Kansas City Tuesday morning.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

This story was rebroadcast as part of our best-of 2015 series. It was originally reported in September 2015.

The Missouri River shaped Kansas City.

It ferried traders and explorers. It helped establish Kansas City's reputation as a transportation hub.

Slaves escaped across the river, where some settled in the town of Old Quindaro in the Kansas Territory, soon to be Free Kansas.  

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

Adding extra preparations following the disastrous bird flu outbreak this year, federal authorities have tapped Kansas State University to share its course on responding to agricultural emergencies.

K-State's National Agricultural Biosecurity Center, or NABC, is helping the Federal Emergency Management Agency provide training to first responders, according to a release from K-State.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

It's not that there's a problem with plans to develop the Quindaro Township site in Kansas City, Kansas — some feel it's the way they're being executed.

The African Methodist Church owns nearly 100 acres of  the Quindaro site, once an important spot on the Underground Railroad, a thriving business and cultural community, and site of the first African American University west of the Mississippi.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Slavery along the Missouri River in what is now the Kansas City metro area was not the slavery of Gone With The Wind.

University of Missouri-Kansas City history professor Diane Mutti-Burke, who has written extensively about slavery in Missouri, says slave owners tended to have less than 20 slaves. Those with more than 20 are historically defined as "plantations."

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