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

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.

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.

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