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.


11:47 am
Mon June 3, 2013

NBAF Breaks Ground In Manhattan

Federal, state, and local officials pitch the first ceremonial shovel of dirt on the federal NBAF facility.
Credit Sherriene Jones Sontag

There was a lot of hand-shaking and back-slapping at the recent groundbreaking for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kan. Soon, the first construction will begin on an independent utility plant for the top-security animal disease lab.  

It’s been 4 and a half  years since the Department of Homeland Security awarded the project to Kansas, and it's been a rocky road to this point.

For a long time, the 46-acre site in a north corner of the Kansas State University campus has been fenced off,  guarded by security,  with an Olympic pool-size hole inside. 

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8:18 am
Mon June 3, 2013

KU Officials Aren't Yet Sure What Budget Cuts Will Mean

The first Kansas legislative session since 1861 to extend into June is over.  But the budget plan passed early Sunday is a frustration for a number of agencies and institutions; one is the Kansas University Medical Center.

Officials aren’t yet sure what the new budget will mean; in a speech this spring, KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little worried about a projected cut and the wide reach, particularly on the university’s satellite operations.

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7:52 am
Wed May 29, 2013

Officials Break Ground On NBAF Power Plant

Federal, state and local officials broke ground on the NBAF facility Tuesday in Manhattan, Kan.
Credit Shierrene Jones Sontag / Governor's office

Federal , state, and local officials gathered Tuesday afternoon at a ceremonial groundbreaking for a power plant on the site of the proposed National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas.

The so-called Central Utility Plant is Phase 2 of the Department of Homeland Security project - a high level bio-containment animal disease lab that will studying emerging and foreign animal diseases.

Congress allocated $40 million for the power plant in 2011.

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8:15 am
Tue May 28, 2013

Kansas Lawmakers Return To Topeka To Finish Session

Representative Barbara Bollier is a Republican from Mission Hills.
Kansas Legislature

Kansas lawmakers return to Topeka Tuesday to dive back into the contentious debate over budget and tax bills.

State Representatives and Senators were quoted  using words like “dumbfounded” to express  frustration that they can’t agree on either a budget or tax bill.  Lawmakers had planned to wrap up the legislative in 80-days instead of the mandated 90-days.  Instead, the session has run long like it has in most recent years.

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4:30 am
Tue May 28, 2013

How Code For America's Apps Benefit Kansas City

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 6:58 am



Now for people who enjoy using technology, it might feel like there's an app for everything. Some are mindless. I mean I'm a little embarrassed to tell you how much time I spend baking fake pizza on my mobile device. Then there are apps that are meant to actually be productive. And let's hear about one of those now.

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11:33 am
Thu May 23, 2013

Sen. Roberts: NBAF Construction Set To Begin

The DHS animal disease lab known as NBAF will begin construction Tuesday, May 28th, according to Kansas Senator Pat Roberts.
Credit Department of Homeland Security

Groundbreaking for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility will take place next Tuesday in Manhattan, Kansas according to a release from Senator Robert's office.

Cost sharing for this phase of the animal disease lab will be about equal - 50/50- for the independent power plant required on the 48 acre site at Kansas State University. Both Kansas and the federal government are putting in roughly $40 million.

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9:44 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Kan. Senate Gives First Round Approval For Additional NBAF Funds

Funds allocated by the state of Kansas and the federal government will help get building going at the NBAF site in Manhattan, Kan.
Credit Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Kansas Senators Tuesday gave first round approval for new spending in support of a controversial federal animal disease lab Manhattan.

Some Democrats as well as some in Gov. Brownback’s own party have questioned whether the state should commit an additional $202 million in bonds, on top of $145 million already spent in support of the federal lab.

Doubters in the legislature worry the state will be on the hook for cost overruns as the project continues.

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3:58 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

Governor's Office Meets Democrats To Explain Additional Request For NBAF

Kansas Senator Anthony Hensley wants answers about additional funding requests for NBAF.

The Governor's Chief of Staff,  Landon Fulmer, will visit the state Democratic Caucus on Thursday to explain, again, why Governor Brownback has requested $202 million in additional bonds for the proposed top security lab in Manhattan.

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12:05 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

How Hackers Are Working To Better Kansas City

John Harvey with non - profit City Vision in front of new town homes in Kansas City, Kansas. It took the organization months to navigate the bureaucracy of City Hall to get the necessary permits.
Credit Laura Ziegler

A story about Code for America working in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

Across the country, software geeks are building multi-platform applications to do all sorts of things. Among them, apps to encourage civic engagement and help cities run more efficiently.

Code for America, a non-profit out of San Francisco, is out front in this effort. The organization has fellows working in nine cities nationwide.  They're focusing on ways to make government work better for everyone.

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Business & Tech
10:30 am
Mon April 29, 2013

Green Bay Packers Player Promotes Kansas Made Products

Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson in Kansas City, Kansas this weekend. The Kansas native will be the new public face of a marketing campaign for Kansasproducts.
Credit Laura Ziegler

Good ad campaigns often have high profile spokespeople, and now so does a campaign to promote Kansas products.

The tag line is From the Land of Kansas, and this weekend Governor Sam Brownback was in Kansas City, Kansas to introduce  the  big name that will be behind this campaign - Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson .                                      

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4:10 pm
Fri April 26, 2013

NBAF Not Get Built? Brownback Says It Could Happen Without State Support

The NBAF is scheduled for completion in 5-7 years.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says if Kansas lawmakers won't approve additional funds for the National Bio And Agro-Defense Facility, there's a chance it won't get built.  And that's a risk he's not willing to take,  he said over the weekend on a stop in Kansas City, Kansas. 

President Obama's FY2014 budget requested $714 million for the top security animal disease lab proposed for Manhattan, Kansas.  As part of that request, the state was asked to contribute  $202 million. That's in addition to almost $150 million Kansas has already committed.

Some Republicans in Topeka suggest Governor Brownback’s request for an additional $202 million in bonds for the proposed animal disease lab represents a “moving target,” and want to be reassured the state isn’t going to be responsible for more than it can afford for a federal facility.

Governor Sam Brownback and Republican lawmakers weigh in on NBAF

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10:23 am
Thu April 25, 2013

5 Things Former Mayor Reardon Is Proud Of Accomplishing

Former Mayor Joe Reardon says there is a lot he is proud of, and a lot that still needs to be done.
Credit Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Wednesday was Joe Reardon’s last day in office.

The popular, 2-term head of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas says there were many things he was proud of accomplishing, and a few things he regretted not getting done.

Here are the things he was most proud of:

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Tracking NBAF
11:08 am
Wed April 10, 2013

President's Budget Includes Funds For NBAF In Manhattan

President Obama presenting his FY2014 Budget this morning. It includes $714 million for animal disease research, but isn't specific about funding NBAF.

President Obama’s 2014 budget proposal to Congress asks for funds to “develop countermeasures for diseases originating from large animals that can be transmitted to humans, "  including $714 million for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas.

The news has already been  interpreted by supporters as a green light for the $1.15-billion federal animal disease lab known as NBAF, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, in Manhattan, Kansas.

Senator Pat Roberts said the proposal represents the administration’s support for NBAF.

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10:02 am
Tue April 9, 2013

Kansas Moves Agriculture Department To Manhattan

The Kansas Secretary of Agriculture says he’s moving most of state Agriculture Department to Manhattan. Secretary Dale Rodman says the agriculture in Kansas will benefit from being part of what he’s calling “the synergies” between Kansas State University and a burgeoning animal and plant science industry.

The move will allow the Kansas department to work more closely and avoid redundancies with bioscience research and commerce already going on in Manhattan.

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8:01 pm
Sat March 30, 2013

Walt Bodine Eulogized As 'Voice Of Everyman'

Walt Bodine was remembered as an iconic pioneer in the news business at a memorial at Unity Temple on the Plaza this afternoon.

Walt Bodine “was us,” said Monroe Dodd, a long-time friend and colleague of the legendary newsman, who died last week at 92. Speaking at a packed memorial service this afternoon at Unity Temple on the Plaza, Dodd said Walt had remarkable insights. “He’d toss (them) into the conversation in the form of questions ... they were like firecrackers.”

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3:59 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

Johnson County Chairman Reports Thriving Economy

“The state of our county is good.” That was the message on Tuesday from  Johnson County Chairman Ed Eilert, as he bragged about the county’s 4.5 percent unemployment rate and dramatic increase in housing starts.

In his annual State of the County address, Eilert acknowledged it wasn’t easy to keep expenditures in line with revenues last year.  The county consolidated government departments and reduced the work force by the equivalent of more than 430 jobs through early retirement and attrition.

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Tracking NBAF
3:50 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

White House Budget Office Responds To Concerns About NBAF

Supporters believe funding the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is critical to protecting our nation's food supply. Detractors in Congress have asked the President not to fund it next year.
Credit Laura Ziegler

A senior official from the President’s Office of Management and Budget told two Congressmen he would be mindful of their concerns regarding the cost and safety of the proposed National Bio and Ago-Defense Facility (NBAF) in considering how much to allocate for NBAF in the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget.

OMB Deputy Director of Management Jeffrey Zients told Congressmen Tim Bishop and Joe Courtney that the administration was forced to evaluate the proposal for a new large-animal disease lab in the context of current budget constraints.

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Walt Bodine
2:00 pm
Sun March 24, 2013

Bodine Remembered As Giant Among Broadcasters

Credit KCUR

Walt Bodine was an aristocrat among newsmen and a friend to the people of Kansas City. The long-time journalist, author and talk show host died early Sunday morning. He was 92.

As a reporter, Walt always got the story, and he usually got it first. He wrote like a poet.

This is how he described Truman’s visit to Kansas City during the 1951 floods:

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11:23 am
Sun March 24, 2013

Legendary Broadcaster Walt Bodine Dies At 92

Longtime journalist, author and talk show host Walt Bodine died early Sunday morning. He was 92.

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1:57 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

KC State Of The City Speech Overshadowed By On-Stage Disruption

Police run inside to apprehend the man who disrupted the address.
Laura Ziegler KCUR

As Mayor Sly James delivered a predictable State of the City address at the Gem Theater Tuesday morning, Derron Black, 31, stormed the podium from backstage, pushed the mayor out of the way, and screamed obscenities into the microphone.

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Kansas City Zoo
4:33 pm
Sun March 17, 2013

Romance For Polar Bears? Zoo Crowds Keep Watch

A banner above the zoo entrance thanks supporters for passing a recent tax levy.
Laura Ziegler KCUR

If you're a zoo-lover, you’ve probably heard that the Kansas City Zoo’s very popular Polar Bear, Nikita, has a new friend.

Six-year-old Nikita, a male, has been joined by female Berlin, 17 years his senior.

Berlin came to Kansas City from the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth. Her habitat there had been destroyed by this summer's floods. 

After a short stay with two neutered males at the Minnesota Zoo, wildlife conservation experts decided to pair Berlin with a more virile male.

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Tracking NBAF
2:28 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

Federal Government Releases Money For Animal Disease Lab

Tim Barr, Dept of Homeland Security site manager for the NBAF site in Manhattan, Kansas.
Laura Ziegler KCUR

It’s not often that a press release comes out under the name of an entire Congressional delegation, even one as ideologically joined at the hip as this group from Kansas.

But that’s exactly what happened last month.

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High School
12:00 pm
Fri February 22, 2013

Closing Of St. Mary's School Reflects Declining Enrollment In Catholic Schools

St. Mary's High School in Independence will close after this year. It's been around for 160 years.

The St. Mary's community is reeling from what they feel was the abrupt and insensitive way the diocese of Kansas City and St. Joseph closed their 160-year-old school.  Many of the families in the Independence,  Sugar Creek and Blue Springs areas are alums and have children and grandchildren there.

But the diocese says closing the 160-year-old school was strictly a business decision; the diocese couldn't pay the bills to keep the school open. The reason, they say, is the tumbling enrollment.  Only seven students enrolled for the 2013-2014 freshman class.

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6:28 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

Snow Day: A Reporter's Notebook

Tim Mais was one of dozens of people helping stranded drivers on Thursday.
Laura Ziegler KCUR

A day of municipal mayhem is winding to a close.

The Kansas City Star’s Eric Adler writes that the whiteout of February 21, 2013 is a “100-year storm,” according to the record books. 

Many officials and citizens would probably agree.

The morning started with a snow dump. Some areas got several inches in several hours, according to the National Weather Service.

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3:58 am
Thu February 21, 2013

Gas Leaks: What You Need To Know

Tuesday evening’s tragic explosion and fire on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City may have some asking basic questions about gas leaks.

Here’s a brief primer:

How do I know if I have a gas leak?

  • If it’s a natural gas leak, you will smell it.

It’s an unpleasant smell, like rotten eggs.

Natural gas goes through a lot of processing before it can be used as fuel.

After all the other chemicals are taken out, what’s left is methane.

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Tracking NBAF
2:21 am
Wed February 20, 2013

Kansas Senator Says NBAF Going Forward With Release Of New Funds

The NBAF site in Manhattan will change for the first time in years if construction begins on an electric plant.
Laura Ziegler KCUR

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts said in an interview Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security will announce on Thursday its plans to release funds to get the stalled National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility started. 

The so-called NBAF has had difficulty getting off the ground. Senator Roberts chairs an NBAF steering committee and is the project's guiding light in Congress. The new funding is expected to enable the start of construction on a central electric plant -- a requirement for the billion dollar lab.

$90 million in federal funds are available for the NBAF.

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3:45 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

'Greetings From Kansas City' Exhibits Golden Age Of Postcards

A post card published by the Hall Brothers Company, founded by the Hall brothers - later of Hallmark Cards.

Long time readers of the Kansas City Star and Times might remember a column by a woman named Mrs. Sam Ray. The columns always featured commentary and a reproduction of an old postcard from Mrs. Ray’s vast collection of cards. They were usually intricately colored historical images of noteworthy mansions, municipal buildings, industry and civic life of Kansas City.

Today, the cards live in the Missouri Valley Special Collections of the Kansas City Public Library and the library is staging an exhibit with them that opened Monday, January 28th.

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Tracking NBAF
11:42 am
Thu January 17, 2013

Kansas Cattlemen Reject Proposed Biosecurity Lab

The proposed site of the NBAF lab in Manhattan, Kan.
Laura Ziegler KCUR

A limited survey of members of the Kansas Cattlemen’s Association has found little support for building the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kan.

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1:17 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

KCK Mayor Will Not Seek Reelection

Joe Reardon's Facebook photo.

The Mayor and CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, Joe Reardon, announced today he would not seek reelection for a third term this spring. In a letter from his office, Reardon said he made the decision based on personal reasons.

“I have a family at home that I love very much. It is important to me that I spend more time with them. My two sons are growing up much too quickly,” he said in his letter, which is posted in full on his Facebook page.

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Business & Tech
9:14 am
Mon January 7, 2013

Low Gas Prices Thanks To Extra Crude

Drivers in and around Kansas City will continue to see some of the lowest gas prices in the country this year.  That’s due to a surplus of crude oil in the area.

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