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

Alyson Raletz / KCUR

I’m someone who simply will just say "I’m from Kansas City.” But, sometimes people will ask "Kansas City, Kansas, or Kansas City, Missouri?"

Then I go into the convoluted explanation how I live in the suburbs of Kansas City, Mo., but in Kansas, not far from the state line. It gets kind of boring.

But State Line is anything but boring.

I recently found Blue Springs, Mo., resident D.J. Lee at Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que (formally known as Oklahoma Joe's) in Kansas City, Kan.

"To cross the street and be in a different state ... pretty awesome!" says Lee.

Wikimedia Commons -- CC

A Wednesday shake-up in Kansas politics even has seasoned pundits amazed. 

Chad Taylor, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate, has withdrawn from the race, leaving Kansas Republican Pat Roberts facing his toughest political test in decades.

Steve Kraske, host of Up To Date on KCUR and Kansas City Star political commentator, says the change spells bad news for the incumbent.

"Pat Roberts is suddenly in very deep trouble in Kansas," Kraske says. "His polling numbers have not been good. He was ahead only because he was in a three-way contest."

Laura Ziegler

Three members of the Kansas Congressional delegation were in Manhattan, Kan., Friday to see the first stage of construction on the $1.2 billion federal animal disease lab known as NBAF, or the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

Joining Senators Jerry Moran, Pat Roberts and Congressman Tim Huelskamp was Dr. Reginald Brothers. Brothers will oversee the facility as an undersecretary with the federal Department of Homeland Security.

Talking to reporters after the tour, Brothers said he was happy with what he saw.

Missouri Dept. of Tourism / Flickr--CC

A federal judge has thrown out racketeering charges against the firm of Linda Dickens, the local attorney who is suing the owners of the Kansas City Power & Light District  for racial discrimination on behalf of African-American clients.

In a ruling handed down Wednesday afternoon, U.S. District Judge John W. Lungstrum said the allegations by The Cordish Companies Inc. did not amount to the kind of long-term criminal activity against which the racketeering law is aimed.

Laura Ziegler

Many of the schools in the Kansas City metro area began this week. As we look around and see students toting backpacks and boarding school busses, we take a look at what's universal about this "back-to-school" time of year with this audio postcard.

HDR / City of Kansas City

Not long after Kansas City's proposal to add street car lines along Independence Avenue and Linwood Boulevard went down to defeat in Tuesday’s election, Kansas City Mayor Sly James was in front of microphones expressing his disappointment.

The mayor reiterated those concerns the morning after the election. “Things are not going to get better unless we do something different,” he said in an interview with KCUR.

Pam Morris / Flickr--CC

Midwesterners are hard-working, friendly and polite.

Those were the recurring adjectives that came up when we asked Kansas Citians for their take on the heartland.

When we took to social media and asked, “What does it mean to be a Midwesterner in five words or less?”  you also shot back these common themes:

• Underappreciated

• Family-oriented and pragmatic

• We feel we know what’s really important (priorities)

• Compassionate

• Considerate

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Ida Dockary and Florence Hayden have seen it all during the 55 years they’ve lived on the 3800 block of the Ivanhoe neighborhood in Kansas City, Mo., just a few doors down from one another.

At 81 and 86 years old, respectively, they were there when Ivanhoe was a thriving residential and business community. They watched as U.S. Highway 71 bisected the neighborhood, eliminating whole blocks of homes. They saw their streets become infested with crime and blight, and change from a mix of races to mostly all black.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Coach Foday Kamara is proud that countries in the World Cup are represented among the immigrants living in the Historic Northeast neighborhood in Kansas City, Mo.

Kamara — an immigrant from Sierra Leone - has been in the United States for nine years. He was a professional soccer player before he came. 

Now he's trying to form a soccer league in Kansas City's Historic Northeast. He says the area's diverse population lends itself to some excellent soccer.

"Everybody here is playing soccer." Kamara says. "All the immigrants ... (grew up) playing soccer."

Laura Ziegler

The Historic Northeast has a concentration of social services such as soup kitchens, shelters and health centers.

And the services tend to draw large numbers of the homeless to the area.

During the past year and a half, residents have been organizing to deal with some of the accompanying issues, like excess trash, sanitation and property damage. 

Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library / Kansas City, Mo.

Cliff Drive in Kansas City, Mo., hugs the limestone bluffs that separate the stately turn-of-the-century mansions in the Historic Northeast neighborhood from the industry and train tracks of the Missouri River bottoms.

The road was purchased from the estate of Reverend Nathan Scarritt around 1900.

Scarritt and his family were early settlers in Illinois, and moved to Missouri in the mid-1820s as pioneers.

courtesy photo / U.S. Department of Homeland Security

A U.S. Senate subcommittee has appropriated $300 million in funding for the National Bio and Agro- Defense Facility , or NBAF, in Manhattan, Kan.

Ron Trewyn, vice president for research at Kansas State University, says this week's appropriation for a top-security animal disease lab on Kansas State's campus will allow the Department Of Homeland Security lab be finished.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR

The homicide epidemic among young black men on Kansas City’s east side is leaving a generation of grieving teens in its wake, and some in the crime-fighting community feel black churches need to change their message to better help these young people deal with their loss.

Courtesy / Brancato family

Thousands of dancers flocked each week to the Fairyland Park Dance Pavilion in Kansas City, Mo., in the decades between opening day in 1923 and when the park closed in the 1977.  The park was owned by the Brancato family, a family of Italian immigrants and successful business people who'd come to the United States at the turn of the century.

Courtesy photo / Crawford Family Collection- Judy Long

  

From the 1920s through the 1960s, summertime in Kansas City meant a thrilling trip to Fairyland Park.

The 80-acre amusement park in Kansas City, Mo., offered daring rides, an outdoor dance pavilion, a large swimming pool, and later, a drive-in movie theater.

As we move into the summer of 2014, we take a trip back to the heyday of a local summer ritual for many, but not all, Kansas City residents.

Every child's dream

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Earlier this month, we ran a story about the accessibility to jobs in the Kansas City metro by public transportation. It takes Kara McGowan, of Kansas City, Mo., more than 90 minutes to get to her job in Westport once she drops off her children at day care.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Just after 7:15 a.m. in the morning, Kara McGowan rushes out of her house, carrying her baby, Airis, on one arm, a bulging diaper bag on the other. Her four-year-old, Addison, trails behind.

"We got eight minutes. Come on!" McGowan pleads.  She doesn't want to miss her bus. She doesn't have a car, so her only option to get her kids to daycare and to herself to her job as a receptionist in Westport is to take public transit.

McGowan's bus rolls away from the intersection before she and the children arrive, so she reroutes them to catch the 12th Street bus across town.

Kyle Gradinger / Flickr--CC

Any day now, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Marco Roldan is expected to hand down a decision that would allow an election to create a special transit taxing district.

Ashley Turner / Flickr-CC

Linda Dickens of Dickens Law, LLC  is being sued by The Cordish Companies for extortion and defamation. Dickens says the claims against her and her firm are a scare tactic and without merit. Cordish Companies owns and operates The Kansas City Power & Light District.

Maria Carter / KCUR

The Cordish Companies, owners and operators of the Power & Light District in Kansas City, are alleging a Kansas lawyer conspired to extort “large amounts of money” from Cordish as part of  race discrimination lawsuit against the company.

In a racketeering lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., Cordish further alleges Dickens Law LLC, principal Linda Dickens and attorney Austin Johnston engaged in witness tampering, and that Linda Dickens either deliberately or recklessly lied to the news media .

Eds. note: We are re-airing this story Jan. 2 as we look back on 2014. Jeff Piehler died in November 2014.

Local woodworker and artist Peter Warren met Dr. Jeff Piehler, a retired thoracic surgeon, at an art opening some years ago. But last year, the doctor came to visit Warren at his studio with an unusual request.

“He came to me and said ‘what do you think about building a casket?’” Warren said. "I told him I was fine with that."

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

In the weeks since a gunman shot and killed three people at Jewish facilities in Overland Park, Kan., hundreds of cards, letters and other expressions of sympathy have poured in.

Jacob Schreiber, President and CEO of the Jewish Community Center said a number of the written expressions are displayed on a bulletin board in the center’s lobby. Some of the expressions of sympathy include:

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority is thinking about temporarily moving some routes off Main Street in Kansas City, Mo., while streets are congested with construction.

While lower Main street is torn up as workers lay streetcar lines, it comes as no surprise to anyone moving around there that traffic is a mess. So Mark Huffer, General Manager of the ATA, says officials are thinking it may alleviate some of the congestion to move peak-time routes off Main to Grand for awhile.

Courtesy / Rockhurst University

Rockhurst University planted 33,000 tulips as part of the Tulips on Troost program this year. Now that the blankets of flowers are finished blooming, the university is giving the tulip bulbs away.

KCUR

A handful of volunteers gathered earlier this week at Reconciliation Services, a social service agency at 31st Street and Troost Avenue in Kansas City, Mo., they ate stuffed grape leaves around a small table, talking about what needs to be done for Saturday’s 10th annual Troost Ave Festival. But, not much comes up.

"We need to figure out the color of our T-Shirts,” says Rae Peterson, the de facto group leader. The T-shirt will bear an image donated by local artist D.J. Burton.

Ron Jones

It was a backslapping moment for federal and local officials Monday morning as they celebrated the end of a $50 million federal transit and infrastructure grant.

A group of runners broke through a green crepe paper ribbon on a pedestrian bridge over Brush Creek, a block east of Troost and just north of Volker in Kansas City, Mo.

Laura Ziegler

When the first blankets of tulips bloomed along Troost as part of the Tulips on Troost street beautification program, national, even international press paid attention.

But the program was never supposed to be just about flowers. It was also an effort to reimagine Troost Avenue, which for years has been thought of as an economic and racial dividing line.

Today, the program is all but defunct, lacking funds and human capital to keep it alive.

Driving north along Troost from 75th street, there aren't many signs of tulips. 

Laura Ziegler

Parents pulled into the circle in front of the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kan., at a steady pace to drop off their prechoolers at the Child Development Center Wednesday.

It was the first day the center was open since a gunman took the lives of William Corporon, 69, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Underwood, in the parking lot before killing Terri LaManno, 53, at a retirement community down the road. 

The only reminder of the horrific event were several police cars lining the driveway and a handful of law enforcement officers inside the building.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Shootings at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom retirement home in Overland Park, Kan. became international news overnight as new details about the tragedy emerged.

Authorities have been learning about the racist and anti-Semitic ideology of the suspect, Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., who hate-group trackers have been following for years.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Updated 10:47 a.m.:

Frazier Glenn Cross, the suspect in Sunday's shootings, is being held at the Johnson County Detention Center without bond. Kristi Bergeron, of the District Attorney's Office in Johnson County said he will not be arraigned Monday.

He will face both federal and state charges.

Updated 10:36 a.m.:

The Children's Center for the Visually Impaired released this statement:

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