Sam Zeff | KBIA

Sam Zeff

Sam covers education for KCUR. Before joining the station in August 2014 he covered health and education for KCPT.

Sam began his career at KANU in Lawrence. He hosted Morning Edition at WHYY in Philadelphia where he also covered organized crime, politics and government corruption.

The Overland Park, Kansas native has won a National News and Documentary Emmy for investigative reporting, four Edward R. Murrow awards and four National Headliner Awards.  Sam was assistant news director at the ABC station in the Twin Cities, executive producer at the NBC station in St. Louis and executive producer of special projects at the CBS stations in Minneapolis and Kansas City.

Sam was educated at the University of Kansas.

In the annals of Wild West lawmen, you may not know Thomas Speers, the first police chief in Kansas City, but he was a legend in the late 19th century.

“He was contemporaries with 'Bat' Masterson, Wyatt Earp, 'Wild Bill' Hickok," says his great-grandson Clay Speers. "They would hang around when he was town marshal at the City Market square."

Segment 1: Some survivors of sex trafficking in Kansas recieve prison sentences rather than support.

Segment 1: Wyandotte advocates push for municipal IDs to mitigate problems faced by residents without photo identification.

A Jackson County sheriff’s deputy has been charged after shooting a woman in the back while trying to arrest her in August. 

Jackson County prosecutors on Wednesdsay charged Lauren Michael, 29, with first-degree assault and armed criminal action.

According to the charging documents, the shooting occurred after deputies tried to pull over a couple driving a Byrd scooter the wrong way down a street. The man was arrested but the woman fled.

Segment 1: Germany's prisons emphasize rehabilitation and resocialization for their inmates.

Germany is doing a lot of things differently than the U.S. when it comes to criminal justice, and they've got a lower inceration rate to show for it. In prisons there, staff are trained in things like psychology and communication, and they're paid just as much as police officers. This is all to promote a reintegration approach, which focuses on returning inmates back into their communities. 

People from all over Kansas City packed a city council hearing Wednesday to support a change in the city's marijuana laws. 

The committee delayed a decision on the proposed ordinance, sponsored by newly elected Councilman Brandon Ellington, which would essentially decriminalize the possession of 100 grams or less of marijuana.

Jackson County Executive Frank White's proposal to cut property taxes by $3 million next year landed with a thud Monday in the county legislature.

It was criticized, ridiculed and eventually shot down by legislators.

They suggested the modest cut in the county's property tax levy was White's way of deflecting attention from the county's ongoing reassessment mess.

Jackson County Executive Frank White Thursday blasted the audit of the COMBAT anti-crime tax commissioned by the prosecutor's office. 

Over the last three years, millions of dollars generated by COMBAT, the anti-drug and anti-violence sales tax in Jackson County, has been spent with little or no oversight, according to a new audit.

The COMBAT sales tax was approved by voters in 1989, and it has recently generated more than $20 million a year. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker commissioned the audit after she took over the agency in 2018.

Most Americans believe climate change is a serious problem, according to a CBS poll  released over the weekend. 

But few solutions seem to be coming from Washington, DC, or the statehouses in Topeka, Kansas, or Jefferson City, Missouri. So, local officials are trying to step up.

The Kansas City Zoo billed it as a big announcement—a remodeled home for its seven elephants—but it wasn't the huge announcement the zoo was hoping to make.

The zoo will spend $10 million improving the elephant exhibit. “The best way to do it is to just tear it all out and start from scratch,” said Randy Wisthoff, director of the zoo.

The renovations will make the pool easier for the animals to enter, add shade and make the ground a little softer by adding sand. Wisthoff says the current exhibit was good for the elephants but not great.

Kansas City has more days with a high heat index than it did a few decades ago, and that could make outdoor sports and exercise more dangerous.

Extreme heat events are on the rise across the United States due to climate change. That is putting athletes, especially young athletes, at risk, according to a report released Wednesday from Climate Central, based at Princeton University.

The lawsuit filed against Kansas Athletics by former head football coach David Beaty can move forward, a federal district court judge ruled Thursday afternoon.

KU moved to have the suit dismissed, but it was apparent from the very start of the hearing in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas, that the judge was disinclined to agree with the university's arguments. "My questions will be pointed," Senior Judge Kathyrn Vratil said as soon as the KU lawyer stood up.

One year ago a 19-year-old football player from New Jersey arrived in western Kansas to start his dream of playing in the pros. But after just one practice Braeden Bradforth was dead of exertional heatstroke, leaving his family devastated and Garden City Community College (GCCC) to explain how it happened.

“It's like nobody wasn't looking out for him,” said Joanne Atkins-Ingram, Bradforth's mother.

The Jackson County Board of Equalization (BOE) will decide Tuesday whether to yet again extend the deadline for property owners to appeal their reassessments.

As of Friday, some 9,500 appeals had been filed with the BOE and staff expected hundreds more before the deadline at close of business Monday.

Segment 1: Orchestra's executive director stepping down after 16 years

Frank Byrnes has kept the Kansas City Symphony financially sound, oversaw its move to Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center and maintained a balanced repertoire between classic and modern composers. Byrne spoke to what he liked most about the job, why he's retiring now and how all the best things in his life trace back to Hawaii.

Segment 1: Northeast News celebrates 21 years with current publishers

Northeast News has been providing Kansas City with local journalism for more than 90 years. In that span, it has developed a website, a podcast and worked with four owners. This year the paper is celebrating 21 years of publishing with owners Michael Bushnell and Christine Adams. 

Segment 1: Missouri's new rules on bond authorizes judges to look for alternatives to cash bail or confinement.

Segment 1: Jackson County reassessment disrupting more than property values

Though the Jackson County reassessment mess has been about market price, it is the people who own the homes and businesses who are most deeply affected. Three Jackson County residents discussed how their neighborhoods have reacted and the real-life implications for them and their neighbors should the new valuations stand. 

In a move that caught the Jackson County Board of Equalization (BOE) off guard, one member proposed Monday that the entire reassessment should be tossed out.

“It’s essentially a do-over,” said Preston Smith who represents Blue Springs schools on the BOE.

Under Smith's plan any property whose market value increased by more than 200 percent would see a hike in valuation of 14 percent.

If the property jumped 100 percent to 200 percent, the valuation would increase 13 percent.

Segment 1: American patriotism through the years

Some things never change, like the American need to blow things up on Independence Day. Not as predictable is our collective definition of patriotism. The concept has sustained the country's 243 years, but does it mean the same thing today as it did during the 1770s, 1870s or 1970s?

Members of the Jackson County Legislature on Friday unanimously called on the county executive to discard all recently issued property reassessments.

It was the newest move in an ongoing controversy surrounding Jackson County's reassessment of the 300,000 parcels of land in the county.

"It's become clear there are numerous grave errors in the 2019 reassessment values," legislators wrote in a statement to County Executive Frank White on Friday afternoon. They said White should "provide a resolution to this situation" although no specifics actions were suggested.

It’s 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon, and officers Kelsey Wingate and Uriel Ojeda from the Kansas City Police Department's Central Patrol Division are already behind.

“We’re starting our shift with all these calls waiting for officer response," Ojeda says as he settles in behind the wheel and turns on the laptop.

Almost a dozen calls for service pop up. "That’s very common for us," says Wingate.

Like most big criminal cases, the odometer fraud ring that Missouri Highway Patrol Cpl. Nate Bradley recently busted started with one victim.

"A gentleman came to my shop here in Lee's Summit and he said, 'Hey, I bought this car, and I think I got swindled,'" Bradley recalls. "So I started looking into it and sure enough, he got swindled."

Over a five-year investigation, Bradley eventually uncovered 48 victims of a rollback scheme around Kansas City, according to a grand jury indictment in a case that was recently unsealed.

Garden City Community College Trustees voted Tuesday to spend $100,000 on an independent investigation into the exertional heatstroke death of a football player last August.

The family and friends of 19-year-old Braeden Bradforth from Neptune, New Jersey, have been calling for an independent probe since the teen died after a conditioning practice.

A man who was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $11 million in restitution for a wide-ranging mortgage fraud scheme, is back in jail.

Brent Barber, 54, was arrested by U.S. Marshalls when he reported to his parole officer at the downtown federal courthouse Thursday.

In his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lujana Counts, Barber wore a blue sweatshirt and high top sneakers. The one-time millionaire, who lived on a Loch Lloyd golf course, asked Counts for a free, court-appointed lawyer. 

Last week, ballots started arriving in Shawnee mailboxes, asking voters to decide on a $38 million bond issue to build a new community center with a pool and fitness center in the city's growing western end.

Garden City Community College has broken its silence and released a summary of an internal investigation into the death of a New Jersey football player after a practice in August 2018.

Braeden Bradforth died of exertional heat stroke, according to an autopsy, two days after arriving in Garden City from his home in Neptune, New Jersey. Former GCCC head coach Jeff Sims initially said the 19-year-old died from a blood clot.

Without fanfare, Kansas junior colleges have reinstated a cap on how many out-of-state scholarships they can offer in football.

Removing the cap was denounced by high school coaches and athletic directors around the state when the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC) voted unanimously in 2015 to allow football and basketball programs to have as many out-of-state scholarship athletes as they wanted.

There is a chance that there might be two new jails in Jackson County in the next few years — one for the county and one for Kansas City.

Pages