Joy Diaz

City Reporter

Joy Diaz has been a reporter with KUT on and off since 2005. Since joining KUT, Joy has covered education, healthcare and immigration. She is now the station’s city reporter.

Originally from Mexico, Joy moved to the U.S. in 1998 when her husband Luis was transferred from his job in Mexico City to train workers in a telecommunications plant in Virginia. While there, Joy worked for Roanoke's NPR station WVTF.

Joy speaks English and Spanish, which is a plus in a state like Texas. She graduated from Universidad de Cuautitlán Izcalli in Mexico City with a degree in journalism. In 2008 she took a break to devote herself to her two young children, before returning to the KUT studios. She loves reading, painting and spending time engaging with the community.  

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Austin
10:41 am
Mon September 1, 2014

How Will Austin Police Enforce the Hand-Held Device Ban?

The Austin City Council approved a ban on hand-held devices last week, which will take effect at the beginning of next year.
Credit via Xconomy

Starting in January, you won't be able to have your phone in your hands while driving your car, or while riding your bike.

The Austin City Council passed an ordinance Thursday prohibiting use of devices unless drivers are at a complete stop, or if there is an emergency. Those caught in the act by Austin police face a citation for a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $500 – though, the city has not yet finalized a fine structure for the ban.

While some studies suggest devices with hands-free capability doesn't necessarily reduce safety risk or increase reaction times, the move is an extension of the city's current ban on using devices while on the road. But what do Austin drivers think of the ban, and how Austin police plan to enforce it?

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Austin
7:58 am
Thu August 28, 2014

Austin's Experimental 'Micro-Housing' Project for Chronically Homeless Breaks Ground

The interior of one of the micro-homes. Some can be rented for as low as $180 per month.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Yesterday, a decade-long dream took root for Alan Graham of Mobile Loaves and Fishes. Graham and the organization celebrated the groundbreaking of Community First, a self-sustaining, employment-focused village for chronically homeless Austinites on the mend near Decker Lane.

The experiment aims to end homelessness by cheaply renting out up to 240 colorful cottages, offering tenants homegrown produce, employment services and a roof over their head in northeast Austin.

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2014 Elections
5:29 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Can Ballot Placement Influence an Election Outcome?

City Clerk Jannette Goodall randomly draws candidate names by district and announces the order in which candidate names will appear on the ballot.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

For the 78 people running for Austin City Council and Mayor this fall, where their name is on the ballot can make a real difference on Election Day. And that was determined by a random drawing on Wednesday.

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2014 Elections
11:44 am
Wed August 20, 2014

Lack of Connections & Savvy Block Some Would-Be Candidates in Council Races

A crowded ballot may be one hindrance, but some cite a lack of political influence and savvy as a barrier in running for office.
Credit Photo by KUT News

Now that the ballot is set for Austin City Council elections, we've got a clear picture of what the races will look like heading into November. Seventy-eight candidates will be featured on the ballot. Though that may seem like a crowded field overall, some districts have as many as 12 candidates, while other districts could only have a few candidates.

That kind of disparity has some asking whether the new, for-the-people-by-the-people ethos of the 10-1 system can help political neophytes overcome the hurdles and trappings of political campaigns.

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Assisted Living
7:16 am
Thu August 14, 2014

Texas Lawmakers Push to Close the Austin State Supported Living Center

The Sunset Advisory Commission suggested closing the doors of the Austin State-Supported Living Center yesterday.
Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Yesterday, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission recommended closure for the Austin State Supported Living Center and five other similar centers among the 13 across the state that care for physically and cognitively disabled Texans.

While some residents have lived in these homes for decades and know no other home, lawmakers cite a history of abuse and neglect, waning enrollment numbers and a statewide shift to community-supported models in arguments to shutter the homes.

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Transportation
7:13 am
Fri August 8, 2014

Urban Rail and Road Improvement Plan Will Go to Austin Voters in November

Supporters of urban rail hope it will relieve traffic congestion, but some transit advocates aren't convinced it will work.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrlaugh/6705429685

A major transportation plan took a significant step forward Thursday when the Austin City Council voted unanimously to put it on the November ballot.

It’s a billion-dollar proposition. Voters would agree to a $600 million bond for a 9.5-mile urban rail line, contingent upon two conditions: matching funds from the Federal Transit Administration or another federal or state source, and a future city council securing $400 million dollars for road projects. The ordinance does not specify a source for the additional $400 million.

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Border & Immigration
10:59 am
Wed August 6, 2014

A Private Prison Group Runs Texas' New Immigrant Detention Center

Cameras monitor every area of the Karnes City immigrant facility, managed by GEO Group, but officials say residents have freedom of movement within the locked facility.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Texas’ newest detention center for immigrant children and mothers opened last week in Karnes City, just 54 miles outside of San Antonio. But less than a week out, the facility’s already garnering scorn from immigration attorneys in Austin.

Those attorneys – the same ones who helped shut down the troubled T. Don Hutto detention center north of Austin in 2009 – take umbrage with the fact that the Karnes facility is run by the GEO Group, a for-profit company with a less-than-impeccable reputation.

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Austin
10:05 am
Tue August 5, 2014

No One Dies Alone: Austin Program Ensures Patients Don’t Face Death By Themselves

Dr. Leigh Fredholm, medical director of Seton Palliative Care, and Liz Powell, Seton’s Network Palliative Care Chaplain, visit a patient at the University Medical Center at Brackenridge in Austin.
Tamir Kalifa/Texas Tribune

When a loved one is near death, friends and family often rush to their side – saying their goodbyes and remembering a loved one before they pass.

Yet sometimes that’s not possible. Family members may be unable to travel, or some may have completely severed ties with their loved ones.

But a program at Seton and Brackenridge medical centers ensures that patients don't face death alone – even if they were alone in life.

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Austin Police
7:22 am
Mon August 4, 2014

How Much It Costs Austin Every Time SWAT Teams Roll Out

Officers train at the police department's shooting range in Southeast Austin.
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

By the end of July, there had been twelve SWAT operations so far this year in Austin. Naturally, every time a SWAT team is deployed it costs money. But it’s not always the same amount – weekends and after-hours are a bit pricier than, say, a mid-day operation.

But, no matter the time, every time one of Austin's three SWAT teams rolls out on a call, it costs thousands of dollars an hour.

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Immigration
9:29 am
Fri August 1, 2014

Central American Immigrants Are Welcomed in This Texas Town

Federal officials opened the doors to give a tour of the newly renovated detention facility in Karnes City, Texas, designed to house mothers and children aprehended at the border.
I

Today, buses with Central American mothers and children apprehended at the border  start arriving in Karnes City, about 54 miles southeast of San Antonio.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)  just finished remodeling a facility there. But unlike other cities, this detention center isn’t causing a stir in the community.

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Health
11:59 am
Tue July 29, 2014

The Nearest Detox Facility for Austin's Uninsured & Indigent is Now in Waco

flickr.com/wstryder

One challenge many homeless people face is fighting addiction. And that battle could get tougher for some, as an Austin nonprofit that helps people recover from addiction has closed its detox facility – meaning new hurdles for the homeless and uninsured who need detox services.

This month, nonprofit Austin Recovery closed its detox facility. The detox process isn't pretty – in fact, it can be rather dangerous. Patients needed to be monitored around-the-clock by highly trained medical staff, just as if they were in a hospital setting.

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Border & Immigration
11:14 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Migrant Children Have State, Federal Foster Care Competing for Parents

On June 24, 2014, volunteers gather at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, where the Rio Grande Valley Catholic Charities have a makeshift shelter to help handle the surge of immigrants who have crossed into the U.S. in recent weeks.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

The influx of children from Central America arriving at the Texas-Mexico border has many people asking how they can help.

One way people can help is by becoming foster parents – but acting as a foster parent for the federal government is different than being a foster parent for the state.

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Austin
9:20 am
Thu July 24, 2014

Why Kids' Summer Activities Could End Up Saving Parents Money

Isabelle DiCarlo rides a horse at Switch Willow. The money her mother Julie spent on activities this summer is around $5,000, which she could write off as a deduction in next year's taxes.
Filipa Rodigues for KUT News

For busy parents, the dog days of summer are less about beating the heat, and more about finding a way to keep the kids preoccupied.

Activities can range from summer camps to soccer leagues or stints at daycare, but they all have one thing in common: they cost money. But, while there's no such thing as a free summertime preoccupation, the money parents spend on their kids' activities could return later in the form of a welcome tax deduction.

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Austin
10:13 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Running for Austin City Council? The Time to File is Here

Earlier this month, crews began renovating the dais in City Hall in order to fit 11 council members. The filing period to run for council this fall opened this week.
Bryan Winter/KUT

Austin City Council hopefuls are trickling into City Hall to file for a place on the ballot.

The application period, opened yesterday, goes through August 18. While currently just a handful of people have filed, the election is generating excitement that's hard to come by in local politics

Jannette Goodall is Austin's City Clerk. But if you didn't know that, you'd think she's a wedding planner – for months, Goodall and her staff have been prepping for this moment. "You're kind of planning for the big ball, you know? It's kind of fun," she says.

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Halloween Floods
8:43 am
Mon July 14, 2014

How Long Will It Take to Finish the Onion Creek Buyout Demolitions?

Workers from AAR Inc., a company hired to remove asbestos, inside a house on Onion Crossing Drive. The crew leader said many of the workers live in the Dove Springs neighborhood.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Last Halloween at least 580 homes in Austin were damaged by floods in the Onion Creek area, causing nearly $30 million in property damage. So far, the city has purchased 116 properties that were either damaged by flood waters or are in danger of future flooding. 

By the end of the year, demolition contractors plan on knocking down 105 homes in the area. But what happens to all the leftover debris from those homes, and how long will the project take to complete? 

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Austin
1:41 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Google Fiber's Slow Start to High-Speed Internet in Austin

High school students develop apps in a University of Missouri–Kansas City program. Kansas City was the first city to receive Google Fiber.
flickr.com/umkc

“We hope to have services to our first customers by the middle of 2014.”

As recently as May 17, this message was posted on the Google Fiber website for Austin, according to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

Well, July 2 marked the middle of 2014, and beside the announcement of a new employee, Austinites hungry for the tech giant’s ultra-fast Internet service – first promised in April 2013 – have received nary an update. Except for a vague update to the website, that is: “We hope to have services to our first customers later this year.”

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Texas
10:35 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Attorney Impersonators 'Sell Hope' & Steal Money From Immigrants Looking for Help

Veronica Avila Zavala was the victim of an attorney impersonator that promised her husband's release, but took $14,000 from her.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT

One of the biggest traps undocumented immigrants fall into is the advice of "faux" attorneys. They pretend to know the ins-and-outs of immigration law and often scam victims of thousands of dollars. 

For Veronica Avila Zavala, it seemed like an easy way out of a bad situation.

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Crime & Justice
2:16 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

DFPS to Investigate If Sibling Drownings Were Result of Neglect

Credit WikiMedia Commons

An investigation has begun into the deaths of a 4-year-old boy and his 6-year-old sister who drowned in Lake Georgetown this weekend while under the care of a foster family. 

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) had placed the children under the care of a state sub-contractor called Providence Kids, an agency specializes in placing sibling groups with foster families.

DFPS spokesperson Julie Moody says the children had lived in the foster home since last August. 

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Texas
2:02 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Secure Communities Could Be Detaining Legal Asian Americans in Travis County

Travis County has the third highest rate of deportations in the U.S.
KUT News

Last month, the Austin City Council signed a resolution to opt out of Secure Communities, a partnership between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and law enforcement to detain, fingerprint and cross-reference the immigration status of people picked up for suspicion of certain crimes, with the goal of deporting "criminal aliens."

At the time of the council vote, many might have assumed most of the people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement are Hispanic, especially in Texas. But, former Municipal Judge Ramey Ko says the county may also be detaining a large number of Asian Americans. 

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Health
11:49 am
Mon July 7, 2014

Leprosy Persists in Texas, But the Disease Is No Longer a Death Sentence

Debbie Mata is one of the few leprosy nurses in the country.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT

For thousands of years, people have had an image of what life with leprosy is like. You might think it's been eradicated, but leprosy — now referred to as Hansen's disease — still affects hundreds of people in the U.S. every year. Many of those victims are in Texas but, with treatment, a life with leprosy is no longer a death sentence.

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