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
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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Texas
10:49 am
Fri July 4, 2014

New Braunfels Marine Killed in Afghanistan Will Be Laid to Rest Monday

Sergeant Thomas Spitzer from New Braunfels, Texas.
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=833105386715921&set=a.157228300970303.36082.100000494026975&type=1&theater

The body of Marine Sergeant Thomas Spitzer returns home to New Braunfels on Friday.

He was killed in action in Afghanistan on June 25.
The New Braunfels community is taking his loss to heart, not just because he is a local son, but also because his is not the only loss the community has experienced in recent years.

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Transportation
11:51 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Austin Could Take Hands-On Approach to Distracted Driving by Banning Hands-Free

Austin City Council could expand its definition of distracted driving to include hands-free devices.
via http://www.flickr.com/photos/indyplanets/

Austin already has a ban on texting behind the wheel, but phones these days are labeled "smart" for a reason — they can text, tweet,  Snapchat and steer drivers toward a plethora other distracting drive-time activities.

But now the city is asking for advice on possible changes to its distracted driving ordinance. And it could adopt an all-encompassing ban on mobile phone use behind the wheel, including a ban on hands-free devices.

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Austin Animal Center
11:00 am
Tue July 1, 2014

Could a Law Meant to Keep Animals Safe Actually Let More of Them Die?

A visitor to the Austin Animal Center in 2011. Animal advocates worry a law requiring a "veterinarian-client patient relationship" could slow rescue efforts, leading to more animal deaths.
KUT News

It's another busy day at the City of Austin's Animal Center.

This Monday there were 1,149 animals in inventory. About 600 were on site, the rest are in foster homes.

On her desk, Chief Animal Services Officer Abigail Smith has what looks like a police badge. It's there because she's a chief. But beyond that, Smith says it gets her access she couldn't get otherwise. "For example," Smith says, "it came in handy when we were responding to the Bastrop fires … Those were federally protected lines and you needed credentials to get through."

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Austin
12:15 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

How an Intervention Changed 12th & Chicon, Austin's Most Infamous Intersection

A new strategy for tackling drugs at 12th and Chicon streets – an "intervention" initiative to assist, rather then arrest, low-level users – is making a change.
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

It's a pretty uneventful morning at the corner of 12th and Chicon. Buses are running smoothly and on time. There's even a new art gallery in the area.

But there was a time – not too long ago – when prostitution, drugs, and other illegal activities were going down in the open, in the middle of the day.

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Education
4:14 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

Donation Brings Huston-Tillotson University Closer to Building Mental Health Clinic

A graduate of Huston-Tillotson University's class of 1941, Ada Anderson says her HT degree opened doors she would not have had access to otherwise.
Credit KUT's Joy Diaz

It's the largest gift Huston-Tillotson has ever received.

On Thursday, the historic black university announced that Ada Anderson, a 92-year-old graduate, had donated $3 million to pay for the initial construction phase of the school's mental health clinic. It will be called the Sandra Joy Anderson Community Health and Wellness Center in honor of the donor's daughter.

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Transportation
8:21 am
Tue June 24, 2014

Cap Metro Mulls Airport Route for Phase Two of Urban Rail

Project Connect

Capital Metro voted Monday to move forward with recommendations from Project Connect. The next steps are deciding who will govern its potential urban  rail operations and where some of the funding will come from. The City of Austin and Capital Metro are both major players.

But while Project Connect moved a step forward, there was a push from the Cap Metro board to take a step back.

After dozens of public meetings and no shortage of criticism, Project Connect arrived at a proposed route for its urban rail that would go from Riverside to Highland Mall. On Monday, Capital Metro Board Chair Mike Martinez asked for analysis on a whole new route, from Austin-Bergstrom International to UT.

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Austin
8:27 am
Mon June 23, 2014

How Colony Park Wants to Face its Challenges as Development Looms

The proposed plan covers 208 acres in northeast Austin.
Carrie Powell for KUT News

Colony Park, out near the Travis County Expo Center, is one of those neighborhoods in Austin that’s a mixed bag. The area is getting nicer in some ways, but it’s also facing some hard-to-fix challenges.

During the last couple of years, the community has been studying the positive aspects of Colony Park in order to take advantage of them.

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Austin
11:12 am
Fri June 20, 2014

Why the City's Cracking Down on Code Violations in Southeast Austin

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

For years, many Austin residents have made structural changes to their homes  like turning their garage into an apartment  without a permit. But the City of Austin has been taking a more proactive approach to code compliance lately, especially in Southeast Austin. 

"Austin Code is in the neighborhood daily," says Alanna Reed, a spokesperson with the city's Office of Code Compliance.

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Urban Rail
4:36 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Ahead of Key Vote, City Council and Capital Metro Meet to Hear Austin Rail Proposal

Project Connect

The Austin City Council and the Capital Metro Board met today to learn more about a proposed urban rail route that needs approval from the council – and ultimately, Austin voters. There are still concerns about how to pay for the project.

Project Connect is looking at adding rail, buses and other options to the transit system in Central Texas. But the project's proposed plan for downtown Austin is still contentious because it favors a route that would bring urban rail through East Riverside and up to Highland Mall at a cost of almost $1.4 billion.

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Turning the Corner
9:33 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Dove Springs: Turning the Corner in Southeast Austin

Paula Aguilar, Leonor Vargas, George Morales, Eliseo Ramos, Bob Larson and Bene Jacobs (l to r)
KUT News

Welcome to Dove Springs. 

Driving through the neighborhood, you may not realize you’re in the same city that’s home to Franklin Barbeque, Barton Springs or the Continental Club. Five miles down I-35 from the Texas Capitol lies a modest residential area in the city’s southeast corner, one of the last neighborhoods many Austin residents pass as they head to the airport. 

It’s also one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods with a history of gangs and drugs, poverty, teen pregnancy and obesity.

But it's a neighborhood filled with hardworking parents, multi-generational families and cultural diversity. There’s always been a lot of pride, but recently, residents are giving the neighborhood a voice. They’re advocating for better services, organizing events and this fall, they’ll elect a city council member to specifically represent their district.

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KUT's Summer School
4:00 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

We Spent a Day Blowing Glass. It'll Only Take 3 or 5 More Years to Get It Down

Joy and Wimberley Glassworks owner Tim deJong.

School is finally out across Austin. But here at KUT, class is in session.

KUT is kicking off our new "Summer School" series. Every Friday, KUT reporters will learn a new skill or craft from folks who are experts in the field. 

First up: Art class.

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Interstate 35
4:20 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

TxDOT Backs Plans to Bury I-35 – Just Don’t Hold Your Breath Waiting

A TxDOT rendering of a sunk and capped I-35 in downtown Austin. TxDOT is currently focused on less ambitious I-35 fixes, like improving ramps.
TxDOT/Mobility35

Sorry, Austin – there's no money to improve the Interstate 35 corridor. At least not enough for a full face-lift, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

But as money becomes available, TxDOT says it will continue working on portions of the highway. At a media workshop today, the state agency said that by the end of the year it should move from the planning stages of I-35 improvements and into studying their environmental impact. That should take about two years. And then – if funding is available – it will be time to start implementing changes.

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