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
7:30 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Does Public Input Really Matter in City Projects?

A map of Onion Creek Metropolitan Park. The area takes up 555 acres of land in southeast Travis County.
Austin Parks and Recreation Department

Public input meetings are places where ideas float around, and where friends with similar interests reconnect.

At a meeting this week at Dove Springs' Mendes Middle School, you could see neighbors sharing input on what they'd like to see happen at Onion Creek Park.

Susan Willard, president of the Onion Creek Parks Neighborhood Alliance said she wants "[a] picnic area and barbeque grills." She even remembers a place from her childhood called Davey Crockett National Forest that has platforms and rope swings. "They could do something like that back in there," Willard says. "That’d be really cool! You know? Something that fits with nature."

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Transportation
8:59 am
Tue March 18, 2014

Why Austin Taxi Drivers Can't Refuse a Ride Based on Destination

Ever been refused a ride by an Austin cab? If it was due to trip length, they broke the law.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Have you ever been denied a cab ride in Austin?

After last week's deadly crash on Red River Street, there's been calls for more and better public transportation and taxi service.

But during special events like South by Southwest, it seems like more and more Austin taxis refuse to take riders for a variety of reasons. Carlton Thomas with the City of Austin’s Parking Enterprise says the most common reason is that "drivers are not interested in taking the short trips."  

He should know, because all complaints about cab drivers come to his department.

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Homelessness
4:58 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Austin's Homeless Population is Shrinking. Is It Permanent?

Bruce Klein has been homeless for years. Klein says he owes his survival to the goodness of strangers. He believes it's only a matter of time before number of people living on the streets of Austin spikes back up.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News.

This year’s count of people who are homeless shows a decline in numbers for the Austin area. It’s the fourth consecutive year of decline. So, what’s behind the shrinking numbers of people who live on the streets?

Ann Howard leads an organization called ECHO -- the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition. She hopes the day will come when there are no more people who are homeless and then she’ll move to a different line of work. And, if her predictions are right, that day may come soon for Austin.

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Austin
10:18 am
Thu February 13, 2014

City Council Poised to Decide on 'Stealth Dorm' Regulations

The Dove Springs neighborhood has many homes that could be considered "stealth dorms" under a new occupancy reduction ordinance.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The city of Austin limits the number of unrelated adults who can live in a single-family home. Right now, that limit is six.

But there’s a push before the Austin City Council to lower that number to four.  The Austin City Council meets today to decide whether to impose new rules that would lower occupancy limits – and do away with what some call “stealth dorms.”

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Turning the Corner
9:16 am
Fri February 7, 2014

Men on Parole Search For Fresh Start in Austin's Dove Springs

A man who declined to be identified returns to the transitional housing facility known as The Cave.
Jon Shapley for KUT News

This article is part of KUT's year-long series called Turning the Corner, which takes a look at Austin's Dove Springs neighborhood. For decades, the neighborhood has had a negative reputation. Now, many community members are trying to change the perception of the 78744 zip code. 

KUT is documenting those efforts, the people trying to make a difference, the setbacks they face and how they work to overcome them. Listen to more stories here.

Dove Springs is the only neighborhood in Austin where you can find a parole office – one of the reasons more parolees end up in Southeast Austin than any other neighborhood.

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Politics
8:10 am
Mon February 3, 2014

Austin's Political Players Look to Gain Seats on New City Council

Austin's switch to geographic representation has groups traditionally locked out of City Hall eying seats on the council dais.

This article was co-produced as part of an ongoing City Hall reporting partnership between the Austin Monitor and KUT. Listen to the audio story broadcast on KUT in the player below. 

With single-member districts soon to become a reality, Austin City Council candidates are already lining up to crowd what promises to be a very full November ballot. Austin's political insiders and outsiders alike are trying to get a handle on an election that promises to shape the city for years to come.

Roger Borgelt is vice chairman of the Travis County Republican Party. He also served as co-chair of the Austinites for Geographic Representation – the group responsible for getting 10-1 on the ballot. He says that he is excited about the promise of more localized, neighborhood representation, as well as the possibility of conservatives (or at least fiscal conservatives) taking some of the 11 open City Council seats.

 

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Halloween Floods
8:41 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Onion Creek Residents Worry About Mold After Halloween Floods

Many houses in the Dove Springs neighborhood remain damaged and uninhabitable after the Halloween Floods, and mold growth continues to be a significant problem in the area.
Jon Shapley for KUT News

The mostly uninhabited neighborhood of Onion Creek in southeast Austin has experienced some growth. But it’s growth the few neighbors who are back do not welcome.

Mold and mildew is growing in many of the homes that were left uninhabited after last year’s floods, which could create health problems for those living in Onion Creek.

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Halloween Floods
6:01 am
Wed January 22, 2014

First Floods, Now This: Onion Creek Residents Face Break-Ins, Thefts

Julian Arrianga returned to his Onion Creek home to find his fence ripped out.
Joy Diaz, KUT News

The holidays can be prime for home break-ins – after all, that’s when people go out of town for a few days and leave their homes unattended.

But imagine what happens when an entire neighborhood is forced out of their homes – and the vast majority of houses remain uninhabited for almost three months. That’s the situation in flood-stricken Onion Creek in southwest Austin.

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Austin
3:06 pm
Mon January 20, 2014

MLK Day Cleanup Rids Flood-Stricken Onion Creek Park of Debris

Onion Creek Park in southeast Austin was covered with debris after the flood in October 2013. The playground area is still inaccessible.
Joy Diaz/KUT

The flood-stricken neighborhood of Onion Creek honored the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today by cleaning a community park that’s been covered with debris since last year’s Halloween flood.

Metallic doors, glass from broken windows, gas tanks were among the many items strewn about the park. Mary-Lee Plumb-Mentjes filled an entire bucket with broken glass. “I’ve always picked up trash,” Plumb-Mentjes said. “We’ve been given two hands [and] I feel we should use [them] when we see something,”

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Halloween Floods
8:12 am
Mon January 20, 2014

After Unwanted Towing, APD Orders Most Tow Trucks in Onion Creek to Back Off

Neighbors in the Onion Creek area are putting signs on their cars to prevent them from being towed.
Joy Diaz, KUT

In the days following last year's Halloween floods, tow trucks were indispensable to the Onion Creek community in Southeast Austin.

The flood disabled hundreds of vehicles and left them scattered throughout the area — some were in the middle of the road, while others careened into people's homes. But, after the waters receded, some say towing companies have developed a habit of towing cars — even when they’re not asked to do so.

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Halloween Flood
6:48 am
Thu January 16, 2014

Why Some Flood Homeowners Think Twice Before Selling to the City of Austin

The aftermath of the Halloween flooding in the Onion Creek neighborhood.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT

The city of Austin has made offers to buy at least two dozen homes damaged by the Halloween flood. Why then, are some homeowners refusing to sell?

Floods are nothing new in South East Austin’s Onion Creek neighborhood. And neither is the city’s buyout program. It began back in 1998. The idea has always been to buy homes in the floodplain using taxpayer money to avoid future loss of life and property damages.

Terry Morris, a contractor and a real estate agent in Austin, owns a duplex in Onion Creek that’s been on the city’s buyout list for years. He recently opted out of the program.

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Halloween Flood
10:28 am
Wed January 15, 2014

11 Weeks After Flooding, Animal Carcasses Removed From Onion Creek (Update)

Deceased horses still litter the Onion Creek area after the Halloween flood.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Update: Austin Resource Recovery confirms that all 5 horse carcasses on public land were removed Tuesday afternoon.

Original Post: More than two months after flooding in Southeast Austin killed several people and caused millions of dollars in damage, the clean up continues. But some things left behind by the floodwaters are particularly disturbing: at least half a dozen dead horses.

The city has yet to retrieve the bodies of horses killed in the flooding which, in some cases, lie a short distance from people’s homes—people like Lydia Huerta. She says there are moments where the stench from the dead animals is unbearable. Her backyard is directly in front of a city park where some carcasses still remain.

Editor's Note: You can view photos of some of the animals in question here, though the photos are gruesome and may not be suitable for some.

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Austin
8:56 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Democratic Candidates Square Off In County Judge Debate

Sarah Eckhardt and Andy Brown will face off this March in the Democratic primary for county judge
facebook.com/saraheckhardtaustin and facebook.com/andybrowntx

Travis County will pick a new county judge this year. The county judge is like the mayor of a county, presiding over and votes in meetings of the county commissioners, where county policies and budgets are set.

With longtime County Judge Sam Biscoe retiring, Democratic candidates Andy Brown and Sarah Eckhardt will face off in the March primary to replace him on the Democratic ticket.

When you see the candidates for Travis County Judge in action – that is – debating each other – one thing is clear – both Sarah Eckhardt and Andy Brown realize each is facing a strong contender.

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Turning the Corner
10:18 am
Fri January 10, 2014

In Dove Springs, Defying the Downward Trend in Teen Pregnancy

Damaris Covarrubias with her daughter Dalilah, 2, at the home she shares with her family.
Spencer Selvidge for KUT News

Damaris Covarrubias lives in Dove Springs, with her entire extended family. It is a huge family. So large in fact, that Damaris has never stopped to actually count how many there are.

“Okay, my grandparents, I think they had 9 kids. Cousins? I think there’s like 30 or 40 of us. Including the little ones? I don’t know. And now every cousin’s having babies so it keeps on growing and growing,” Covarrubias admits. 

The vast majority of her cousins have become parents while they were still in their teens, and that’s pretty typical for Dove Springs.

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Austin
10:32 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Teens Aren't the Only Drivers Distracted by Phones. Seniors Are, Too

A new study from State Farm Insurance found that drivers over 65 are nearly as likely to be on smartphones as their teenage counterparts.
Flickr.com/gaffney

Do you become uneasy when you see a clearly inexperienced driver behind the wheel? How about when you spot someone texting while driving?

It’s part of Patty Kelly’s job to know the latest dangerous driving trends. Kelly works for State Farm Insurance, and she learned something surprising from the company's latest study. 

“What we found out is that older adults are getting smart phones at an increasing rate, first of all. And with that they are getting on the Internet and doing all those distracting behaviors almost as much as teenagers are," Kelly says. 

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Halloween Floods
1:03 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

Travis County Provides Tax Relief for Flood Victims

In this Nov. 4 photo, Maria Isabel Fabian tries to salvage an heirloom tablecloth from her flood-damaged home in Dove Springs. Fabian is one of over 600 who qualify for tax relief from Travis County.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

It is property tax season and, for the people affected by last October’s floods, there will be some relief. The disaster declaration Texas Governor Rick Perry signed in December means flood victims can have their properties re-assessed and can make their payments in installments.

The relief will be small, since it will only cover the months of November and December, but Travis County Tax Assessor Bruce Elfant said at a press conference today that, for over 600 properties, the relief means they’ll have a smaller tax payment. 

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Halloween Floods
11:38 am
Fri January 3, 2014

With Help from the Community, Flood Survivors Celebrate the Holidays

Soledad Serrato was surprised this Christmas when strangers brought them a Christmas tree and presents for their children.

These days, the streets in the Onion Creek neighborhood look desolate.

Rows and rows of homes are still boarded up. But as you walk down the streets, you can see the occasional truck hauling construction materials and hear the clatter of recovery, as crews work to rebuild what was lost in the flooding over Halloween weekend last October.

While the cleanup efforts continue, and homes are rebuilt, over the holidays it was the giving spirit of strangers that really helped families get back to normal after the floods.

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Transportation
11:06 am
Fri December 20, 2013

B-cycle, Austin's Bike Share Program, Rolls Out Saturday

A B-Cycle kiosk, on display at City Hall over the summer. The program’s initial 11 kiosks open this weekend.
Ann Choi for KUT News

Editor's note: KUT is one of 13 founding sponsors of the Austin B-cycle program.

Austin's long-awaited bike share program kicks off tomorrow.

It's called B-cycle, and its inauguration will be small. Only 11 kiosks will be open around the downtown area when the program starts Saturday. That number is expected to grow to 40 by the spring.

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Season for Giving
7:50 am
Wed December 18, 2013

How the Salvation Army Brings Santa's Workshop to South Austin

"Elves" from all over the country volunteer for the Salvation Army in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Credit Jan Gunter

Christmas is fast approaching and Santa’s elves are hard at work – not just at the North Pole, but here in  Austin.

For more than a century, the Salvation Army has been helping with Santa's mission. Back in the 1800s, the Salvation Army’s Christmas mission consisted of delivering food baskets to people who would otherwise go hungry.

But by the 1970s, Austin Salvation Army Major Shannon Winters recalls, the group’s focus turned to toys for children in need. Its humble mission grew into a project that, in Winters’ words, now covers “six thousand children in Austin that are depending on us.”

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D.A. Lehmberg Trial
4:12 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Lehmberg Civil Trial Underway (Update)

District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, left, talks to attorney Dan Richards before the start of her civil trial Monday, Dec. 9.
Kelly West/MCT /Landov

Update: Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg has been testifying since this morning in what is Day Two of her civil trial.

It’s been slow-going, stop and go with technicalities. Both the prosecution and the defense teams are very experienced attorneys, aware what’s at stake is the job of the highest-ranking prosecutor in Travis County.

Sometimes questions seem to repeat themselves, except for a word or two. The situation became so hard to process that visiting Judge David Peeples asked prosecutors at one point, “Can you come up with something new?” and “Are you going somewhere with this?”

When prosecutors responded they were, Judge Peeples replied “Well, get there.”

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