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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Rising Property Values
3:36 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Can Anything Be Done to Lower Austin's Property Taxes?

Many people in Travis County were shocked to learn how much their property values – and consequently, their property taxes – might go up this year.
flickr.com/polymerchemist

The deadline to file a protest regarding your property tax appraisal is fast approaching – Monday, June 2.

Many people in Travis County are shocked to learn how much their property values – and consequently, their property taxes ­– might go up this year. County officials say valuations have risen roughly 15 percent on average this year. But as seen in this local Reddit discussion, many homeowners are facing 25 percent and 30 percent increases ­– and higher.

Sticker shock is so prevalent, Travis County Commissioners say their phones haven't stopped ringing from residents calling, asking for help. 

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Turning The Corner
11:55 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Gentrification or a Renaissance in Austin's Dove Springs Neighborhood?

The new Arbor Ridge development located on Nuckols Crossing Road has some homes finished and some under construction.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Dove Springs in Southeast Austin is just six miles from downtown – what many real estate agents consider a prime location. But the area is also one of the poorest parts of Austin. And for decades, it's had a less than desirable reputation.

Despite all that, change is coming to Dove Springs – with some believing they're witnessing the beginning of gentrification.

The area has traditionally been filled with low-income renters, many who are recent immigrants and don't speak English. Data may still point to those facts. But on the ground, the neighborhood is going through what many believe is a fast transformation.

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Asian-Pacific American Heritage
8:08 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Austin's Asian-American Community is Diverse and Growing

Connie Kim adjusts Kyong Ah's hair before they take the stage to perform "Uh Woo Dong." a traditional Korean dance. The Korean United Pentecostal Church hosts a Parents Day celebration for parents and senior citizens of the community.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

There’s a common misperception about Austin’s fastest-growing minority group.

Most people would think that title belongs to Hispanics. But while Hispanics are the largest minority group, they are not the fastest-growing. Although their numbers are still relatively small, Asian-Americans are the fastest growing group in Austin.

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Secure Communities Controversy
12:02 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Will Travis County Be Sued For Participating in ICE Immigration Holds?

Numerous attorneys says Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton's participation in Immigration and Customs Enforcement's controversial Secure Communities program could lead to lawsuits.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

Dozens of jurisdictions across the country have backed away from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportation program known as Secure Communities.

But Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton is not backing away from the controversial program. And in response, a group of Austin attorneys announced Thursday they plan to start suing the county for its Secure Communities detentions.

As ICE writes, the program "prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, those who pose a threat to public safety, and repeat immigration violators." But critics charge the program has been overused and resides on shaky legal ground. 

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Austin
10:40 am
Thu May 8, 2014

The Money Race for Austin City Council Starts Today

Credit Photo by KUT News

Today is the first day that campaigns and candidates for the Austin City Council can start soliciting or accepting political contributions. Although many things will be radically different this election cycle, asking for money will remain practically the same. 

When Austin voters changed the city’s form of government in 2012, they did not change anything when it comes to campaign contributions. Still, the city’s clerk Jannette Goodall says campaign contribution limits are adjusted every election cycle according to inflation.

For instance, the charter says 300 dollars “and I believe the current amount is 350,” says Goodall.

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Education
8:11 am
Tue May 6, 2014

This Austin Charter School Slated for Closure May Get a Second Chance

Jon Shapley for KUT News

An Austin charter school slated for closure by the state may be getting a second chance.

The Texas Education Agency had ordered American Youthworks to close by next month. But the school went to court and argued everything was a misunderstanding.

On Friday, a judge agreed to hear the school's case – possibly extending the school's life for at least one more semester.

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Halloween Floods
11:06 am
Mon May 5, 2014

After Report Faults Halloween Flood Response, Is More Accountability Needed?

Rescue teams in Southeast Austin assist people stranded in rising flood waters in the early hours of Oct. 31, 2013. A city report faults officials for late activation of an emergency response center, among other shortcomings.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Update: Austin City Council member and mayoral candidate Mike Martinez is asking the city’s Public Safety Commission to consider recommending an independent review of city response to the deadly Halloween flooding.

A report done by city staff highlighted more than 100 response problems, including communication issues between agencies and with the general public. Read more about the findings in the original story below.

In emails to the commission, Martinez requests the group consider calling for an independent review. Martinez also finds fault with the framing of the city's report, writing "My general impression is that the failures and opportunities are large, and the successes are relatively small. Giving them equal weight with a tally of successes, opportunities, and failures seems to undermine the seriousness of any analysis." 

The Public Safety Commission will also hear reports from Austin Fire, Police and EMS about the response to last October’s flooding.

Original story (April 15): In Austin, it’s almost certain a flood will hit in the future. What we don’t know is when.

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Transportation
11:53 am
Fri May 2, 2014

As Austin Nears Urban Rail Decision, Proof Traffic's Always Been Awful

Yes, this qualified as problem traffic on I-35 back in the 1960s.
Texas Archive of the Moving Image

Austin is inching its way towards the creation of a possible new rail line.

Later today, Project Connect, a group of regional transportation officials including the City of Austin and Capital Metro, is widely expected to unveil a proposed route for urban rail.

The announcement is a further refinement of preliminary findings tapping the East Riverside and Highland Mall regions as prime corridors for investment – a finding many Austin transit advocates found fault with. Once set for the ballot by the Austin City Council, citizens will vote on whether to approve rail funding in an election this November. 

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DWI Deaths in Austin
10:15 am
Tue April 29, 2014

After Latest Deaths, Austin Asks: How Can We Stop Drunk Driving?

The aftermath of the March 13 SXSW crash which left four dead. A group calling for expanded transportation options, ATX Safer Streets, was founded after the crash.
Ashley Park for KUT

Nationwide, drunk driving is on the decline – but you wouldn't know it living in Austin. This spring, the city has seen several high-profile deaths attributable to drunk driving.

This weekend, Kelly Noel – a well-known music fan who ran the popular ATXHispsters Twitter account – was killed by a drunk driver downtown. (The account continues to auto-tweet the latest stories from Austin news outlets, including KUT.) And in March, Rashad Owens allegedly killed and injured South by Southwest attendees when he accelerated into SXSW crowds while trying to evade police.

The morning after the SXSW killings, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said “tragedy brings opportunity. It’s an opportunity for a gut check … it's a gut check for the people involved, it’s a gut check for this community.”

 

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Austin & Affordability
6:06 am
Mon April 28, 2014

Do Austinites Have Choices When it Comes to Housing?

A line of houses in the Mueller Development.
flickr.com/gjmj

If you live or work in the City of Austin, have you asked yourself why you chose to work or live where you do? Well, the City of Austin wants to know the answers to those questions to help plan for the future.

The city is conducting a “housing choice survey.” But with the current shortage of housing, do Austinites have any real choice in where they live?

Word on the street is that Austinites have very few housing choices. At least, that’s what rapper “Blind Man” says as he finds his way with his cane to a bench on East 11th Street.

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Health
12:20 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

How Halloween Flood Survivors are Recovering From Post-Traumatic Stress

Onion Creek resident Mike Espinoza put up motivational messages for his neighbors while he rebuilt from the Halloween floods. While repairs are underway in Onion Creek, recovering from psychological trauma is a different issue.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

On the surface of the Onion Creek neighborhood, there’s progress.

The community is slowly recovering from 2013's deadly Halloween floods. Many families are back in their homes, even though most homes have yet to be fully rebuilt. But scratch the surface, and people are still suffering the psychological effects of that night.

Often when we hear about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it's in the context of war. But David Evans, CEO of Austin/Travis County Integral Care, says PTSD can affect those who survive any traumatic experience. 

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American Youthworks
9:01 am
Mon April 14, 2014

Austin Dropout Recovery School Faces Closure After 30 Years

Parc Smith is American Youthworks' CEO. He stands by a tree that highlights the achievements of his students. Students follow a self-paced program until they finally graduate high school.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News.

The fate of an Austin charter school that has run a dropout recovery program for more than 30 years will be decided later this month.

American Youthworks faces closure under a new law that allows the Texas Education Agency to revoke licenses from underperforming charter schools, thus opening those licenses to other organizations.

TEA spokesperson Debbie Ratcliffe says Senate Bill 2 is pretty clear. That’s the law passed last year that, among other things, gave TEA teeth to revoke the licenses of failing charter schools. “If a school has received the state’s lowest, either academic or financial, rating for three straight years, it automatically is closed,” Ratcliffe says.

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Halloween Floods
4:33 pm
Sun April 13, 2014

Report Lists Over 100 Lessons From Austin's Deadly Halloween Floods

An unidentified man walks past an abandoned car along Pleasant Valley Road on Oct. 31, 2013.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

It’s taken the City of Austin and Travis County almost six months to finalize a report detailing emergency response to the 2013 Halloween floods: what worked, what needs improvement and what – flat out – did not work.

See the full report here [PDF].

The report repeatedly highlights communication problems: between agencies, then between first responders, then with the general public. There was no clear channel of communication. There was no awareness about the kind of people who lived in the affected area either: a majority-minority community that does not primarily communicate using English.

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Austin
12:00 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Historic Architects Look to Preserve a Rapidly Changing Austin

Anthony's Laundry & Dry Cleaning in Austin's Clarksville neighborhood. Architectural historians from all over the country will be gathering in Austin this week.
Ilana Panich-Linsman, KUT News

Austin's growth has been fast and furious. And due to the speed with which the city is growing, many historic structures have disappeared.

That's why all this week, historic architects from across the world are in Austin, focusing on the city as a sort of case study: what’s OK to demolish and what deserves to be preserved.

Historic architecture can range from churches to bridges and businesses. One historic business is Anthony’s Laundry & Dry Cleaners off of West Lynn Street, in the Clarksville neighborhood.

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Toy Joy Closing
4:39 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Why Some Stores Fail and Others Thrive in Austin's Second Street District

Austin's Second Street District, seen in 2010. The nascent neighborhood has seen lots of tenant turnover since it launched.
Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Update: Toy Joy was bought Monday by Fred Schmidt, owner of Wild About Music on E. Sixth Street. Schmidt told Time Warner Cable News he plans to keep the store downtown. "We're going to continue with this business as it has been — only make it more successful than it has [been] in recent years,” Schmidt said. “We're very committed to Toy Joy, its concept, its premise and what it has been in Austin for several decades now."

Original story (March 31): Toy Joy will be auctioned off today. The iconic Austin store closed its doors on March 16, after struggling for the last few years.

In 2013, the owners thought a new location in a hip part of town would help, so they moved from Guadalupe Street – close to the Drag – and into downtown’s Second Street District. But Toy Joy didn’t make it.

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Austin
9:08 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Austin Toy Museum Looks to Open Next Year

Over 200,000 toys line Caleb Zammit's home. He's one of a group of collectors looking to open a toy museum in Austin next year.
Joy Diaz, KUT News

A new museum is getting ready to open in Austin, but this one doesn't focus on art or state history. This one is all about toys.

A group of Austin collectors are creating a home to display vintage toys, ranging from the 1900s to the 1980s.

Caleb Zammit is part of the group putting together the museum. He's been collecting toys for years. Right now, his collection of over 200,000 toys is neatly arranged in almost every room of his house.

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Texas
9:25 am
Tue March 25, 2014

No More Cheap Margaritas? Why Lime Prices Are On the Rise

The bar at Fonda San Miguel, an upscale interior Mexican restaurant in Austin. The price of limes – a prime margarita ingredient– has spiked in recent months.
KUT News

These days restaurants are spending obscene amounts of money on limes. Think about what that means for Mexican food alone: limes are used in practically everything, from margaritas to ceviche to guacamole.

Last week, the rising price of limes became personal for this reporter.

I stopped by La Moreliana, a small eatery in southeast Austin that serves up authentic tacos. The food was great – but the tacos were missing the citrusy, acidic bite only lime juice can add. 

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Turning the Corner
8:49 am
Fri March 21, 2014

There's a Different Kind of Homelessness for Onion Creek Flood Victims

Lydia Huerta stands by the RV that she called home for months. Her house is fully rebuilt, and her family is moving back in.
Credit Joy Diaz, KUT News

When you think about the word “homeless,” what comes to mind?

Homelessness can include a person who lacks housing. But it is also includes people in transitional housing. That's where Lydia Huerta, her husband and their three kids found themselves after they lost their home to flooding October 31.

Huerta says she "never really felt panic" until she lost her home. 

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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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