Joy Diaz

Senior Reporter, City Government

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 a Senior Reporter covering the city beat.

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.  

Ways To Connect

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The homeless population in Austin is getting smaller.

At least that's what the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) found in its annual count of people who are homeless last month. But the population is still in the hundreds.

One of the reasons the non-profit is citing for the decline is a small but steady increase in affordable housing in Austin.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News

Austin Mayor Steve Adler has been pushing an idea for weeks now: He needs more staff. Adler says this city council has set some big goals and that it will be really difficult to achieve them without more staff.

There's been tension building for weeks. And as much as Adler explains his point of view, the council is still failing to see things through his eyes.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News

It seems like everywhere you look, there's a construction site in Austin, complete with the unofficial state bird of Texas, the construction crane.

Some are calling it a boom, but it's a boom that’s not exclusive to Austin. Whether you drive south to San Marcos or north to Georgetown, there are new buildings popping up all over Central Texas.

That boom has certainly been good for the economy and overall employment numbers, but, for some smaller construction firms it’s been tough-going trying to compete with larger outfits that can afford to pay workers up to $35 an hour.

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT News

Advocates for workers' rights say that Texas leads the nation in construction deaths. Some believe the majority of accidents, and even deaths, go unreported due to the legal status of many construction workers.

One of the few studies on the topic is from the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think-tank in Austin. In 2007, the CPPP found 142 documented deaths of construction workers in Texas. The second state with the most deaths was California with 81.

Austin Aquatic Center/flickr

The area around Lamar Beach, along Cesar Chavez near MoPac, is beautiful but hard to redevelop. It floods, and there are utilities running under and over it.

But the YMCA, the animal shelter now run by Austin Pets Alive and a sports organization are still able to use it.

Callie Hernandez/KUT News

Austin Mayor Steve Adler wants to hire more staff. The rationale for his request: The city's needs are great and need more people to be solved. City Council members agree with that. What they don't agree on is how to pay for additional staff.

The Obama administration wants to move forward with its Deferred Action Program that would shield some illegal immigrants from deportation. But a federal court halted the administration's program last week.

On Monday, the administration asked the court to lift last week's order. In its request, the administration is offering options: Let the program go forward nationwide or let it go forward everywhere except in Texas.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Officially, the Austin City Council meets every other week. This would've been an off week. But, this new council has so much to learn and so much to do that unofficially, it meets virtually all the time.

In a special called meeting today, the council will try to work out how the new meetings system will work.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Octogenarian Roland Johnson plays the bass fiddle.

Tonight he played for his Valentine at a concert in their retirement community in North East Austin.

Johnson and his wife Elizabeth have been married for 65 years. They say music is one of the things that helped keep their marriage strong. Their love for music is so powerful that some of their children and even grandchildren turned out to be musicians too.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Today the Austin City Council will talk about the possibility of implementing a twenty percent homestead property tax exemption. It's something many of the newly elected council members promised on the campaign trail last year.

So, what exactly does a twenty percent homestead exemption mean for homeowners?

Let's look at your property taxes as a whole, as though they were a pie.

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT News

Every one of Austin's 10 geographic districts is unique, but there's one fact they share: Each has roughly 80,000 people.

That allows for a relative population equality between the districts, but the differences in district-to-district demographics can be anything but equal.

One of the biggest differences is between Districts 4 and 9.

District 9 has about a fourth of the number of children in District 4 and some wonder if that disparity will affect how the Austin City Council prioritizes money for each district in future budgets.

KUT News

The Department of Homeland Security says it has found no evidence that women at the Karnes Immigrant Detention Center in Texas are being sexually assaulted. DHS released the results of its investigation today.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) says the DHS investigation was not thorough enough.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Now that the new Austin City Council is in place, it faces a challenge: On the one hand, council members know just how necessary affordable housing is. Virtually all of them ran on an "affordability" platform.

Advocates will tell you Austin is short tens of thousands of housing units specifically for low-income residents. Non-profits have been working hard in recent years to building more affordable housing (below-market rate units for low- and middle-income residents, often subsidized through public and/or private funding).

Courtesy of ICE

Children should not be held in detention in the same way adults are. That’s according to a federal settlement agreement called Flores v. Reno that gives basic protections to children in government custody. Some attorneys in Texas say immigrant children in detention centers are being denied those protections.

UT Law School's Civil Rights Clinic Director Ranjana Natarajan says she and other attorneys filed a motion in federal court against immigrant detention centers in Texas this past Monday. One thing the attorneys argue is that, per Flores, keeping children in lockdown amounts to inhumane treatment.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Tuesday another $21 million for the Onion Creek area of Southeast Austin.

Some of the money will be used to buy out more homes in the floodplain.

The buy-out program includes a total of almost 500 homes and it dates back to the 1990s.

Courtesy of City of Austin

The Austin City Council met Thursday in what was its first official meeting under 10-1. The mood was like the first day of school after a long summer break.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he felt like back in his junior high school days when he won his first election for class president. He read from a copy of "Robert’s Rules of Order," a book his father gave him to conduct focused and effective meetings, citing an inscription written in the book by his deceased father.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

The city's Ethics Review Commission (ERC) is looking for ways to update Austin’s campaign finance rules for two simple reasons.

One, the language is very complicated. And two, the limits that are in place haven't been updated in a long time. The ERC is meeting tonight to hear from Austinites about how to spruce up the rules.

Anyone with ideas as to how the ERC can make the language on campaign finance rules more understandable, can post those ideas at or can attend the public meeting at City Hall at 7 p.m.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

It's no secret that Austin Mayor Steve Adler is independently wealthy and that he doesn't need the $82,000 and change his position pays every year.

Adler has said he instead wants to use the money to boost the salaries of some of his staff, but the move may have some tricky implications for his successor.

Steve Adler is not the only Austin politician to forgo his salary. Recently, former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd got paid one dollar to complete Sarah Eckhart's term as Travis County Commissioner for Precinct 2.

Why did he do that?

Joy Diaz/KUT News

Among the many politically contentious issues the new Austin City Council will need to grapple with is the issue of “No Kill.” This February will mark the fourth consecutive year that Austin's shelters have achieved a no kill status, meaning that ten percent or fewer animals in shelter care are euthanized.

But, even with several measures including "no kill," Austin is still dealing with a large number of homeless animals.

Del Goss lives in Montopolis, one of Austin's poorest neighborhoods in City Council District 3. Every evening, he hops on his old white pick-up truck and heads to his friend Florence's. On the truck's bed sits a five-gallon plastic bucket full of cat food.

Goss feeds Florence's cats. And then he makes seven other stops to feed colonies of homeless animals.

KUT News

The new Austin City Council knows everyone has an opinion about what things it should be doing, what things it should change and how those changes could come about. A recurring theme along the current council’s campaign trail was that many Austinites felt unheard and sometimes outright disregarded by city politicians.

At the beginning of the year, council proposed altering its meeting and committee format to pare down their traditionally long meetings.  So, starting tonight, there will be new ways to communicate with council and the mayor.