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.  

Pages

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.

Read more
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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Turning the Corner
12:04 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

This Austin Cop Builds Bonds in Dove Springs - One Soccer Game at a Time

APD Officer Paula Aguilar and her soccer team Chelsea.
Credit Joy Diaz, KUT News

In Southeast Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood, crime is a constant.

Ever since an uptick in crime in the 1990s, police have maintained a visible presence in the neighborhood – and residents of Dove Springs haven’t always had a favorable view of the Austin Police Department.

There was a time when the department’s relationship with Dove Springs was especially strained. During the summer of 2005, APD Officer Julie Schroeder shot and killed 18 year-old Dove Springs native Daniel Rocha.

A re-enactment video created by the department in investigating Rocha’s death is set on Pleasant Valley Road – one of Dove Springs’ main thoroughfares.

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Crime & Justice
3:14 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

In Austin, Less Than 10 Percent of Property Crimes Get Solved

Theives broke into the reporter's home through a glass door in October.
Joy Diaz/KUT News

If you live in Austin, chances are you or someone you know has been the victim of a property crime. 

That’s because Austin is one of the worst cities nationwide when it comes to property crime.

FBI numbers show Austin’s property crime rates are worse than New York, Chicago or even Los Angeles. Property crimes are so prevalent that a couple of years ago, the Austin Police Department created its very first Burglary Unit.

Every month almost 4,000 property crimes happen in Austin.

Read more
Texas
11:20 am
Mon November 25, 2013

Central Texas Remembers Staff Sergeant Richard Vazquez

Staff Sergeant Richard Vazquez.
Courtesy of the U.S. Army Special Forces.

The Seguin community is honoring a fallen soldier.

Staff Sergeant Richard Vazquez died Nov. 13 after he was wounded in Afghanistan. As a child, his family moved a lot, but his high school years in Seguin gave definition to his early life. That’s why, after each of his multiple tours of duty, he always came back to Central Texas to spend time with the people he loved.

Staff Sgt. Richard Vazquez and his older brother Romario were inseparable as children - in part because they were only 11-months apart.

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Turning the Corner
12:04 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

LISTEN: How One Austin Family is Rebuilding After the Halloween Floods

Bene Jacobs, outside her destroyed home in Onion Creek. Jacobs, her partner and their children were rescued from their neighbor's roof.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

This year, KUT News is chronicling the challenges and changes affecting Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood in a series called “Turning the Corner.”

These stories have taken on added urgency in the aftermath of Austin’s Halloween floods, where flooding directly affected many Dove Springs residents. 

Bene Jacobs’ morning routine hasn’t changed that much. She still gets up before 6 a.m., before it’s light outside.

In the darkness, at her cousin’s house in Del Valle, Bene struggles to find her way into the room where her children sleep. “Still learning all the light switches,” she whispers.

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Homelessness
4:55 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Here's What Austin's Newest Housing For the Chronically Homeless Looks Like

Each home will have its own garden. The idea is to have beauty all around the property.
Joy Diaz, KUT News

Plans are moving ahead in the Austin area to house about 200 people who are chronically homeless.  Community First Village has been about a decade in the making and in just a matter of months, it will break ground.

The property is 27 acres, with little cottages, mobile homes and even some teepees dotting the landscape. A three-acre community garden is also on-site. 

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Halloween Floods
5:35 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

FEMA Finishing its Flood Assessments – But a Declaration Could Take Months

Richard Rivera inventories some of the things he could salvage from his home. FEMA investigators are looking to conclude their assessments soon.
Joy Diaz, KUT News

In Onion Creek, the sun shone brightly Friday morning. It’s a welcome change from a week ago, when flood waters devastated the southeast Austin neighborhood.

But that’s not what’s giving survivors hope. The hope comes from seeing FEMA investigators taking pictures and measurements.

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East Austin
12:54 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Huston-Tillotson Aims to Ease African-American Mental Health Stigmas

An unidentified person photographed at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless in 2011. East Austin’s Huston-Tillotson University hopes to open a community mental health clinic next year.
KUT News

Robert Winston knows he has a mental disorder – but he didn’t know that for a long time.

He’s convinced his life would’ve turned out much differently had he been diagnosed as a young adult. He probably wouldn’t have left his wife and kids in California. He probably wouldn’t have become dependent on alcohol. He probably wouldn’t have ended up homeless in Austin.

Winston is African-American and he is 52-years-old. “[I’ve] tried to commit suicide twice,” he says. “And I couldn’t understand why I was having a hard time dealing with just the basic things of life.” 

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