Civil Beat Staff

Kirstin Downey

Kirstin Downey

Kirstin Downey, a local girl who went to Kailua High School and then Penn State University, has returned home to the islands. She covers the federal government and its myriad effects on the lives of the people of Hawaii.

Kirstin had an award-winning career on the mainland, climbing from small newspapers in Colorado and Florida to bigger ones in major cities. At the San Jose Mercury in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, Kirstin wrote about the dwindling supply of low-income housing in the region and how rampant real estate speculation was damaging the banking industry. Her work foreshadowed the savings and loan crash of the early 1990s, and she covered the nation’s response as a reporter at the Washington Post.

At the Washington Post, Kirstin won six regional reporting awards for her coverage of economic, political and financial issues. She was a finalist for the Livingston award for outstanding young journalist in America for her series of stories on how investors had abused government loan programs to profiteer and destroy inner-city neighborhoods in the District, contributing to the growing social woes there. She used land records and mortgage filings to document the patterns. Her coverage contributed to what became the largest single set of prosecutions in the history of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, leading to more than 50 convictions.

Kirstin was awarded a Nieman fellowship at Harvard University in 2000-2001 after writing many stories about sexual harassment in the workplace, a social problem that came to light in depositions and documents filed in dozens of class-action lawsuits around the country.

She covered the terrorist attacks in New York City in 2001, writing about the events of the day and the tragic impact on human lives and the U.S. economy, as well as the mysterious follow-on anthrax attacks.

From 2005 to 2007, Kirstin wrote dozens of stories chronicling the dangerous growth of toxic mortgages, repeatedly raising concerns to government agencies that should have been doing more to stop the looming crisis. She emphasized the human impact of the problems, including the foreclosures that devastated families. In 2007, she used data-driven reporting to write in-depth stories describing the pernicious effect of toxic loans targeted and marketed to minorities, immigrants and young families.

She shared in the Pulitzer Prize awarded to the Washington Post’s metro staff in 2008 for coverage of the campus massacre at Virginia Tech. Kirstin wrote pieces profiling the two heroic professors who died that day protecting their students.

After leaving the Post, Kirstin served as an investigator and writer for the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, (the Angelides Commission), which published a New York Times-bestselling book on the causes and implications of the economic meltdown of 2008. She wrote the section of the book that detailed the many specific warnings that were ignored by corporations and top government officials.

Kirstin loves history. She is a book author, published by Nan Talese at Doubleday/Random House. Her biography of Frances Perkins, “The Woman Behind the New Deal,” a portrait of the country’s most effective progressive, was named one of the top 10 biographies of the year by the American Library Association. Her book about the controversial Queen Isabella of Spain, “Isabella the Warrior Queen,” was named to BBC’s list of Ten Books to Read, November 2014 and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times award for best biography of the year. The book has been translated into Spanish, Polish and Chinese.

Kirstin and her husband, Neil Averitt, live in Honolulu. Together they have five children. She is trying to learn to speak Hawaiian, and finding it very difficult.

Why All Those Tourists Are Actually Good For Hawaii Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Why All Those Tourists Are Actually Good For Hawaii

Hawaiian Airlines’ top executive Mark Dunkerley believes visitor spending is what’s going to make up for federal budget cuts.

Trump’s Initial Budget Proposal Is Meeting Resistance From Both Parties Wikimedia Commons

Trump’s Initial Budget Proposal Is Meeting Resistance From Both Parties

Hawaii’s delegation says the budget as it stands now is bad for Hawaii.

GOP Could Reverse Protection Of Papahanaumokuakea Courtesy: NOAA

GOP Could Reverse Protection Of Papahanaumokuakea

Some Republican House members want Trump to reopen marine monuments to commercial fishing.

Why Federal Budget Cuts Are Likely To Hit Hawaii Hard Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Why Federal Budget Cuts Are Likely To Hit Hawaii Hard

Impacts are expected in education, consumer protection, environmental initiatives, science research and health care.

Democratic Attorneys General Are Banding Together Against Trump Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Democratic Attorneys General Are Banding Together Against Trump

It’s not uncommon for the top state lawyers to push back against whichever opposing political party holds the White House.

Why A Big Boost In US Sea Power Could Be A Boon For Hawaii U.S. Navy, Keith DeVinney

Why A Big Boost In US Sea Power Could Be A Boon For Hawaii

More ships stationed in the islands could provide an economic boost — including high-paying jobs — for decades to come.

Is Hawaii Ready For Driverless Cars? NACTO/Flickr.com

Is Hawaii Ready For Driverless Cars?

Waikiki tourists, highway traffic jams, pedestrian problems and unique environmental conditions could pose issues for the new technology.

Trump Briefs Governors On Plan To Spend More On Military White House Press Pool

Trump Briefs Governors On Plan To Spend More On Military

Hawaii’s David Ige joins a bipartisan group of state executives responding to the president’s budget plans.

Hawaii’s Governor Steps Gingerly Into GOP Power Circle Courtesy of Gov. David Ige's Office

Hawaii’s Governor Steps Gingerly Into GOP Power Circle

David Ige is in Washington meeting with everyone who he thinks might help the islands — including the newly empowered Republicans.

Congress: How Vulnerable Is Hawaii To Missile Attack? PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Congress: How Vulnerable Is Hawaii To Missile Attack?

One possibility is converting a test facility on Kauai into an “operational” intercept site in the face of a growing threat from North Korea.

Bipartisan Support For VA Chief, But Can He Help Hawaii Vets? Department of Veterans Affairs

Bipartisan Support For VA Chief, But Can He Help Hawaii Vets?

Sen. Hirono addressed island veterans’ issues with David Shulkin during his confirmation hearing. The Senate approved him unanimously.

US Senate Bill Calls For Better Monitoring of Volcanic Eruptions Michael Poland/USGS/HVO

US Senate Bill Calls For Better Monitoring of Volcanic Eruptions

Hawaii’s Hirono supports the measure. An expert says the lack of seismic monitoring coordination threatens public safety.