Civil Beat Staff

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.

Hanabusa Rethinking Pro-Israel Bill After Taking Heat At Town Halls Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Hanabusa Rethinking Pro-Israel Bill After Taking Heat At Town Halls

Vocal opponents of the Israel Anti-Boycott Bill say it threatens free speech and is being pushed by an influential pro-Israel lobbying group.

Hot Talk Between Trump, North Korea Could Put Hawaii On The Front Line Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Hot Talk Between Trump, North Korea Could Put Hawaii On The Front Line

How might growing tensions affect Hawaii? In addition to risks of missile attacks, local military bases would likely serve as staging areas in a conflict.

What Does Hirono Have Against Trump’s New Japan Ambassador? Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

What Does Hirono Have Against Trump’s New Japan Ambassador?

The Hawaii senator’s opposition to the nominee for a position crucial to the islands stems from his prior work for the administration.

NY Congressman Wants To Take Away Hawaii’s Gun-Control Rights Cory Lum/Civil Beat

NY Congressman Wants To Take Away Hawaii’s Gun-Control Rights

Rep. Chris Collins’ bill would ban state or local governments from regulating rifles or shotguns more strictly than federal laws do.

Fighting Back: This Former Navy Officer Isn’t Rolling Over In The Fat Leonard Bribery Case U.S. Marine Corps, Pacific

Fighting Back: This Former Navy Officer Isn’t Rolling Over In The Fat Leonard Bribery Case

The widening criminal investigation into Malaysian defense contractor Leonard “Fat Leonard” Francis has already ensnared dozens of top naval officers, many from the Hawaii-based Pacific Command.

Military’s Handling Of Mental Health Issues May Be On Trial In Terrorism Case AP

Military’s Handling Of Mental Health Issues May Be On Trial In Terrorism Case

An attorney wants a full mental health examination for Ikaika Kang, a Hawaii soldier charged with trying to support the Islamic State.

Officials in Hawaii Breathe Easier After GOP Health Plan Collapses Kirstin Downey/Civil Beat

Officials in Hawaii Breathe Easier After GOP Health Plan Collapses

Local clinics feared that proposed rollbacks of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion would have left thousands of patients without coverage.

Schatz Announces Big Increase In Military Spending For Hawaii U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Schatz Announces Big Increase In Military Spending For Hawaii

If a subcommittee’s Thursday vote holds up, the islands would see $266 million in spending in fiscal year 2018, up from $197 million.

As Global Tensions Rise, Senators Grill Nominee For Navy Secretary U.S. Senate Photographic Studio

As Global Tensions Rise, Senators Grill Nominee For Navy Secretary

Armed Services Committee members ask Richard V. Spencer what he intends to do to rebuild U.S. military strength.

Support For Trump Holds Steady Among Hawaii Republicans Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Support For Trump Holds Steady Among Hawaii Republicans

The president’s unpopularity in one of the country’s bluest states makes many local Republicans more loyal to him.

Hawaii Pushes Back Against Trump Policies Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Hawaii Pushes Back Against Trump Policies

At least 12 actions opposing the administration range from a lawsuit challenging Trump’s travel ban to a letter protesting harsh new sentencing guidelines.

 

Hawaii May Feel Less Pain Than Elsewhere If GOP Guts Obamacare KITV

Hawaii May Feel Less Pain Than Elsewhere If GOP Guts Obamacare

Even before the Affordable Care Act went into effect, Hawaii had one of the nation’s lowest rates of uninsured thanks to a health-care coverage law passed four decades ago.