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.

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.

Navy’s Widening Bribery And Sex Scandal Has Many Hawaii Connections Kevin H. Tierney/U.S. Department of Defense

Navy’s Widening Bribery And Sex Scandal Has Many Hawaii Connections

A former Seventh Fleet commander from Oahu pleads guilty in Honolulu for concealing his relationship with a Malaysian defense contractor.

Civil Beat Poll: Tulsi Gabbard’s Surprising Plunge In Hawaii Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Civil Beat Poll: Tulsi Gabbard’s Surprising Plunge In Hawaii

Statewide, Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono are viewed more favorably than Gabbard while Colleen Hanabusa’s numbers are slightly lower.

Brian Schatz: ‘Invigorating To See People So Engaged’ In Resisting Trump Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Brian Schatz: ‘Invigorating To See People So Engaged’ In Resisting Trump

The Hawaii senator perceives a whole new political landscape in the islands, with constituents following “every twist and turn.”

Wild Chickens Are Flocking To Whole Foods In Kailua Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Wild Chickens Are Flocking To Whole Foods In Kailua

The Kailua Neighborhood Board passed a motion recently asking the city to revise its feral chicken removal program to focus on trapping roosters.

Trump’s Review Of National Monuments Panned In Public Comments James Watt

Trump’s Review Of National Monuments Panned In Public Comments

The government is accepting input on the reconsideration of protections at 29 monuments, including Papahanaumokuakea.

No Quick Relief In Sight For Lousy Airline Service Cory Lum/Civil Beat

No Quick Relief In Sight For Lousy Airline Service

During recent U.S. House and Senate hearings, lawmakers vented their ire at airline practices but showed little willingness to pass new consumer protections.

Hirono Town Hall: Hawaii Senator Promises To Keep Resisting Trump Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Hirono Town Hall: Hawaii Senator Promises To Keep Resisting Trump

Worried Democrats pressed her on what Democrats were doing to battle growing GOP power.

‘Hawaii Got Almost Everything We Sought’ In Federal Budget Cory Lum/Civil Beat

‘Hawaii Got Almost Everything We Sought’ In Federal Budget

Despite dismal expectations, the plan preserves spending levels for the Coast Guard, East-West Center and Native Hawaiian services while boosting defense spending.

Battle Lines Are Reforming In Hawaii Over Papahanaumokuakea U.S. Department of the Interior

Battle Lines Are Reforming In Hawaii Over Papahanaumokuakea

Obama’s massive expansion of the national monument was divisive in the islands. Trump’s review will be equally so.

Trump Targets National Monuments, Including Papahanaumokuakea Courtesy: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Trump Targets National Monuments, Including Papahanaumokuakea

The president will issue an executive order to review whether monument restrictions hurt job prospects.