Special Correspondent

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.

US Supreme Court Ruling Boosts Hawaii Effort To Limit Property Forfeiture Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

US Supreme Court Ruling Boosts Hawaii Effort To Limit Property Forfeiture

Hawaii’s policy for seizing property has long been criticized because it can affect people who are only suspected in crimes, sometimes not even charged.

Here’s One Idea For Keeping Crime Out Of Waikiki — Keep Offenders Out Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Here’s One Idea For Keeping Crime Out Of Waikiki — Keep Offenders Out

UPDATED: A bill before the Legislature would prohibit people with three or more Waikiki-related misdemeanors from being in the district at night.

Lawmakers: Release Information When A Prisoner Dies Leo Azambuja

Lawmakers: Release Information When A Prisoner Dies

As the death toll mounts for inmates in custody, legislators push bills to force disclosure of information.

Former Pearl Harbor Navy Spokesman Sentenced In Corruption Scandal Department of Defense

Former Pearl Harbor Navy Spokesman Sentenced In Corruption Scandal

The former director of public affairs took money for authoring emails to top Navy officials on behalf of a contractor convicted of bribery and fraud.

‘It’s A Crime’: Will Legislature Fix Hawaii’s Broken Bail System? Cory Lum/Civil Beat

‘It’s A Crime’: Will Legislature Fix Hawaii’s Broken Bail System?

Many people sit in jail awaiting trial on fairly minor offenses simply because they can’t afford to get out. This may be the year that changes.

Looks Like We’ll Still Be Using Private Prisons On The Mainland For A While Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Looks Like We’ll Still Be Using Private Prisons On The Mainland For A While

Legislative leaders who are trying to solve Hawaii’s prison crisis say it’s unrealistic to think we can move hundreds of inmates back here anytime soon.

Feds Say Hawaii Is Too Quick To Approve Wind Power Turbines PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Feds Say Hawaii Is Too Quick To Approve Wind Power Turbines

They’re asking the Public Utilities Commission not to green-light more projects until environmental concerns are addressed.

Here’s Another Busy Highway Where The Crosswalks Have Been Removed Natanya Freidheim/Civil Beat

Here’s Another Busy Highway Where The Crosswalks Have Been Removed

In response to a pedestrian fatality in Aina Haina, government officials ordered changes that residents say has made the area more dangerous.

Can Someone Please Turn These !*#@#&! Lights Off? Kirstin Downey/Civil Beat

Can Someone Please Turn These !*#@#&! Lights Off?

The Ritz-Carlton’s ocean-facing skyscrapers are glaring bright all night, every night. Try living next to one.

Not Everyone’s Thrilled To Have A Film Crew In The Neighborhood Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Not Everyone’s Thrilled To Have A Film Crew In The Neighborhood

“Magnum P.I.” is generating complaints from businesses and residents about the way it commandeers streets and parking places.

Being Funny Is Also Good Business For This Honolulu Rental Store Courtesy of Hawaiian Rent-All

Being Funny Is Also Good Business For This Honolulu Rental Store

The new owners of an equipment rental company carry on the tradition of sharing jokes and wisdom on a marquee above the storefront.

Dead Bats Are Changing People’s Minds About This Energy Project Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Dead Bats Are Changing People’s Minds About This Energy Project

North Shore residents used to be mostly OK with the Waimea Bay wind farm. Now they’re not so sure.