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.

Case: Trump ‘Has Not Been Exonerated’ By Mueller Report Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Case: Trump ‘Has Not Been Exonerated’ By Mueller Report

The Hawaii Democrat calls for immediate release of an unredacted version, and says Congress should go to court to get it if necessary.

Moving Hawaii’s Technology Out Of The Dark Ages Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Moving Hawaii’s Technology Out Of The Dark Ages

The Legislature is considering bills that would help modernize decades old and outdated systems.

Surprising Support For New Tax On Hawaii’s Powerful Real Estate Interests Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Surprising Support For New Tax On Hawaii’s Powerful Real Estate Interests

Past efforts to tax REITs, which own $18 billion of property locally, have gone nowhere. This session, the proposal has already passed the full Senate and House committees.

Some Hawaii Taxes And Fees Are Almost Certain To Rise Jim Simon/Civil Beat

Some Hawaii Taxes And Fees Are Almost Certain To Rise

The leaders of the Legislature’s money committees say more revenue is essential, and there’s a raft of proposals to raise more cash.

Lawmakers Move Swiftly On Spending Plan, But That’s Not The End Of The Debate Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Lawmakers Move Swiftly On Spending Plan, But That’s Not The End Of The Debate

The budget is expected to be approved a month earlier than normal, but thorny funding decisions like Big Island disaster relief and pre-K expansion remain undecided.

 

 

The Boat People Of The Ala Wai Fear They’re Getting Forced Out Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Boat People Of The Ala Wai Fear They’re Getting Forced Out

For years a lucky few have lived aboard their vessels at the gateway to Waikiki. But a bill in the Legislature portends big changes.

Ige Turns To Private Prison Firm For New Oahu Jail Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Ige Turns To Private Prison Firm For New Oahu Jail

Hawaii officials are struggling to find the hundreds of millions of dollars in state money needed for a new correctional facility.

Nonprofits Get 3 Nerve-Wracking Minutes To Make Pitch To Legislators Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Nonprofits Get 3 Nerve-Wracking Minutes To Make Pitch To Legislators

Nearly 300 Hawaii organizations seek grant-in-aid funding from the state. Most will probably fail.

Revenue Council Predicts Slowdown In State Economic Growth Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Revenue Council Predicts Slowdown In State Economic Growth

The forecast means a little less money is available for the Hawaii Legislature this session, but leaders of the money committees aren’t too concerned.

Hawaii Prisons: ‘You Can’t Have A System Policing Itself’ Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Hawaii Prisons: ‘You Can’t Have A System Policing Itself’

A bill to establish an independent commission to oversee the state’s jails and prisons clears the House and heads to the Senate.

The Roadblocks Are Rising For Much-Touted Bail Reform Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Roadblocks Are Rising For Much-Touted Bail Reform

Despite passing the Hawaii House with unanimous support, the bill may face a rockier time in the Senate.

Bringing The Right To Vote Behind Bars Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Bringing The Right To Vote Behind Bars

Supporters, including the Department of Public Safety, are backing legislation that would make Hawaii one of a handful of states that allow inmates to cast a ballot.