Kirstin Downey

Kirstin Downey, a local girl who went to Kailua High School and then Penn State University, is a reporter for Civil Beat. She has covered the federal government, state and local issues since returning home to the islands.

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.

Honolulu’s Embattled Leahi Avenue Will Be Returning To City Control Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Honolulu’s Embattled Leahi Avenue Will Be Returning To City Control

City officials say they will put the street back to essentially the way it was before a private owner angered residents, took away street parking and allowed food trucks to operate.

‘It’s A Nightmare’: Feral Pig Population Explosion Rattles East Honolulu Neighborhood Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

‘It’s A Nightmare’: Feral Pig Population Explosion Rattles East Honolulu Neighborhood

Aina Haina residents are reporting increasing porcine encounters and are turning to city and state officials for a rescue.

Honolulu Is Short 3,000 Workers. That’s Because It Takes 6 Months To Hire Anybody Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Honolulu Is Short 3,000 Workers. That’s Because It Takes 6 Months To Hire Anybody

The city’s long-time failure to establish a system for tracking and measuring hiring performance is at the core of its problems, a consultant found.

Candidates For Honolulu’s District 6 Vow To Tackle Housing, Corruption And Crime Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Candidates For Honolulu’s District 6 Vow To Tackle Housing, Corruption And Crime

Community and family ties run deep for the seven candidates vying to represent downtown Honolulu and its surrounding urban areas.

‘Death Trap’: Here’s What Happened When A Diamond Head Mom Bought A Street Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

‘Death Trap’: Here’s What Happened When A Diamond Head Mom Bought A Street

The City and County of Honolulu is preparing to take over Leahi Avenue after a two-year tug of war that left neighbors fuming.

Help Wanted: Honolulu Needs 3,000 Workers For City Jobs Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Help Wanted: Honolulu Needs 3,000 Workers For City Jobs

The city’s high job vacancy rate is leaving residents waiting for services, as city officials scramble to try to hire new people in a tight labor market.

Veto Looms For Hawaii Tour Helicopter Bill That Would Collect Data On Flights Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

Veto Looms For Hawaii Tour Helicopter Bill That Would Collect Data On Flights

The bill would set up a task force to make recommendations on restricting tour flights but Gov. David Ige says it’s the federal government’s jurisdiction.

Honolulu Councilwoman Takes Up The Fight Against Tour Helicopters Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Honolulu Councilwoman Takes Up The Fight Against Tour Helicopters

Tired of the long wait for action, City Council member Esther Kiaaina takes residents’ pleas for peace and quiet direct to helicopter companies.

Honolulu Council Elections Are A Hot Topic For Neighborhood Board Members Natanya Freidheim/Civil Beat/2017

Honolulu Council Elections Are A Hot Topic For Neighborhood Board Members

With four of the nine Honolulu council seats in play, local community groups are paying attention to what a shift in power may mean in their backyards.