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.

A Historic Day For Honolulu: Preservation Commission Gets Green Light Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

A Historic Day For Honolulu: Preservation Commission Gets Green Light

A combined effort between Mayor Rick Blangiardi and City Council member Esther Kiaaina is making the commission a reality after 30 years.

Hundreds Of Honolulu Residential High Rises Fail To Meet ‘Acceptable’ Fire Safety Standards Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat/2017

Hundreds Of Honolulu Residential High Rises Fail To Meet ‘Acceptable’ Fire Safety Standards

A new report on the results of comprehensive safety evaluations was recently shared with the Honolulu City Council. Very few high rises have fire sprinkler systems.

Koko Crater Stables: Gunfight At The Not-So-OK Corral Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Koko Crater Stables: Gunfight At The Not-So-OK Corral

After a four-year contest between battling horsewomen, the city has awarded the contract for the Koko Crater Stables to a new bidder.

Honolulu Voters Lined Up In A Last-Minute Crush At City Hall Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Honolulu Voters Lined Up In A Last-Minute Crush At City Hall

Old-school voters gnashed their teeth at election changes and wondered why there are only two in-person polling places on the island.

Crying Fowl In Downtown Honolulu: ‘Chickens Are Wandering Around Like They Own The Place’ Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Crying Fowl In Downtown Honolulu: ‘Chickens Are Wandering Around Like They Own The Place’

Crowing roosters and squawking chickens are invading urban Honolulu, leaving residents sleepless, exhausted and angry.

Politics Afoot? A Long-Sought Civic Center In Wahiawa Has Been Stalled For Nearly A Year Architects Hawaii

Politics Afoot? A Long-Sought Civic Center In Wahiawa Has Been Stalled For Nearly A Year

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz’s signature project for Wahiawa has been on Gov. David Ige’s desk since January. Ige’s not saying why he won’t sign off.

Voters To Decide If Construction Interests Have Too Much Say In Honolulu Planning Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Voters To Decide If Construction Interests Have Too Much Say In Honolulu Planning

One proposed charter amendment would give voters a chance to weigh in on the makeup of a controversial city commission.

Big Questions Loom For Honolulu In Coming Years. New City Council Members Will Help Shape That Future Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2016

Big Questions Loom For Honolulu In Coming Years. New City Council Members Will Help Shape That Future

Honolulu voters will have tough choices on the ballot this year as they decide on four council races. But there’s a lot to consider.

Honolulu City Council Puts Controversial Land-Use Bill On Hold Amid Criticism PF Bentley/Civil Beat/2013

Honolulu City Council Puts Controversial Land-Use Bill On Hold Amid Criticism

The city’s Department of Planning and Permitting says it needs to review the measure after complaints from property owners about potentially disastrous effects on businesses.