Morning News: Big new uptown development announced; state rules Duke cut off power prematurely to Sharonville residents who later died of hypothermia

National student housing developer Trinitas says it will spend $300 million to redevelop Deaconess Hospital across from University of Cincinnati.

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click to enlarge The first phase of a proposed $300 million development at the site of Deaconess Hospital across from UC. - Trinitas
The first phase of a proposed $300 million development at the site of Deaconess Hospital across from UC.

Good morning Cincy. Here’s some quick news for you today.

There’s another huge new development heading for uptown. National student housing developer Trinitas says it will eventually drop $300 million just across Clifton Ave. from University of Cincinnati redeveloping the site of Deaconess Hospital into 1,000 beds of student housing. The first step will be a 351-bed housing development. More student housing, retail, a possible hotel and office space would come in later stages. The company should close on its deal with Deaconess by the end of the month and projects the first phase of development will be finished by August 2019.

• Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman has blasted negative ads funded by 501(c)(4) nonprofits, which don’t have to disclose their donors, especially when those ads targeted him last Council election cycle. But he says recent ads against mayoral candidate and Councilwoman Yvette Simpson funded by a similar entity that is run by Mayor John Cranley’s former campaign manager are different and totally fine. Smitherman vowed to fight that kind of opaque political ad spending when it enters city politics, battling in court over 2013 ads against him funded by a PAC headed by union leader Rob Richardson Sr. The Ohio Elections Commission dinged that PAC earlier this year for not designating a treasurer or filing campaign finance reports. Smitherman says that the ads run against Simpson by A Stronger Cincinnati, which is run by former Cranley campaign staffer Jay Kincaid, are different because the group has checked off all the legal requirements. The group, also a 501(c)(4) like Richardson’s PAC, can collect unlimited contributions without disclosing its donors. Smitherman, an independent, has long been a Cranley ally.

• Did Duke Energy contribute to the deaths of an 85-year-old widow and her disabled son in Sharonville six years ago due to an overdue bill worth $103? The state’s Public Utilities Commission of Ohio recently ruled that the energy company prematurely disconnected service for Dorothy Easterling and her son Estill Easterling III in November, 2011, violating state rules about power disconnection in winter months, PUCO says. The family of the woman and her son could try again on a wrongful death lawsuit against Duke, their attorney says. The Easterlings were two months past due on a $248 energy bill, but paid $143 toward it earlier in November. Duke shut their power off, and the two later died, reportedly of hypothermia. The energy company has one of the most aggressive rates of disconnection in the state — in part because it also has a high rate of delinquent customers. Duke contends they didn’t violate state rules.

• Southwest Ohio has the state's highest rates of heroin overdose deaths, according to this graphic from The Cincinnati Enquirer. A number of counties in the region, including neighboring Butler County, have an overdose death rate between 32 and 42.5 per 1,000 people, and Hamilton County clocks in at the second-highest level with between 23 and 32 deaths per 1,000 people. Those counts come from data collected between 2011 and 2016.

• Did you know that girls as young as 14 have gotten legally married to much older men in the state of Ohio? And even as other states rush to amend laws that allow minors to marry older men under certain circumstances, state lawmakers here haven’t done much to change Ohio’s rules. In the past decade and a half, almost 60 girls ages 15 and younger married in the state. State laws generally allow girls to marry when they’re 16 and boys when they’re 18. But there are exceptions when a girl is pregnant or has her parents’ permission. The Dayton Daily News has a series of stories on the practice, including one in which they tracked down a woman who married a 48-year-old man when she was 14 because she was pregnant by him. Despite the alarming numbers, experts say the rates of child marriage have declined in Ohio and across the country, likely due to a similar decline in teen pregnancy due to better access to birth control. Despite this, the practice is still happening — something groups like Unchained At Last would like to stop. Lawmakers in a dozen states where the practice is still legal have taken steps to limit childhood marriages, though no legislative action has yet been filed in Ohio.

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