The rise of analytics in high school basketball

By Eric Burgher

Wearing a gold jersey and gold shorts, Nojel Eastern stood out at a recent Evanston High School basketball practice. And not just because the senior and future Purdue Boilermaker is an ESPN Top 100 recruit.

While the rest of the team was dressed in the Wildkits’ black and orange practice uniforms, Eastern sported the gear given each week to the player with the best practice stats each week.

Although statistics have long played a role in basketball, the movement toward analytic technology has changed the way high school coaches and players view the game. But coaches are still learning how best to use this information, and a debate has begun regarding how much analytics should be used in high school basketball in Illinois.

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Corporate tax cut would hit financing of low-income housing

By Mindy Tan

As the price of low-income housing tax credits, or LIHTC, comes under pressure, market watchers fret over the future of these housing projects.

“It’s a real problem and it’s significant enough of a problem that people are trying to figure out different ways to accommodate and plan and prepare,” said Kevin Jackson, the executive director at Chicago Rehab Network.

The plans vary, from some states contemplating the creation of a reserve of credits to combat a shortfall, to other states discussing giving out more credits to developments. In both cases, the end result is fewer developments.

LIHTC, which is a dollar-for-dollar credit system that allows corporations to offset tax liability by directly investing in affordable housing projects, accounts for 90 percent of all affordable rental housing created in the United States, according to the Illinois Housing Development Authority’s website.

Such tax credits have come under pressure following President Donald Trump’s promise to drastically reduce the corporate federal-income tax rate to 15 percent from the current 35 percent. Members of Congress meanwhile are eyeing a rate in the 20 percent to 25 percent range.

“There is still demand for the credits. It’s just that the amount investors are willing to pay for tax credits has gone down because of the impact that the tax reforms would have on the rate of return,” said Dirk Wallace, a partner in the Dover, Ohio, office of Novogradac & Co. LLP.

“We ran some analysis, the drop is anywhere from a few cents to 17 cents per credit,” said Wallace in a phone interview.

This has affordable housing developers jittery.

“The states are talking about increasing the tax allocation and giving each developer more tax credits. Obviously that means they are going to award less deals in the future, so you might see a decrease in the affordable housing construction going forward. For us it means it’s a lot more competitive moving forward,” said Alex Pereira, a project analyst at UP Development LLC.

Alex Pereira, project analyst at UP Development LLC
Alex Pereira is a project analyst at UP Development LLC, an affordable housing developer.

According to accounting firm Novogradac, the credits that are designed to subsidize 70 percent of costs in a low-income project could drop to 83 cents per credit if the corporate tax rate is lowered to 15 percent.

And credits that are designed to subsidize 30 percent of costs could drop to 81 cents per credit if the corporate tax rate is lowered to 15 percent.

“What they are trying to do is simplify the tax code. Instead of all these tax breaks and tax credits, they want to just lower the rate. But I think what some might not realize is what these tax breaks fund,” said Wallace. “So if you drop the corporate rate, projects may not get funded, and that becomes an issue.”

“If we don’t have LIHTC, what will we have to create affordable housing?” asked Jackson. “We always need to be working on finding resources and support for people of all incomes. We don’t want to lose what we have.”

Photo at top: Emerson Square Apartments in Evanston is a mixed-income rental community which benefited from a range of tax credits and grants. (Mindy Tan/MEDILL)

The stories behind the scenes: racism and sexism in Chicago theater

By Ritu Prasad

When I flip through my old journals, where I first began experimenting with storytelling, none of my characters look like me. Even as I can hear myself in their voices, I can see my insecurities in their descriptions: blue eyes, the opposite of mine; blonde hair, the opposite of mine; pale skin that is nothing like mine.

Growing up in suburban North Carolina meant that frequently, I was the only nonwhite person in the room. I was an anomaly, idealizing myself on paper by writing myself as white. It was only in high school that I recognized my own erasure and began fighting against the norms I had internalized.

The 10 women of Collaboraction’s newest production, ‘Gender Breakdown,’ tell tales of gender disparity in Chicago theater, but their stories resonate with anyone who has ever felt out of place in their own skin. If they had included every individual story, the show would be 91 million seconds long (that’s nearly three years). As the lights dim, the actors implore: “A theater is a place for seeing. See this.”

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Millennials contribute to Chicago’s climb as a bike-friendly city

By Haley Velasco

Molly Russell, 26 years old, who is new to Chicago, rides her bike from Lakeview down Lake Shore Drive to get downtown for school.

“I can just hop downtown with a really easy ride. No stress,” Russell said. “I’m really impressed by the transportation around Chicago. … It has not been quite as cold over the past couple of weeks so I have been trying to bike just to save money and get out and about.”

Rated as the No. 1 biking city in 2016, according to Bicycling Magazine, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city have made commitments to improving bike lanes and increasing access to bikes through bike-sharing programs like Divvy.

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Tokyo’s pachinko parlors look to next generation of players

By Mindy Tan

Pachinko, a uniquely Japanese form of gambling, is a popular sport in Japan. But interest in the game has been waning, particularly amongst younger players. Parlor operators are trying to revive interest by rolling out luxurious, air-conditioned parlors with uniformed staff, and the industry endeavors to introduce new games on a regular basis. Some parlor operators also offer non-smoking premises, widely considered a radical shift in this industry.

Pachinko & Slot Cyber
Pachinko parlors dot the streetscapes of Japan, with their bright lights, loud bells and whistles, and constant flow of traffic. The game is a popular pastime, and one of the few forms of gambling that is tolerated in Japan. It was not until December 2016 that legislators passed a law that legalizes casino gambling in the country.
Entrance to Pachinko Shop
Players spent ¥23.3 trillion (roughly $205 billion at today’s exchange rate) on pachinko and related slot machines in 2015, according to a Bloomberg report. This is equivalent to about 4 percent of Japan’s GDP.
Steel balls
At Pachinko Maruhan, one of the parlors in Shinjuku, a district in Tokyo, players purchase small steel balls which costs between ¥1 and ¥5. These balls are fed into the machine and players control the speed by which balls are shot into the field by gripping a knob on the lower right hand corner of the machine.
Pachinko Machine
The goal of the game is to shoot more balls into a central funnel. When three matching symbols appear on the screen, you win! Thousands of steel balls are spit out into a well at the base of the machine which are collected by players.
Big Win
Players exchange their winnings for prizes which can range from soft toys to electronics. It is, up to this point, entirely legal. But players often go to small establishments, usually near the main building, to exchange these prizes for cash.
Couple playing pachinko
Pachinko is still a popular pastime, but interest in the game is waning. The number of players has been trending downward after peaking in 1995, as casual players leave the market. The percentage of men under 20 playing pachinko and pachislot, a derivative of pachinko, fell from 11.4 percent to 1.7 percent from 2009 to 2015, according to market data from Sega Sammy Group. The percentage of men in their 20s was 6.8 percent in 2015, down from 24.5 percent in 2009.
Man playing pachinko
To counteract this, pachinko and pachislot machine manufacturers have been making industry-wide efforts to introduce voluntary regulations to curb functions that encourage excessive gambling. They are also forming partnerships to establish industry-wide platforms to increase cost efficiency through the joint purchasing of components.
Photo at top: One of the many Pachinko parlors in Tokyo, Japan. (Mindy Tan/MEDILL)

Americans still love cars

Boasting the largest attendance of any U.S. auto show, 800,000-plus, the Chicago Auto Show, which ran through Monday, Presidents Day, displayed nearly 1,000 models of new and existing vehicles of major automakers. Attendees said they enjoyed the show because they can see new models that are coming out and be able to try them.

Photo at top: The symbol of the Chicago Auto Show at the entrance of the exhibition halls. (Yemeng Yang/MEDILL)

Japan’s rail system thrives

By Karen Lentz

Railway movement
The Japan Railways Group–six regional passenger companies and one national freight carrier-–owns about 70 percent of Japan’s rail system, managing a network of train lines connecting the country’s rural areas and cities. The country’s railway system was privatized in 1987 after the Japan National Railway, a public corporation, sustained operating losses and excessive debt. (Karen Lentz/MEDILL)
Shinagawa Station
Passengers move through Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station during a Thursday morning rush hour. East Japan Railway Company, or JR-East, which covers the Tokyo metropolitan area, employs over 70,000 and logged more than 134 billion passenger kilometers in 2016. The company’s Ticket to Tomorrow initiative is driving accessibility and station improvements in preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games. (Karen Lentz/MEDILL)
Tokyo Station
JR East’s Tokyo Station serves over 3,000 trains a day and includes restaurants, cafes, and a multi-story department store. About 68 percent of the company’s revenue is derived from transportation lines, but it has diversified sources of income including station space, shops and hotels. JR East reported a ¥253.1 billion (about $2.23 billion) profit during the first three quarters of the fiscal year ending Mar. 31, up 2 percent over the year-ago period, as a result of increased earthquake-related insurance proceeds. (Karen Lentz/MEDILL)
Shinjuku crowd
Travelers wait to cross the street coming out of Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station. Shinjuku is described as the busiest train station in the world, incorporating 20 tracks, 10 platforms, and 12 train lines. Over 3.5 million people a day–more than the population of Chicago-–travel through Shinjuku. (Karen Lentz/MEDILL)
Inside train
Passengers travel on the Yamonote Line, a major line connecting multiple city centers. No eating, drinking, smoking or talking on mobile phones is permitted on trains. (Karen Lentz/MEDILL)
Bullet trains, or Shinkansen, run at speeds of up to 199 miles per hour (320 km/h). The Shinkansen have a dedicated right of way, increasing reliability. A ticket from Tokyo to Akita, a trip of approximately 410 miles, typically costs 17,800 yen ($157) and makes the trip in four hours. The Shinkansen represented 30 percent of JR East’s revenue in 2016. (Karen Lentz/MEDILL)
Photo at top: Japan Railway Group’s lines provide vital passenger service to Japan’s population of 126 million. (Karen Lentz/MEDILL)

Japanese novelty food you wish you could get in Chicago

By Shen Lu

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FITpreneurs: Women Are Becoming Entrepreneurs Through Fitness

By Kathleen McAuliffe

At 8:30 on a Tuesday morning, Dani Muckley is already teaching her second workout class of the morning at River North’s Studio Three. Though this spin class will last only 45 minutes, she spent two hours choreographing moves and planning the music, logging each workout onto a PDF to ensure she doesn’t repeat a song or sequence.

When she started teaching cycling classes for cash as a law student, Muckley couldn’t have imagined that cycling would become her career.

But dissatisfied as a litigation attorney, she decided to take a chance on a fitness career. She sacrificed her salary and benefits to teach cycling.

“I could have done it for the rest of my life,” said Muckley said of her law career. “You can always just get through. But I didn’t want to just get through. I wanted to have something I look forward to.”

Muckley is an example of how Chicago’s booming boutique fitness industry has become a breeding ground for female fitness professionals.
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South Side non-profit helps Chicago homeless teens

By Haley Velasco

Josh, 21 years old, wears dark sunglasses inside and a Cleveland Cavaliers snapback hat on his head. He aspires to be a fashion designer.

“I want to go to school for fashion design,” Josh said. “I want to be like a black Tommy Hilfiger. … That’s the type of person that I want to be.”

James, 19 years old, eats two hot dogs that he cooked for lunch. He aspires to be an engineer and to create amusement park rides.

“I’m getting my G.E.D.,” James said when asked how he plans to build amusement park rides for Universal Studios.

Both are homeless.

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