Pershing County Hits Back At Burning Man

Burning Man is not real popular with everyone in the Wild West. Earlier this year they filed a lawsuit against Pershing County, protesting against a fee hike to $600,000. They are already paying the Bureau of Land Management, Washoe County, and other local groups. Pershing County has some ranchers/land developers with a beef with Burning Man, all kinds of mining activity, and at least one judge with a prim and proper view on all those naked drugged out crusty hippies.

From the SF Examiner:

The Flag of Pershing. If we pay $600k do we get a Burning Man logo on there? Maybe a glowstick and a cocktail umbrella?

In August, Burning Man filed a lawsuit claiming the county had illegally levied against it a new festival ordinance. The suit says that since the event is held on federal land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, the county cannot impose fees that exceed what is agreed to in the federal permitting process.

In new paperwork filed Tuesday, Pershing County argues that despite the event being on federal land, the local jurisdiction has authority over policing and judicial actions and the county should be compensated for the resources expended.

See the lawsuit documents and the two responses below article.

Burning Man has paid Pershing County to cover costs for law enforcement connected to the event, which has been held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert since 1991.

In 2006, Burning Man entered into an agreement with the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office to cover expenses. In 2006, the expenses were $66,000 and have increased over the years to reach $170,000 for the 2011 event. Under the first year of the new festival ordinance, the county could charge $600,000 to $800,000 in 2013, according to the original lawsuit.

Burning Man organizers have said those costs — above the roughly $1.5 million for the federal permit — could lead to the event being held elsewhere.

Also in the original lawsuit was a claim that the new festival ordinance limited the First Amendment rights of organizers. The new paperwork says the county is not trying to limit any type of activity or speech with its festival ordinance.

via Burning Man faces new legal onslaught | Mike Billings | Local | San Francisco Examiner.

Here’s the Pershing County Motion to Dismiss Filing. From quickly reading it, Pershing County are claiming that the BLM’s jurisdiction on Federal Land does not supersede state law, and they do not have authority over arrests for drink, drugs, and driving violations. They say that they passed an ordnance in 2004 requiring any event larger than 1000 people to pay for their costs. Which I have to say sounds fairly reasonable and standard to me. Then they say that they erroneously reached an agreement with Burning Man in 2006 that they should have a special deal; now Pershing County have realized the error of their ways, which means in the interests of the community doing what’s right to support their law enforcement officers stretched resources, it’s time for Burning Man to pay up.

Seems like the newly born non-profit Burning Man could be in a for a long and costly legal fight. Either that, or the judge kicks ’em out and they’re up for $600k growing into $1 million+.  Still, 70,000 tickets at $500 would be $35 million at the gate…looks like they’ll survive. If I were a betting man, I would bet that the local judge throws out the foreign claim in favor of siding with the local cops. The motion to dismiss is well  presented.

10 comments on “Pershing County Hits Back At Burning Man

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  6. Too bad most of the Black Rock Desert is in Pershing County. Washoe County realizes the economic value brought to their struggling communities by all those thousands of Burners passing through. If Pershing persists, they could drive the event out of the area entirely…which might just be their intent.

    • Pershing County doesn’t really get any of the economic value which kind of sucks since they event takes place there. Reno and Gerlach are Washoe County. Fernley is Lyon. Fallon is Churchill. I spent money in all 3 of those counties this year, but spent nothing in Pershing. Next year, I’d like to make more of a point to shop in Lovelock (provided Pershing County doesn’t act too dickish over the coming year). At least Black Rock Solar has done a bunch of installations in Pershing Co, but otherwise, they don’t get much benefit from BM. Asking for some money over and above direct law enforcement expenses doesn’t necessarily seem inappropriate, but 800k is too much.

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