BREAKING: Burning Man Reaches Deal with Pershing County

Last year, Burning Man sued Pershing County, objecting to their proposed increase in fees. At the time, the fear was that costs could skyrocket from $180,000 to half a million or more. Pershing County tried to get the case dismissed and the judge ruled it could proceed, which Burning Man claimed as a major victory for their side in the media. BMOrg tried to get the law changed in the Nevada Assembly, but this appeared to have backfired with Pershing County just embedding themselves with the Feds, and the police presence this year being so heavy handed some DPW workers threatened to strike over the issue.

Well, it seems that BMOrg have “settled all my lawsuits, fuck you Diddy Debbie!“…as Eminem says. And it seems that Pershing got everything they wanted, and more. The 10 year deal will see Pershing getting a minimum of $605,000 if Burning Man has less than 60,000 people, and almost a million dollars if there are more than 90,000 attendees. BMOrg are paying Pershing for the work they do, and paying them extra for the work they do with the Federal Bureau of Land Management. Presumably BLM will still get their 3% cut plus expenses, which came to almost $1.9 million last year.

In addition, Burning Man will pay all the legal costs for the police and DA, in relation to prosecution. This would put BMOrg on the side of the cops, financing their prosecution of Burners, which was one of the community objections in the Paul Addis affair. With only a couple of dozen arrests last year for mostly minor crimes, these might not be significant, but this uncapped exposure could turn out to be a really big deal in the event that something serious goes down.

From ABC News:

Burning Man organizers have agreed to pay the Pershing County sheriff’s office more than $600,000 a year over the next 10 years for security and other services at the annual counter-culture festival in the Black Rock Desert.

Black Rock City LLC, the San Francisco-based company behind Burning Man, also agreed to take out a $1 million insurance policy for the event and reimburse the sheriff and district attorney for costs related to prosecuting crimes at the festival, according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Reno last week.

cops bustThe new agreement is intended to settle a lawsuit Black Rock City filed against the county a year ago challenging the constitutionality of a new county ordinance that requires the company to pay a $1.50-per-head fee for festivalgoers.

U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones has scheduled a hearing in Reno Oct. 18 to consider Black Rock City’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit based on the new agreement. Pershing County is not contesting the motion.

The deal comes after Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, introduced a bill in the Legislature earlier this year seeking to prevent local governments from imposing fees on any gatherings already permitted on federal lands. The measure eventually was amended and signed into law, authorizing local governments to sign agreements with event organizers exempting them from other county ordinances and negotiated reimbursement for services.

Pershing County District Attorney James Shirley and county commissioners signed the new 10-year agreement Oct. 6, along with Raymond Allen, legal affairs manager for Black Rock City.

cops burning man quadUnder the deal, the payments to law enforcement will be based on a sliding scale depending on the peak attendance at the event that runs for eight days through Labor Day weekend about 100 miles north of Reno.

Last year’s peak attendance was an estimated 68,000, up from about 58,000 the year before.

Under the fee schedule, Black Rock City would pay $605,000 for crowds of fewer than 60,000 — $230,000 to the county for services it provides jointly with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and $375,000 for services it alone provides. The total climbs to $640,000 for peak population between 60,000 and 70,000, and rises as high as $975,000 if the peak surpasses 90,000. The scale also allows for increases to adjust for inflation.

The gathering, which draws people from around the world, is the largest permitted event on federal land in the United States.

After it moved from San Francisco’s Baker Beach, the inaugural Burning Man in Nevada drew some 80 people in 1990. The first 1,000-plus crowd was in 1993, and attendance doubled each of the next three years before reaching 23,000 in 1999. The crowd was capped at 50,000 under a five-year permit that expired in 2010. The current permit allows a maximum crowd of 70,000, but organizers applied for a cap of 68,000 before this year’s festival.

Lawyers for Black Rock City filed the lawsuit in Reno in August 2012 accusing Pershing County of violating their First Amendment rights by imposing fees for visitors to the event on BLM land.

Allen said the legislation helped pave the way for a resolution to their dispute.

Our goal has always been to adequately compensate Pershing County for the services it provides to our event,” he said.

Good move, Burning Man. It’s always better to pay off the cops than sue them, if you have the choice.

We hope that this deal means the police will now ease off the escalation of harassment of Burners with sniffer dog teams imported from the border, and won’t be trying to impinge on our first amendment right for Radical Self-Expression – meaning, we can still run around naked if we want to. It remains to be seen whether BMOrg will add another $1.50 per day to the ticket prices to cover these new costs.

44 comments on “BREAKING: Burning Man Reaches Deal with Pershing County

  1. Pingback: The Grand Burners.Me Ho-tell | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. Pingback: Probable Paws | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  3. So, you don’t protect burners’ rights as you state you do, and, after all the fighting, and actually *winning* a lawsuit against this, you bunch of two faced, money grubbing, profiteering, self promoting, non-egaltarian assholes in the BORG actually caved and gave in to that which you were fighting, and agreed to pay Pershing County $600K a year for the next *ten years*? You got kicked around by the overwhelming, oppressive police this year, and instead of fighting against oppressive bureaucracy and constricting, overbearing thugs, like you SHOULD, because that’s what this thing is about at its VERY CORE, you evidenced yourselves as also being boot licking, sniveling sycophants to the very oppressive powers this thing was born to rage AGAINST? You DISGUST me. I won’t be buying tickets for TTTDIDT again any time soon. Check your head, BORG, because you are seriously averse from your core.

  4. Pingback: Associated Press Misreports Pershing County Fees | Burners.Me Burning Man commentary blog

  5. Burning Man writes in their blog, “Burning Man Settles Lawsuit with Pershing County, Nev.” 11/12/13

    “The cost structure is based on a schedule that accounts for population changes and inflation. If the agreement had been in place for the 2013 event, the payment to Pershing County would have been $240,000. It is too soon in the planning cycle to know precisely what the cost will be for 2014, but BRC expects the cost to be in a similar range in future years.”

    Whereas, Associated Press, ABC News, … writes about the settlement:

    “Burning Man organizers have agreed to pay the Pershing County sheriff’s office more than $600,000 a year over the next 10 years for security and other services at the annual counter-culture festival in the Black Rock Desert” and:

    “Under the fee schedule, Black Rock City would pay $605,000 for crowds of fewer than 60,000 — $230,000 to the county for services it provides jointly with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and $375,000 for services it alone provides. The total climbs to $640,000 for peak population between 60,000 and 70,000, and rises as high as $975,000 if the peak surpasses 90,000. The scale also allows for increases to adjust for inflation.” and

    “Black Rock City LLC, the San Francisco-based company behind Burning Man, also agreed to take out a $1 million insurance policy for the event and reimburse the sheriff and district attorney for costs related to prosecuting crimes at the festival, according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Reno last week.”

    Ummm, BMOrg, do you think it would be wise to read what the press has already written about the settlement based on the filed legal papers before you directly contradict them?

    • One Burning Man (unofficial) representative has said that the Associated Press story is incorrect. I wonder what the real story is? Where is it incorrect? We should find out in the next day or so.

      • We should find out, by Monday at the latest, since that’s when the court date is. I can’t find the story on the AP reporter’s site, so it may be down for corrections. I don’t know.

      • About the only thing that could explain such a major discrepancy is that the AP reporter got confused about who got what money. One paragraph would need to be rewritten as:

        “Under the fee schedule, Black Rock City would pay $605,000 for crowds of fewer than 60,000 — $230,000 to the county for services it provides jointly with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and $375,000 for services it (meaning the BLM) alone provides. …”

        And, rewrite the first paragraph to:
        “Burning Man organizers have agreed to pay the Pershing County sheriff’s office and the BLM more than $600,000 a year over the next 10 years for security and other services at the annual counter-culture festival in the Black Rock Desert”

        But, that doesn’t make sense either cause why would the fee to the BLM be included in the Pershing County settlement papers? We should find out soon.

  6. They’re not providing a “service.” They’re extorting money to sell us the privilege of being harassed. I say close the fucker down for a few years, or move it to Washoe.

  7. Pingback: Pershing County cops score big with future Burning Man bucks | moopnplay

  8. Simple solution… Go find another desert area… Unless of course Burning Man has become such a commercial event that the money is just too too sweet to walk away from…

  9. Pershing Co. Sheriff’s budget for FY2013-14 is $1,779,605. BM’s one week event covers 1/3 of their annual expenses. If they break even on their BM expenses, the Pershing County’s 6,753 residents pay $0.46 per day for their services. Our $1.31/person/day is 280% higher, despite the fact that we’re concentrated in a far smaller geography (~25 sq miles vs 6,068 sq miles), fenced in, and by and large, BLISSED OUT and peaceful with crime rates far below cities and counties of equivalent populations.
    Practically speaking – if increasing ticket prices by $7.00 (1.8%) will get them to back off the oppressive intensity, it’s well worth it. Unfortunately there’s nothing published that indicates that this is part of the deal. They couldn’t agree to it in public anyway. The only proof will be their behavior next year.
    I encourage the BMOrg to move the event to Washoe County – they’re far more appreciative and supportive.

  10. Pershing thinks they will change Burning Man, and Burning Man thinks they will change Pershing. They are both wrong.

    A while ago one of my FB comments got 11+ Likes for my suggestion that they bid out the event with their requirements, like the Olympics does.

  11. Paying the cops off is never a good idea. It only tells them they can keep on squeezing. This is the beginning of the end.

    • There will be no end to this as long as the BOrg keeps coming back to the same place for the event. The BOrg needs to sat goodbye to BRC and find other venues – more than one – who will not treat the Burn as certain as the sunrise like Pershing does now.

  12. Sorry, but I don’t call being eyeballed by cops in air-conditioned pickups a ‘service’. The Borg needs to quietly pick a new location, BUY IT, embed themselves in the local government so they can control the legal outcomes and move. Pershing Co. brings nothing to the table but shakedowns, smirks and outstretched hands.

    • The only thing worse than now would be to buy property and have permanent obligations. Local desire to cash in on the BOrg revenues will be inevitable. Better to follow the spirit of renewal and find new venues. Transformus was great this year – it was nice to see Burners in the woods! Not that Transformus should change, but the Burn should always be new, and renew. After all, is ten square miles of desert that hard to find? And what about the ongoing environmental impact on having the Burn on the same place in the Black Rock desert? Refusing to see all this is simply amazing!

  13. I’d previously suggested moving the festival, along with everyone else. Yet, now I’m wondering if they shouldn’t just close it down for a couple years.

  14. So last year, instead of the Bmorg paying the higher amount to Pershing County, we the people were given citations to make up the difference.

  15. Well, I was hoping to go three years ago, and I’m sad that the suggestion that came to me in those casual conversations has turned into this. I was told it was a mind-opening experience, and I’d meet so many people who were seeking a fantastic and fleeting reality, but my timeline didn’t coincide.

    The whole point of the festival is that everything is temporary. Don’t cling to the past, but seek to make your regional festival the best it can be. Burning Man has had its glory and it’s the idea, not the location, that should carry on.

  16. The $1.50 that Pershing County originally sought was per head PER DAY, so the average 7-day Burner would cost the organization an additional $10.50. At $640,000 for 70,000 people, the organization is paying an additional $9.14 per person. So, in addition to less accounting work, the organization saves a little bit of money.

    • This is true only if it’s peak population every day, ie all burners attend on the first Sunday and stay the whole time. The event is permitted for 3 months, it’s 8 days of actual party. I don’t think you can say they’ll save money from the $1.50, anyway they won’t be paying the extra, we will. Is anyone really going to be outraged or surprised if tickets go from $380 to $399?

  17. What BS,, Here’s an idea, cancel burningman at BRC all together, or relocate it to a different location, so they the greedy cops make no money at all then you will see them singing a different tune. Why is it that when something so awesome and special must get poisoned and ruined by parasites.

    • Made that sugestion time and time again: shop the event each October 1st and have communities bid on being the host. What is a festival of renewal that cannot renew itself somewhere/anywhere else?

  18. All the more reason for the BOrg to give a pass on bike thefts, since enforcement will cost them. Wonder what other crimes and misdemeanors will now be tolerated in the name of more profits. Welcome to the wild west!

    • it certainly doesn’t look good for those who want to see rape kits on the Playa for evidence collection. This costs clause could be some dangerous fine print for Burning Man, as it seems to be uncapped…what if they hand out 5,000 citations, then charge BMOrg $1000/person processing fee?

      • I’m okay with paying my share of five million dollars, which would be an additional ~$75 on my total event price of ~$1800, if it means catching rapists with DNA evidence. The main problem in your hypothetical is that there were (at least) 5000 rapes, not that some relatively well-off people had to pay a little extra for a luxury good.

      • sorry for the confusion, I didn’t mean rape WRT the 5000, rape is a felony, by citations I meant for drugs or public indecency, or something that is minor enough not to even be a misdemeanor. We heard about a lot of those this year, $1500 on the spot fines but nothing goes on your record-type stuff.

      • I think someone at the BOrg finally woke up and figured out the locals were not going to go away, as illustrated by the LOCAL sheriff deputies and the LOCAL BLM officers putting on the heat to the DPW. Better to negotiate something than to have them pissed off at you because “you won.” As for cost, could be that the SF lawyers were getting as expensive as the Pershing payments.

      • Totally agree. The BMOrg is a for-profit business entity, and this isn’t going to cost them a dime. . . in fact, it gives them a justification for raising ticket prices yet again. If their additional costs amount to $10.50 per person for the week, expect a rise in ticket prices of at least $20.

        I’ll bet this lowers the cost of the insurance they’re forced to carry, too.

  19. after 9-11, i worked on the world trade center site as part of the rescue/recovery operations. the cadaver sniffing dogs they used were going berserk due to the overwhelming scent. doesn’t that happen to the pot sniffing dogs at burning man?

    • very probably. They can only work for a limited amount of time, because they get high from the drugs. Which means they need a lot of them. It is quite cruel to the dogs IMO, especially in the harsh alkaline desert environment.

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