BURNILEAKS: Asking for Gifting, 2015 Edition

Last Christmas, in a story All We Want for Chri$tma$ is Your Money, we covered BMOrg’s poor timing in putting their hand out asking Burners to cough up more to fund their global gabfest. It’s a busy and expensive time of year, and in my opinion (and, it seems, many other irate Burners) a less than ideal time for BMOrg to be saying “it costs a lot of money for us to do Burning Man, we know tickets are expensive and you bring all the food and booze and entertainment, and fund all the art except for 2.8% of our revenues…but we need donations too”.

Their recently published Annual Report shows that they take in about $32 million and spend about $30 million, leaving an additional $2 million cash in the coffers. Of the remaining $2 million, they spend about $900k on art and other civic projects.

But don’t worry about how they spend their money. That’s theirs now. This is about your money. See, BMOrg needs it more than you do.

Since we got to Christmas without any post asking for money on their web site, I thought maybe they’d learned their lesson. Well, it seems they did – sort of. They learned that asking too publicly could lead to bad publicity. This year the canvassing campaign has been done on the quiet, with nary a mention in the Jackedrabbit or the BJ. Instead, they used direct snail mail and e-mails to a select group of potential donors (I wasn’t on the list, strange since I have given them many thousands over the years). And then they threw a Halcyon post about gifting out to satisfy the baying hounds on social media, that seemed to shut the Burners up before.

See, Christmas is about GIFTING, and Giving is how Gifting becomes Transformative. Give your money to someone else, so they can give it to someone else (after they extract X% for administrative costs). Send Halcyon $5 if you agree.

Burners who would like to support BMOrg’s cash scooping effort can donate to the Burning Man Project here. Or, do some real good and help homeless veterans freezing in this winter cold snap by donating to Operation Dignity in Oakland. They’re doing outreach every night and served 146,000 meals last year.

 


Thanks to Anonymous Burner for sending this in. Who else got one?

 

From: “Marian Goodell” <donations@burningman.org>
Subject: A culture of giving
Date: December 17, 2015
To: BURNERS.ME SOURCE
https://donate.burningman.org/

“This is Burning Man: A classroom for creativity and collaboration. A kaleidoscope of experiences and emotions. The pulse of a community of doers and seekers. At times playful, introspective and challenging – always engaging.”

Dear BURNERS.ME SOURCE,

What does Burning Man mean to you? Every Burner has a wildly unique response to that question and I always enjoy hearing your stories. Amidst the radical self-expression of our experiences, we still share a common world where creativity is the universal bond, openness is the expectation, and giving is abundant. This, the power of our engagement with BurningMan, is what we are striving to achieve in our home communities and around the world.

Because of you, Burning Man initiatives and endeavors are thriving. Here is a sampling of what we accomplished in the past year as a result of your support. Together, we:

  • Set the stage for awe-inspiring, surprising, revelatory, insightful on-playa art installations by funding 121 projects, totaling $1.2 million – up 66% from 106 projects in 2014.
  • Engaged more than 75,000 people in Burning Man off-playa supported actions as far away as Derry/Londonderry, Ireland, the Czech Republic and the Philippines, as well as close to home in cities throughout the U.S.
  • Issued grants to 18 global art projects, ensuring they were successful, accessible to the public, and civic in scope, while prompting the viewer to act for positive social benefit. David Best’s temple in Derry/Londonderry, for example, brought together a community divided by historic enmity. Participants engaged in joint creative action that offered a pathway to share common grief and move toward a more positive future.
  • Organized two Global Leadership Summits in San Francisco and Amsterdam, and supported regional leadership gatherings in the southeastern United States and Taiwan. Over 600 people from 35 countries participated in workshops, peer-to-peer knowledge exchange and experiential activities to learn about creating community.

There is so much more we can do together. Our still-new nonprofit is poised to take the next step, creating year-round programs that reach well beyond the playa. Your donations go a long way toward stabilizing and strengthening existing programs, many of which rely solely on private philanthropic support.

We invite you to join us in this conversation about giving. And, we invite you to participate—by learning more about the Burning Man project, by volunteering, and by giving a donation in support of these inspiring off-playa programs.

What’s next? Establishing a Residency and Fellowship program to recognize and assist early-stage career leaders taking innovative approaches to building community. Energizing Burners Without Borders to make an even more impactful difference to communities in crisis. Expanding activities bringing youth and artists together, underscoring the value of the arts to learning advancement in STE(a)M curricula – science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.

Please show your support for our new direction by making a personally meaningful gift before year-end online at www.donate.burningman.org/2015. No gift is too large or too small. Every act of giving counts and we are all grateful for your participation.

Warm regards,

Marian Goodell
Chief Engagement Officer

IMG_7532


 

burnersxxx:

The artwork featured, Dream, is by Jeff Schomberg and Laura Kimpton. It was installed in Arlington, TX this year.

This letter says that they funded 106 on Playa art projects in 2014 – but their annual report says 80 in the arts section. What happened to these mysterious other 26 projects? It can’t be the Regionals, because in 2014 instead of C.O.R.E. burning art projects their members did volunteer shifts working in the souk, handing out timeshare real estate brochures and so on.

An earlier slide from Crimson Rose’s presentation to the 2015 Global Leadership Conference said they funded 60 on-playa projects in 2014 (not 106), and 78 in 2015 (not 121). But hey, who’s counting?

Screenshot 2015-12-27 17.38.06

Crimson Rose, World Cities Culture Summit Amsterdam 2014 [Image: burningman.org]

Crimson Rose, World Cities Culture Summit Amsterdam 2014 [Image: burningman.org]

It’s interesting that the projects mentioned in this letter were also talked about in the annual report – which, although it was published just in time for this 2015 Christmas fundraising drive, refers to the 2014 year. What was done by the Burning Man Project in 2015 remains a bit of a mystery. OK, they had a big meeting at their headquarters, that most of the people had to pay to attend; and another one in Amsterdam. Sweet! Who doesn’t love Amsterdam?

In 2014 they conducted 35 talks/panel discussions, how many did they do in 2015? We know of a few. Where are the links to these 18 global art projects? In 2014 Flaming Lotus Girls did Soma on the Embarcadero and there were another 3 in San Francisco; where are the 2015 projects located?

Did David Best’s Londonderry Temple get funding in 2015 and 2014? The Arts section of the 2014 annual report talked about participating in the ceremonial burning of this Temple. Were there two? Did the 8 projects in the Philippines that Burners Without Borders backed for $4000 in 2014, continue into 2015? How much support did we give the Philippines this year? I guess we’ll know next year.

 


 

FINALbwbInfographic1-697x1024

Burners Without Borders achieved a lot, from their inception after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 until their absorption into the Burning Man Project in 2015. With 17 active chapters, it has participated in 123 grassroots initiatives in 11 countries over 10 years – and given grants to 114 of those. Each project got an average of $1,074. You can read about 8 of the recent ones (6 in the US) here. These winners got grants between $100-$1000. Are there more? The BWB web site lists 21 projects that participated in the 2015 initiative aiming to get 128 projects from 128 regions over 128 days, but it doesn’t appear that any funding went to those.

I think Burners Without Borders has done a lot of good, and if Burning Man can be a catalyst for people around the world to volunteer their time for arts-oriented civic programs, then I can see how Burning Man’s Ten Principles would be working to make the world a better place.

But is that really what’s happening here?

It’s not clear how the Burning Man Project actually helps these projects – it looks more like they are just trying to take credit for them, like they did with [free|space]. People have to do the projects themselves and raise all the money themselves, the reward is to be featured on Burning Man’s web site. Not even a $100 grant for these guys.

Perhaps this is how the Burning Man Project spreads its true values around the world. Not the Tin Principles, but “you do all the work and raise all the money, we take the glory”.

emphasis ours:

Goal:  To create awareness within the Regional Network of the Burners Without Borders civic engagement mission. This mission is to globally promote activities that support a community’s inherent capacity to thrive by encouraging innovative approaches and grassroots initiatives that make a positive community impact. The BWB 128 Initiative serves as the foundation for creating a culture of ongoing engagement of BWB projects at the Regional Network level.

Project Overview:
Every Region would be asked/challenged to do a single BWB project within a 128 day time frame from the GLC (April  10 -12, 2015). It is emphasized these project are not per Regional Contact, but by Region. All projects should be done within the Region.

Scope of Projects:
We encourage projects that can be completed within a few hours. You may initiate your own project, or explore within your broader home community, identifying existing volunteer opportunities where your Burner family can collaborate and bring something special to that volunteer role for a day. Whatever you choose, make sure the projects are at the level of complexity you feel most comfortable with.

Examples include:

  • Starter – Food or clothing collection at an event, food bank crew shift,
  • Medium – Costume neighborhood clean-up,
  • Advanced – A day on a Habitat build, wall painting project at a shelter,
  • More Advanced – Chiditarod (costumed bar crawl food & cash fundraiser). A More Advanced project may not be finished in the expected timeframe. However, the start on a viable plan works just as well.

Please note these are examples and not what the project expectation is at each level.
If a Region has an ongoing project or is the process of starting a previously planned project, the intent would not be to start a new project. They may submit those projects to showcase their Region’s BWB efforts.

Project Budget:
No specific budget amount is associated with the projects. The expectation and encouragement is to have the projects be of little or no expense to the Region. Any expenses incurred is paid from within the Region. 

Need Resources to help organize and plan your project?
Check out our ‘Kick-Starting your own Civic Project‘ document.  If you have more questions- ask!

Showcasing your Project:

All 128 Initiative projects will be recognized and shared for a Job Well Done!
Recognition includes:

  • Documentation on the BWB website.
  • Inclusion in the BWB display at ‘Everywhere’ in BRC, for those that submit their project form and visual documentation prior to August 15.
  • Highlighted on the Burning Blog write-up.
  • A summary document of the projects will be produced for circulation. This document will be based on the content submitted for the BWB National website.

[Source: Burners Without Borders]

 

 

Analysis: 2014 Burning Man Project Financials [Updates]

sherlock_1870625

Image: Burning Man Project

Image: Burning Man Project

BMOrg have finally released the financial information for the Burning Man Project for 2014, beating our estimate that we’d have to wait until 2016 by a whole 2 weeks. They have provided a lot of commentary and analysis to go with the IRS Form 990. They are required by law to share this form with the public now that they are a tax exempt non profit. This has always meant that we the Burners would get access to some information about the inner workings of Burning Man that we had never seen before – in particular, revenue numbers and salaries of high-level insiders.

The IRS 990 data is accompanied by an Annual Report.This is in addition to the 2014 Afterburn Report.

This combination of legally required form, commentary, and an annual report is a step in the right direction of transparency. It is certainly much more than many non-profits provide. BMOrg should be applauded and encouraged for moving in this direction, as they told us they would in 2011 and promised again in March 2014 when they revealed the mysterious Decommodification, LLC company that owned everything and was/is still private.

So how transparent is it? How accurate is the commentary? And are there any juicy details?
Here is our previous coverage of the 2013 and 2012 financials.

Some quick 2014 stats:

Population 65,992

Volunteers: 7,500

Paid Burners: 896

Registered art projects: 311

Honoraria art grant funded projects: 61

Mutant Vehicles: 652

Regionals participating in the Souk: 24

Regional Events in 2014: 65

Placed Theme Camps: 975

Walk-up volunteers: 902

Volunteer Departments: 32

Attendance has slipped, down from 69,613 in 2013 to 65,992 in 2014. There was a minor change in the interpretation of “paid participants” in the permit, if you add in the 896 people who get paid to do Burning Man and the 7,500 volunteers we’re up to a city size of 74,388. Plus cops, dogs, robots, and kids.

In the previous financial charts, shared in the Afterburn reports, we did not get Revenue information. We had to ask pros from companies like the North Shore Advisory to decifer spending patternes and other information, we had to infer that from ticket sales, a task made easier with an allegedly sold out event. So that is a positive step for transparency – one that was required by the IRS. We also did not get a detailed list of the salaries of Founders and senior executives before now.

We did get quite a detailed breakdown of expenses: 42 categories.

This has now been reduced to 19 categories.

The effect of this has been to greatly reduce transparency. How, you ask? Well, let’s look at some of the more glaring anomalies.

  • We can no longer see how much gets spent on Fire Safety and Medical Services
  • We can no longer see how much is spent supporting the Regionals.
  • We don’t know how much was spent on The Man
  • Donations to Local Schools in Nevada seems to have been totally eliminated.
  • The cost of fuel is no longer tracked separately.
  • Utilities, Internet, and Phone are now all lumped together, and thus less visible. This is not aligned with the “be more environmental” post we got last week.
  • Food costs have greatly reduced, and the cost of sales for ice and the cafe seem to be lumped in with that too.
  • There is no sign that any money spent on ice and coffee is given to charities.
  • We can’t see how much gets paid to local agencies, and how much to the BLM. The Permit fees of $3.65 million were less than expected from the Chocotacogate numbers.

These are just a few examples, there are many more expenses that have also been hidden. Basically, 23 expense categories that we now can’t see because they’ve been eliminated by lumping them together with other expenses.

Some new information has been revealed, but only because it is legally required. Other information that we used to get every year, that would indicate to us that the pool of Burner money being collected by this group of companies was being well spent – that has been obscured.

We now get to see who the true big-wigs are on the payroll:

Marian Goodell $276,913

Larry Harvey $232,381

Harley Dubois $212,671

Crimson Rose $171,069

Doug Robertson (CFO) $167,267

Ray Allen (general counsel) $158,574

Charlie Dolman (runs Burning Man event) $150,673

Heather Gallagher (IT) $136,384

Heather White (Managing Director) $130,535

Stuart Mangrum $130,045

Will Roger Peterson $79,604

Michael Mikel $76,072

Total: $1,922,188

plus Board of Directors

Terry Gross (legal services) $192,153

Jennifer Raiser (annual report) $34,605

Kay Morrison (art grant) $8,500

Insider Total $2,157,446 (6.7% of revenues)

CFO Jennifer Raiser got paid $34,605 for producing the annual report. That would be quite a lot of money just for a single IRS form, but it seems all of that work was done by others – this contract is presumably for writing the report that accompanies the form. Total accounting costs to count the money and fill the form out were ten times that, $319,363.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.07.43

Board member Terry Gross got paid $192,153 for legal fees, on top of Ray Allen’s salary and about a third of the $518,931 total legal expenses. He generously gave them a 20% discount to his usual super-lawyer rate.


Here is a comparison of the financial charts of the last 3 years. 2013 and 2012 Burning Man event revenues are estimates.

2014 bmp comparison financials 2013 2013 burnersdotme 2

We can see the Medical services from the list of 5 largest contractors:

Screenshot 2015-12-18 00.44.40

Bruno’s makes $400,000 a year in revenue from Burning Man, and is still for sale.

There is another contradiction, with the $1,415,645 bill to Spectrum Catering for Food Service listed in the tax return, and the $1,199,534 reported in the Annual Report.

Lawyers and Accountants has gone – I’m assuming that has moved to “Contractors”. The information is separated out in the 990, the 2014 total is $838,294 – back to around 2012 levels.

Costumes has gone, there is a new category “Performance Supplies” – I’m assuming that is the same.

The royalties is to Decommodification, LLC, for licensing the Burning Man trademark.

Taxes, License Fees, Interest – as a 501(c)3 non-profit, they don’t pay tax; they don’t seem to have a lot of long-term debt, so what is this for? It’s about half a million a year.

“Toilets” I’m assuming is now part of “Safety Equipment/Services” and not “Heavy Equipment Rental”

“Medical Services and Supplies” is now “Safety Equipment/Services”


Contradictions in BMOrg’s Version

Here’s what they say:

Some highlights from 2014:

  • Black Rock City, our primary annual event and largest program, brought 65,992 participants together from 80 countries for 8 days of mind blowing creativity and participatory community building.
  • Burning Man Arts supported the creation of more than 100 artworks on and off playa through over $1.1 million in grants and support services.
  • In terms of Civic Engagement, Burners Without Borders celebrated its 123rd grassroots initiative and has 17 active chapters nationwide.
  • And our Global Network of over 250 Regional Contacts hosted the 8th annual Global Leadership Conference and our first ever European Leadership Summit.

And straight away, we find a contradiction between the form and the narrative.

It was not $1.1m of grants – according to the tax return, a total of $911,955 was paid in Grants. If $200k of in kind support is there somewhere, I can’t find it.

And what about the 80 countries? A contradiction with the CEO’s Letter, which says 68 countries:

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.59.23

In their FAQ and tax return, they say

Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.11.33

But their own expense chart says

Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.10.05

So there is $172,135 gone missing somewhere. [see Update below – there are some adjustments with BRAF]

$23,227,579 was spent on programming costs related to Black Rock City. Another $7,634,810 was used to support management and general expenses of Black Rock City and our off playa programs. Funds remaining after covering the cost of producing Black Rock City stay in the community and are used to fund Burner projects and initiatives (for more detail check out our 2014 Annual Report). This includes year-round staffing and infrastructure to support the administration and management of our Black Rock City Honoraria and Global Art Grants, Burners Without Borders projects, the annual Global Leadership Conference for Regional Contacts and community leaders, and the annual leadership summit in Europe for the growing Burner community there. What do we not spend money on? Advertising and promotion (not a dime).

These numbers don’t add up either. $23,227,579 + $7,634,810 is $30,862,389. A different number again, one that appears nowhere else in their calculations or mine, or in the IRS Form 990.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.19.29

The IRS Form 990 says total expenses of $30,013,511, and a “profit” of $2,350,498. My spreadsheet, and Burning Man’s, says expenses of $30,185,646, which would leave a profit of $2,178,363.
Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.25.29

You’d be forgiven for thinking, having read this, that $25,118,300 is how much the Burning Man Project spent directly on programming in 2014. But didn’t they just say it was $23,227,579?

Looking at this another way: Burning Man the event brings in $30,679,219, and it cost $23,227,579. If that was all the Burning Man Project did (throw Burning Man), then it would make $7,451,640 profit. Having “BMOrg” there to do all the things they do year round AS WELL as the event, costs another $7,634,810. So we’re actually behind. Luckily, donations and other revenue came in.


What are they doing with the surplus? Either this means something different from how it reads, or they are spending more than half of it on lobbying politicians. For what?

Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.30.44

$33,000 of the $911,955 grant money was spent on 4 overseas projects:

Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.33.17

The bulk of the overseas money, $24,000, went to David Best’s Temple in Ireland.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.35.23

Two grants of $15,000 were also in support of Best:

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.01.52

Burners Without Borders got support for 8 projects in the Phillippines. I guess money goes a long way down there, because the total grant to all the projects was $4,000.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.04.32

As regular readers of this blog will know, they also have been out there saving the world through speeches and panel discussions.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.05.59

35, to be exact:

Requests for speakers and panelists from the organization continued to increase across geographical lines and sectors of interest. Leaders from the organization represented Burning Man in 35 speaking engagements, introducing aspects of Burner culture to a broad cross-section of professional and public audiences. These included two TEDx talks from CEO Marian Goodell, presentations by Chief Transition Officer Harley K. Dubois at The Feast and DLD Cities, a presentation at the Long Now Foundation by Chief Philosophical Officer Larry Harvey, and a keynote by Black Rock City Event Operations Director Charlie Dolman at the Project Management Institute’s annual conference.

Burning Man culture and methodology has proven to be of great interest to diverse audiences including municipalities, nonprofits, corporations, and organizations devoted to civic engagement, the arts, volunteerism, and process management. Burning Man representatives participated in conferences and public events — teaching and sharing the Burning Man story — including the Skoll World Forum, the Whole Earth Festival, San Francisco Earth Day, the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, San Mateo Innovation Week, and South By Southwest Interactive. Burning Man also hosted several outreach events at our offices in San Francisco, including a well-attended panel discussion on pop-up urbanism and temporary spaces

Was this a worthwhile fundraising activity?

Screenshot 2015-12-18 08.47.11

So they used $57k of grants for this – 6.2% of the total. It cost $234,520 and brought in $10,108. No word on how many lives were transformed for that.

Other outreach activities seem to have fared better. They netted $223,501 from the Artumnal, Decompression, and 3 other events.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.37.17

What of the “In Kind” contributions to art grants?
Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.38.48

25 BRC artists without LLCs shared $372,600 of cash grants an average of $14,904 each. One community-based project got $7,500. There were no non-cash contributions to any of these, nor to the LLC grant recipients. How BMOrg managed to inflate $827,000 of art grants to $1.1 million of donations is a bit of a mystery.

The big grant recipients were:

art grants 2014

It looks like David Best got a total of $119,000 – about 13% of the whole pie. Other perennial favorite grant recipients like Flaming Lotus Girls, Iron Monkeys, Jen Lewin and Box Shop all got the nod once more. Board Member Kay Morrison got a $8,500 Honoraria art grant.

An interesting tidbit here – BMOrg wants the IRS to know that they get the Intellectual Property transferred or licensed to them…

Screenshot 2015-12-17 21.50.40

…at least the rights are going to the Burning Man Project and not Decommodification, LLC.

Royalties of $75,000 were paid to Decommodification, LLC for use of the Burning Man trademarks. They have reiterated their intention to donate this company to the Burning Man Project in 2018.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 23.01.55

Black Rock City, LLC appears to be the owner of Black Rock City Properties LLC, which owns $1.2 million of real estate.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.11.18

There is also Gerlach Holdings LLC, an insider company that the Org rents real estate from:

Screenshot 2015-12-17 23.04.43

Ticket Services Expenses were $768,219. This has been lumped together in BMOrg’s accounts summary with a mysterious charge of $1.34 million in “merchant bank fees”. One reader has suggested this could be “credit card processing fees” – if so, BMOrg or Ticketfly may want to renegotiate their merchant facility, because 4.15% seems a little high.

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.46.29


Image: Burning Man Journal

Image: Burning Man Journal

So how much of your dollar goes to supporting artists?

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.15.28

You could be forgiven for thinking, if you read that, that $0.58 of your $1 went directly to supporting artists in the form of grants.

But wait a minute…

Screenshot 2015-12-17 22.17.13

Doesn’t that mean $0.84 out of each $1 goes to support artists?

Sadly, no. This 83.69% number includes Burning Man. They sell tickets – it’s not tax deductible for us buying them. They put on the party, travel around the world doing panel discussions, pay $827,000 towards the art on the Playa, pay themselves around $11 million in salaries. After all this, at the end of the year, there’s a left over pile of about $2.5 million bucks. So about $33 of your ticket money is just going to add to that pile, while only $13.82 gets actually handed out as grants to Artists.

Grants of $911,955 on revenues of $32,364,009 is 2.8% 

So yeah, when you buy a ticket to Burning Man, a lot of the money gets spent putting on Burning Man. That doesn’t make them some kind of philanthropic heroes. The way I calculate it, for every dollar we hand over to the Burning Man Project, 2.8 cents goes out again in the form of Art Grants. That seems more like 97.2% inefficiency, than 84% efficiency.

Another way to look at it, is leaving Burning Man aside, how much of the pure donations went back out to Art Grants? Leaving aside “Other” and “Other Misc” and “Other Program Revenue”, because I don’t know what those are, and just looking at Donations and money from fundraising events and merchandising, gives $1,355,710.

And how much went to non-Burning Man art, and projects spreading the mission of the Project in The Mission?

Well, we get some more contradictory numbers from the 2014 Annual Report (Arts section)

Screenshot 2015-12-17 23.15.13

There is another contradiction here: the arts report says grants went to 80 playa artists, elsewhere in the report it says 61.

Working backwards, $911,955 in grants minus $827,000 of on Playa grants = $84,955 of grants that went to non-Playa artists. That’s 6% of $1,355,710.

Of the surplus generated from revenues less expenses, $2,350,498 according to the first page of the IRS 990 form, the grant amount is 38.8%. Much less than the 84% efficiency they are boasting about.

The $675,000 of in-kind installation and support services mentioned by Burning Man Arts don’t show up in the tax return, and this number doesn’t add up to the $1.1 million of grants claimed.

BMOrg used their resources to promote Jennifer Raiser’s book, making it an Amazon.com best seller and selling 14,000 copies, but this didn’t merit a mention in the “Conflict of Interest” section – just the $34k for putting the annual report together.

Buried in the arts report above is some really good news: they found a non-profit that will provide insurance to artists.


In summary. Is it a step in the right direction? Yes. Is it more transparency? Yes in some ways, no in others. Overall, it is less transparency. It’s harder for us to see what’s going on, and there is a big disconnect between what the numbers say and what the commentary says.

“We’re achieving our mission because Burning Man”…doesn’t work if your mission is to spread Burner values beyond the NV Burn. 2.8% of revenues goes to art grants, that’s the real bottom line here.

Is it a “clean well lighted suite of rooms”? That’s not how I would describe it. Does it reveal any skeletons? Not yet, that I can see. Just more spin from the Propaganda department.  What do you think?


[Update 12/18/15 8:37am]

There is some confusion in that the Black Rock Arts Foundation was only assimilated into the larger Burning Man Project in the middle of 2014. They have filed their own IRS Form 990, but that has not been made public. We will have to wait until it comes up on Guidestar to piece together what really happened. You can read BRAF’s 2014 year in review here, but there is no financial information.

This might be able to explain the discrepancies between 61 funded Honoraria projects and 80; between $911,955 in grants and $1.1 million claimed; and $675,000 of “in kind support” that Burning Man Arts say they provided but I can’t find any evidence of in the tax return.

Screenshot 2015-12-18 08.41.50

The anomaly of $172,135 is explained by this, at the very bottom of their FAQ. I must have missed it last night.

Screenshot 2015-12-18 08.43.01

This means that the higher expense figure we are using in the spreadsheet here is more accurate.

It looks like BRAF made a net contribution of $176,663 and had $633,053 of expenses, including the $287,836 in grants they disbursed. How this matches up with the claims in their pie chart that they spend 75% of their funding on program services is a mystery to me, perhaps someone out there can shed some light.

Was their “total grants awarded” therefore $911,955 + $176,663? It adds to $1,088, 618, they said:

  • Burning Man Arts supported the creation of more than 100 artworks on and off playa through over $1.1 million in grants and support services.

If this is how they came to the figure, then “support services” must have been $11,382 – different from the $675,000 of support services and in-kind contributions claimed in the annual report. If this is the case, then BRAF’s Civic and Global art grants of $287,836 mean the contribution to on-Playa art was actually $812,164, not $827,000.

Cost of Goods Sold looks to have been $521,794, of which $477,770 was for ice.

Screenshot 2015-12-18 09.08.54

Screenshot 2015-12-18 09.14.47


[Update 12/18/15 11:11am]

They are sitting on $6,068,794 in cash and equivalents.

Here’s the 2010 Afterburn Financial Chart, which is no longer available at Burning Man’s web site. 2009 is also hidden.

I have updated an earlier spreadsheet I made tracking BRAF and BMP combined, to add in the Honoraria art grants for previous years. Viewed this way, total grants have either gone down slightly from 2013 (combined $931,836) if you go by the 2014 tax return figure of $911,955; or increased 28% ($1,199,791 combining BMP and BRAF numbers as per the Burning Man Arts Annual Report). Confusing, isn’t it?

Screenshot 2015-12-18 11.08.54

[Update 12/18/15 1:01pm]

Here’s art compared with lawyers and accountants over the past 6 years. Note this assumes that Jennifer Raiser’s fee for preparing the annual report is included under the Accounting total, and Terry Gross’s fees are included in legal (but not Ray Allen, he is payroll/contractors).

Screenshot 2015-12-18 13.00.08


[Update 12/19/15 2:06pm]

Nomad Traveler queried into the $14.2 million in assets the Burning Man Project has, and how it could have grown nearly $7 million in a year, when “only” $2.1 million of profit was generated.

Here’s the Balance Sheet from the IRS form:

Screenshot 2015-12-19 14.10.14

The “net worth” of Burning Man, assets minus liabilities, is $9.62 million.

The Burning Man Project ended 2014 with $14,243,495 in total assets, and $4,620,573 of liabilities.

This year, they are holding $4.2 million in intangible assets. What could this be? The trademarks are owned by Decommodification, LLC – as far as we know. This large asset wasn’t there last year, but another whopper was – investment in securities of $7.4 million.

I can’t find any narrative or explanation in the accounts or the annual report for the change in the nature of these assets. However, their cash at hand did suddenly jump up – from $198,205 at the beginning of the year to $2,080,043 at the end. It looks like a bunch of assets were cashed out, and the Project ended up with some very valuable intangible assets and millions in cash. What those assets were, is up to you to speculate, dear reader – or perhaps someone from BMOrg will be kind enough to explain in the comments.

[Update: A Balanced Perspective thinks the $7.4 million is the donation of Black Rock City LLC to BMP from the Founders; this is now accounted for as Goodwill, being the $7.4 million less the value of the Fixed Assets.]

The assets include $3.4 million of Land, Buildings and Equipment – netted down to $3 million after Depreciation. Specifically:

Screenshot 2015-12-19 14.29.26

Of the liabilities, the $276,000 represents payments of $46,000 to each of the 6 Founders of Burning Man, for their share in Black Rock City LLC. That’s all they got for 20-30 years of work…that plus a couple of million a year in salaries, a tax deduction, royalties for Decommodification LLC, and the typical benefits that accrue to executives of a $30 million corporation like travel and expense accounts.

The biggest liability is Accounts Payable of $2.45 million. Since a company with $2 million cash in the bank and another $4 million close at hand should be able to pay its bills, I suspect most of this is to the BLM for the annual permit fees, some of which are not due until months after Burning Man.

There is a secured mortgage or note to an unrelated third party, of $1.6 million. This is also new. Bank financing related to the $3.4 million of real estate and other assets on the Burning Man Project’s balance sheet, or the related companies Gerlach Holdings LLC and Black Rock Properties LLC? Maybe someone lent them some cash and that’s why they’ve got $2 million in the bank. They also hold on to a list of expert credit repair companies, it seems a little unnecessary when there’s an average of almost $3 million a month flowing into the company.

BMOrg claim “nobody’s getting rich off Burning Man”, and perhaps it’s true that the 6 Founders themselves couldn’t figure that out over three decades. They’ve been surrounded by some of the most successful capitalists in history at the epicenter of wealth creation on the planet; perhaps they were too shy to ask one of the many Billionaire Burners paying them homage over the years for help or advice. As a businessman myself, I look at Burning Man and I see a lot of money being made. Millions in fuel, rental, insurance. $50 million a year estimated spend by Burners just in Nevada – not to mention California, New York, and the rest of the world. I see thousands of places where ads are being sold around Burning Man-related content: Facebook, Google, YouTube, Huffington Post, Business Insider, the Daily Mail, and so on.

Did the Founders miss out on the gold rush? And if so, why? Altruism? Ignorance? Dysfunction? Or perhaps they didn’t actually miss out. We can’t say, because it hasn’t played out yet. For some reason, this handover is taking many years, and it is only now, as we enter 2016, that the simple transparency of a set of accounts is being shared with Burners. Assuming that IRS compliance now, shows that there has been the same transparency for the previous 29 years is a clear sign that you have sipped too much from the Kool Aid dispenser.

We don’t know the full details of the hand-over transaction, and not only that: we don’t know why we don’t know. “Oh we want to assure that the business is in good hands and it won’t all be absorbed by the State if it goes bankrupt” is the party line…but doesn’t explain the secrecy, or the continued wait to 2018 (when this transaction is presently scheduled to happen) and more likely 2020 (when they will perhaps disclose some limited details of the transaction).


[Update 12/19/15 4:08pm]

And another thing…

Where is the Vehicle Pass revenue? Is that just part of “ticket revenue”? There should be 27,000 or more passes at $50, or $1.35 million. That is to say, much more than the entire combined art budget at Burning Man and around the world.

If this were broken out separately, it would be more useful in assessing the environmental performance of the business. Remember when vehicle passes came in? They were sold to us on the basis of BMOrg might have to pay for road repairs. Wonder what ever happened with that?


[Update 12/19/4:36pm]

There’s a shoutout to Burners who have made donations in the Annual Report. There are a few high profile names in there, including 2 Rockefellers,  2 Russells, and a Pritzker.

All these Burners’ names will now be publicly linked with Burning Man forever thanks to Google, hope they were expecting that at the time of Gifting…

Burning Man Critics Miss The Point

Image: Peter Ruprecht

Image: Peter Ruprecht

A guest post from Daniel Souweine. What do you think, Burners?


 

It’s been a week since Labor Day, so if you live in the Bay Area, that means your Burner friends are still giving extra long hugs, there are still dusty cars on the streets, and you just watched your colleagues give four days of wide-eyed looks like they don’t totally understand this world you’re co-inhabiting.

It also means that we’ve just gotten another round of pronouncements that Burning Man has, indeed, jumped the shark, ruined by too much money, too many celebrities, or just too many of “these people.” Whatever the cause, it’s just not the same as it was [fill in the year when the writer started going to the playa]. Even Quiznos has gotten in on the act, which is funny until you taste their sandwiches.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But for me, the problem with these jeremiads is not that they are wrong about the gestalt of the festival — which I think they are. It’s that they are missing the interesting story about Burning Man’s evolution, which is how much the community has maintained its core principles while being buffeted by the totally predictable and completely unavoidable influx of money, people, and attention.

Before I make my case, a brief admission. I didn’t go this year, not because I think Burning Man is “over,” but because I went last year and I usually don’t go two years in a row because it takes so much time and money. Also my camp kind of fell apart. But I went last year and I sincerely doubt that has much has changed since 2014. I have also gone four other times, starting in 2004. I’m not obsessed with Burning Man, I don’t spend my whole year planning for it, I don’t have a playa name, and I don’t think of it as my “home.” But I do think the culture it has created is amazing and impressive, and I’m bothered by how much people are missing the forest of values preservation for the trees of commercial intrusion.

The principal evidence for how and why Burning Man has sold its soul are the so-called “turnkey” camps where rich people drop thousands of dollars for a hosted and catered Burning Man “experience.” Here’s a particularly unhinged account of how the plug and play camps show that Burning Man’s principle of radical self-expression is really a right-wing Ayn Randian ideal, indistinguishable from the mottos of Silicon Valley social media giants. *Deep exhale*

There are certainly more of these camps than before. But they are hardly a new creation. People have been paying other people to set up their camps for year. They are just paying them more now, the camps are snazzier, and they have gotten a ton of media attention. I know some of the people who run one of these camps, and I hung out there for a few hours last year. The design was amazing but the vibe was off, as you would expect. Not much soul.

Now, I personally think these camps are wack, and they obviously run afoul of Burning Man’s 10 principles, particularly radical self-reliance and radical inclusion. Which is why Burning Man is taking some actions to try to minimize their impact.

But even before this crackdown, I don’t think these camps had much of an effect on the average person’s experience at the festival. They are relatively closed off and so most people won’t interact with them. Which leaves people to visit, oh, 98 percent of the rest of the camps that are building their own structures, making their own art, cooking their own food, fixing their own art cars, inviting in friends and neighbors, and generally creating community. The people in the plug and play camps may not “get” it, and I sincerely believe they are missing out, but I’ve yet to hear a convincing argument about how their marginal existence fundamentally detracts from the overall vibe of the city. If anything, it serves as a useful counterpoint for newbies to see what it looks like to depart from the 10 principles.

Another, perhaps deeper critique is that Burning Man is out of step with our political moment, a world on the verge of ecological collapse. I am sympathetic to this viewpoint, but the thing is, Burning Man, in my experience, has never been particularly political. It has always been a fossil fuel powered orgy of creative expression that doesn’t have much to say about politics or political engagement.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s far from ideal. Burning Man should think much harder about how to promote ecological sustainability, and I can imagine a future in which everyone turns their art cars electric and figures out how to do fire art with bio-gas. But the truth is, the festival has always been more escapist and utopian than it is serious about overturning the dominant political and economic paradigm. Indeed, Burning Man seems only possible in a late capitalist society where technologically-adept elites have leisure time and excess capital available to throw the most amazing, creative, and difficult-to-organize party in the world.

And the creativity continues to be off the charts. It’s not worth wasting words here describing the unimaginable creations that dot every inch of the playa. If you have any doubts, just check out the pictures.

But if Burning Man was just about cool sculptures, impressive art cars, and amazing outfits, then it wouldn’t be that interesting to me. It’s also about building a city with a different set of norms, where giving is the currency, creativity the common bond, and openness the expectation. I’m sorry, but if people who have been in the last few years think that is no longer the case, I don’t know what city they were hanging out in. For my money, the Playa still provides.

Here’s one small story about what that looked like last year. On the day of the burn, I headed out on my bike to give a message to a friend. Coated with a week of dust, my creaky bike started to give out half way, the chain had fallen off and I couldn’t fix it. But I would not be deterred! So I found a random camp of people I didn’t know and asked if I could borrow one of their bikes. They said sure, and off I went. I came back 30 minutes later, message delivered. In the time I was gone, someone in the camp had taken the time to fix my bike. And I wasn’t even surprised. Because that is the culture of Black Rock City.

Here’s another story from last year. That same day, while I was biking cross playa, my camp mate spent the afternoon baking dozens of chocolate chip cookies (yes, we had a solar-powered oven). When I came back to camp and saw them, I thought to myself — that is way too many cookies, we don’t need all of those. Fast forward 10 hours. The sun is rising. We are at the far edge of the festival in our art car. A girl from our camp is playing piano and singing a haunting cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” through our huge speakers with a voice that would make you melt even if you hadn’t been up all night. My camp mate saw her moment. She grabbed the cookies, walked off the car, and started handing them out to the dozens of people listening to this impromptu concert. I don’t know if she planned it or not, but it sure felt right. That is the culture of Black Rock City.

Because I can’t resist, here’s one last one. Friday afternoon last year. I head out in a dust storm with two camp mates because one of them thinks that would be a fun time (it’s not). We seek shelter behind a small sculpture where I find a girl with a knapsack. In it is a plastic ukelele and melodica. We get to talking and she explains that she carries these instruments around because they are cheap and hard to break, and pretty much everyone can play one or the other. It becomes clear that what she wants is to have a little jam and that this is basically what she does at Burning Man. I ask her to remind me of a few chords on the ukelele, I begin to strum, and she plays a haunting little melodica melody along. We play for a few minutes, she thanks me, and heads on her way. I will almost certainly never see that girl again. But I will never forget our little duet. Because that is the culture of Black Rock City.

I could assail you with dozens of other stories like this, and so could other attendees. Each of them on their own is a thread of goodness. But together they form a tapestry that is unmistakable, it depicts a city that continues to live by a different set of rules, where giving is the currency, creativity the common bond, and openness the expectation.

It may be that this whole argument comes down to a question of viewpoint, and where you fall says more about who you are and your history than what’s actually going on. But I think the right way to think about this is the martian test (h/t to Dan Carlin, my favorite podcast host, for this one). If you took a martian, dropped them in Black Rock City, and asked them for a report back, what would they recount. Would they tell you about how Turnkey camps have robbed the spirit of the place, or how there are too many frat bros, or how the celebrities have turned the place into Times Square? Or would they tell you stories like mine?

People have been writing Burning Man’s obituary since it began. A friend who has never been told me he was offered tickets in 2001, but had heard that it was “so over” by then, so he didn’t go. He’s still never been, and every year I tell him, it’s not too late. The city may have changed, but its core stays the same.

 

2015 Crime Scorecard: Arrests Increased 600% [Update]

Image: Simon Pearce | Flickr (Creative Commons)

Cops at Burning Man, 2012. Image: Simon Pearce | Flickr (Creative Commons)

New Sheriff Jerry Allen was reportedly going to crack down on crime at Burning Man this year. When the story hit the media, he quickly back-pedalled, saying “I have no intention of being heavy-handed” and there is no crackdown, I was misquoted .

Well, it sure looks like a crackdown to me, with the highest number of arrests ever reported at Burning Man – and a still unknown number of citations. The supposedly underfunded Pershing County Sheriff’s Office managed to arrest 41 people, about 6 times as many as last year – and about as many as the previous 5 years combined. They also issued more than 600 citations, another record.

From the New York Times:

Scores of law enforcement officers meted out more than 600 citations and arrested dozens of people — nearly all of them for possession of controlled substances, like the hallucinogenic drugs that can make frolicking in scanty costumes in the desert seem like a kaleidoscopic adventure.

In other words, the party may have ended, but for the local courts, lawyers and busted participants, the headache begins…More than 40 of the revelers, known as Burners, were arrested, according to the sheriff’s office of Pershing County, the rural pocket of northwest Nevada where the festival takes place. The citation fines range from $100 to $500, said Rudy Evenson, a spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that shares policing responsibilities for the event with the sheriff’s office. Misdeeds ranged from environmental ones, like improper dumping, to drug use and possession.

[Source: NYT]

Crimes this year included 25 counts of drug trafficking, and 1 each of kidnapping and failing to register as a sex offender. Significantly, there were no sexual assaults reported – a huge improvement on 2013, when there were 12 people taken to jail for that crime.

For the first time we get some 2014 numbers too. The 2015 and 2014 data here has mostly come from the Reno Gazette Journal, quoting emails from the Sheriff. If anyone else has any more information, please share.

2015 Arrest Statistics

from Pershing County Sheriff’s Office

Population Size (estimated):

70,000 paid participants

9,000 workers

Total Population: 79,000

Total Cops: 192 – (150 BLM; 34 PCSO; 8 Washoe)

Total Arrests: 41

 

 

  • Trafficking of a controlled substance: 19
  • Possession of a controlled substance for sales: 6
  • Trespassing: 3
  • Warrant for failure to appear: 3
  • Possession of a prescription medication without a script: 2
  • Battery: 2
  • Unregistered sex offender: 1
  • Driving under the influence with accident: 1
  • Assault with a deadly weapon: 1
  • Battery on a public officer: 1
  • Kidnap: 1
  • Grand larceny: 1

Total Incidents: Unknown

Total Citations: 600+


2015 Traffic citations

(from Highway Patrol, Northern Nevada; partial information, as at 2/9/15):

Number of Stops:  245

Traffic Citations:  119

Warnings:  111

Crashes:  12

Fatal Crashes:  0

Speed Citations:  62

Seat Belt Violations:  2

DUI Arrests:  7

Drug Arrests:  0

Commercial Vehicle Inspections:  21


 

2014 Arrest Statistics

(from all law enforcement, including BLM)

Population Size (Peak, 8/29/14):

65,922 paid participants

9,312 workers

Total Population: 75,234

Total Cops: 185 (150 BLM; 27 PCSO; 8 Washoe)

Total Arrests: 7

  • 1 sexual assault
  • 4 drugs
  • 1 domestic violence
  • 2 trespassing

[note: this adds to 8. Earlier the RGJ reported 8 arrests for 2014, now they are saying 7; perhaps charges were dropped, or perhaps 1 person was booked for multiple crimes. This case might also provide an explanation]

Total Citations: 392

Total Incidents: 1,902

  • 334 public assists
  • 860 traffic stops
  • 520 verbal warnings
  • 230 written warnings
  • 392 citations.
    • 104 were issued on the road entrance,
    • 205 were issued for possession of a controlled substance (
      • 117 marijuana,
      • 30 ecstasy,
      • 18 cocaine,
      • 40 other
      • 52 multiple drug types
      • 50 motor vehicle violations.

[Source: RGJ]


While we’re at it, might as well thrown in some medical statistics. We’re hoping to get those for 2015, so we can see how CrowdRX fared compared to their predecessor Humboldt General.

2014 Medical Statistics

Total Patients treated: 2880 (according to BLM Director); 6100 (according to Afterburn report)

Drug overdoses: 71

Trauma incidents: 67

Alcohol Poisoning: 30

Death: 1

[Source: John Ruhs, BLM State Director, Nevada]


 

Here is the arrest data from previous years, as best as I have been able to assemble. They certainly don’t make it easy for Burners to find this stuff.

Screenshot 2015-09-12 02.47.57

[Sources various 2001-2012, NYT / RGJ 2014, BLM official numbers 2010-2013,  KRNV4 news 2013]

There have been some procedural changes, with the Sheriffs and BLM being integrated for a few years, and this year de-integrated again. So this may not be a straight “apples to apples” comparison, we could be missing some Pershing and Washoe County arrests as most of these figures have come from the BLM. According to local news reports, in 2013 15 people were taken to jail in Pershing County. Maybe some of these were later released without charge, or maybe this is in addition to the 6 arrests reported by the BLM. The anecdotal evidence we have is that arrests were way down under former Sheriff Machado; it is quite clear that his replacement has gone in the other direction.

The full story on 2015 arrests by Burning Man beat reporter Jenny Kane at the Reno Gazette-Journal has some other interesting information:

Whether participants felt that they were being watched more closely this year was up for debate. Some felt the law enforcement presence more than others.

It’s noticeably more strict this year. They’re literally sitting out, and if you have any minor infractions, they’re nailing you,” Jim Pehkonen, of Salt Lake City, said during Burning Man. “When they pull people over, often if they do consent to a search, they take everything out and they put it on the side and if they find anything, they arrest you.”

During entry to Burning Man, anyone who did not consent to a search if stopped by law enforcement was denied entry to the event.

“In past years, they’ve used more discretion. This year, they’re wreaking havoc,” said Pehkonen…

BLM agents, who also serve as law enforcement at the event, made no arrests at the event this year.

That is very probably because Pershing County Sheriff’s Office process the arrests, and take the perps to their jail.

BMOrg pay for the prosecutions, so it looks like Sheriff Allen will be sending them a bigger invoice this year:

Pershing County receives funding from Burning Man to prosecute cases that result from criminal activity by participants at Burning Man, although Allen said in previous statements that the county needs more funding from the San Francisco-based nonprofit for the county to take on the “heartache” that comes with Burning Man.

[Source: RGJ]


[Update 9/12/15 2:45am PST]

Any Burners who did get busted might want to contact Lawyers For Burners.

Results from 2014

 Every single participant who contacted Lawyers for Burners after receiving a drug citation at the 2013 Event was offered the chance to plea bargain the citation to a non-drug offense. The BLM offered to dismiss the drug possession citation if the participant agreed to plead guilty to a motor vehicle infraction. The BLM routinely reduced the $500 fine as well. Attorneys affiliated with Lawyers for Burners worked directly with the United States Attorney’s Office (the part of government that prosecutes citations written by the BLM) to accomplish these results. Lawyers for Burners acknowledges and appreciates the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Reno, Nevada for its management of the Burning Man citation calendars every year.

[Source: Lawyers For Burners]

The New York Times quotes John Routsis from Lawyers for Burners, and tells a horror story about a Mom who got busted with DMT, shrooms and a kid in the car, and may now be facing a life sentence:

“You have these individuals go there to go to this experience, and they will sometimes partake in illegal narcotics, hallucinogens, as part of their rite of passage,” Mr. Routsis said. “Now there is a great consequence to that action, where there wasn’t beforehand.”

Lately, the arrests have been handled locally rather than by the federal government, which is not good news for the Burners: In Nevada, there are lengthy mandatory jail sentences for even small amounts of drugs. Even so, evidence from past years suggests that judges seldom throw the book at the celebrators.

One of Mr. Routsis’ clients is … 35, the owner of a cupcake shop… She was arrested at the start of the festival after a sniffing dog set off an alert on her car at a traffic stop in Washoe County, just to the west of the event site. [She] faces several charges, including drug possession and Level 3 drug trafficking, a felony that carries a sentence of 25 years to life in prison. One charge is related to her having her 7-year-old in the car with the drugs, which the sheriff’s office described as “significant quantities” of psilocybin — found in magic mushrooms — and dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, another psychedelic.

[She] expressed dismay at the charges. “My family, friends and I go to Burning Man to awaken our consciousness and to become better human beings,” she said in an emailed statement.

Some infractions may be the result of culture clashes. In a 2012 case described on the Internet forum Reddit, a Burner said he had been arrested on child-endangerment charges by deputies who took issue with his permitting his 12-year-old son to be naked.

“I spend the night in Lovelock,” the parent said, referring to a Pershing Country prison, “and paid $885 to a bail bondsman on a $5,600 bond.”

[Source: NYT]

Traffic Man 2015: Entry Pain For Thousands

Traffic this year appears to have been among the worst ever.

From Voices of Burning Man:

We are experiencing significant traffic delays due to slow vehicles on Highway 447. Estimated delays are up to 8 hours to reach Gerlach from Wadsworth. We recommend participants wait in Reno or elsewhere for several hours until the congestion is cleared.

For your own safety, if you’re stopped on Highway 447, please remain in your vehicle. And do not park on the shoulder of Interstate 80 — find an off ramp and park on a side road.

We will update this message with new information as soon as it becomes available.

You can also hear updates by tuning in to BMIR or by following @bmantraffic on Twitter.

[UPDATE: 8/31/15 2:00am]

At this time, the drive from Wadsworth to Gerlach is taking about 5 1/2 hours. Stay safe out there!

 

Once you get to Gerlach, it takes hours to get to the 8-mile entrance, and hours more to get to the Gate. The good news is right now, it’s “only” about 3 hours from Wadsworth all the way to the gate.

The “pulsing” system was used for cars on the way in, leaving large areas of gap with no cars in them, while many stayed still for up to 2 hours before moving forward as little as 500 feet.

Last night, there was an 8 hour plus wait even to get to Gerlach.

Even in the 140-character Twitter format, BMOrg couldn’t just report the facts about this situation. They had to put a spin on, one that absolved themselves of any responsibility by placing the blame on others. In this case, vehicles moving too slowly were responsible. I mean, really?

BMIR, on the other hand, was saying that the delay was due to people getting out of their cars. Sure, just sit still in your car for 12 hours while BMOrg sorts the gate out.

Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.47.25

Burners were not invited to resume their journey until 5:30am Monday

Burner Jerrod put together this graph:

Source: Facebook

Source: Facebook

Here are some of the statistics from 2014, which link arrival and departure time to hours of travel:

2014 arrival times

2014 departure times[Source: Reddit, compiled from @bmantraffic hourly updates]

For many Burners last year, once they got to the Gate they had a long wait ahead of them, because Burning Man was unexpectedly closed due to rain.

Another Burner compiled this list of Exodus times from 2011-2013, based on information from Reddit.

2011 to 2013 exodus times

[Source: Reddit]

The RGJ brings us some highway safety information from the Nevada Highway Patrol:

Burners Leave Hazardous Objects on Roadways

Every year, several drivers crash because of unusual objects that fall on the roadways, NHP Trooper Duncan Dauber said Sunday.

“(The Interstate 80) will be a real mess during the week,” Dauber said. “Drivers should watch out for very odd things from tricycles to couches to mattress and bags of trash.

“Almost every year there are accidents.”

Dauber said Burners tend to drive vehicles that are oversized and carrying large objects that aren’t tied down properly.

“When they pack everything they pack it nice and neat, but when they leave they accumulate trash and maybe don’t have extra cables to strap things down,” Dauber said.

“When they’re leaving, they’re extremely exhausted, and they’ve been out on the sun for a week, and it’s time for them to leave, so they don’t pack everything as tight as they should.”

Dauber said I-80 westbound between Fernley and Reno usually is a hot spot for fallen objects. The Nevada Highway Patrol often receive multiple calls every year of debris falling off vehicles, he said.

“Even though most people are already at Burning Man, some people still continue to flow through there,” Dauber said.

[Source: RGJ]

Burners tried to make the most of it all and keep morale high. The picture being painted on social media was a little more grim than from BMOrg’s description.

Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.16.32Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.35.46Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.09.05Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.15.07Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.10.33Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.11.34Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.13.02Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.41.46Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.34.50Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.14.01

big backpack

In other news, Burners got some celebrity shout-outs on Social Media. We doubt any of them are stranded in traffic.

Here Goes #BurningMan

A post shared by Susan Sarandon (@susansarandon) on