Burning Man 2017 Financial Analysis, Decommodification and Flysalen [UPDATE]

Every year we bring you a look at Burning Man’s financial performance.

This year we’re also going to take a deeper look at their major assets Fly Ranch and Decommodification, LLC.

Burners.Me Previous Financial Coverage: 2012201320142015, 2016

2017 Burning Man IRS Form 990

2017 Burning Man Annual Report

Some highlights:

  • Revenue from Burning Man event $42.8 million, up over $5 million from 2016
  • Annual Surplus (Revenue less Expenses): $3,733,876
  • Donations received almost $1 million
  • salaries (including contractors) increased $2.1 million
  • Cash and receivables: $11.75 million, up from $9.5 million in 2016
  • Total assets: $27.8 million

Sales of inventory was $1,605,516. That’s a lot of ice and coffee. Ice cost $596,177.

Medical expenses were $649,000.

Their stock donation program seems to be working, with a donation of $26,517 in marketable securities.

Most of the key personnel got pay rises in 2017, though some went down:

Overall payroll including contractors is $18,703,754 = 42% of revenues.

Grants as a % of revenues = 3.8% . Note this includes the cost of building The Man, the base structure, and partial funding of Playa art projects including the Temple.

The list of grant recipients contains many familiar names.

Burners Without Borders made 4 grants, totalling $4,900. [* this is for grants outside the US and has been disputed by BWB director Breedlove. See comments. I have asked him to provide the correct information, I will add it to the post – Ed.]

The annual Artumnal gathering took in $629,404 in 2017. About $100,000 of this went to pay for the use of the facility:

2017 Fundraising Event

This is a substantial increase on 2016:

2016 Fundraising Event

Commentary

A huge thank you to A Balanced Perspective, DS and Anonymous Burner for their contributions and thoughts.

  • Artists receive less than 2% of the budget (approx $800,000)
  • Regionals receive about 4% of the budget ($1,717,766)
  • About 9% of the budget gets piled up in the bank account as cash.

Anonymous Burner says:

The art funding is constantly presented as a central tenant of the event, but is actually getting funded like an afterthought.  Artists are the face and the creativity of the core of the event, but have to carry their art on their own backs while others claim credit for making things so great for them

What does an organization trying to “make the world a better place” through art need with so much cash, into the tens of millions of dollars? Why do they spend such a tiny amount of the money given to them by Burners every year on art? Why do the ticket revenues increase 10% a year but the art budget seems to keep proportionally shrinking?

How can they justify spending $1 million a year on insurance without providing insurance for the 10,000 or so workers on site building the city, art installations and camps? Would it really kill their vision to make $3.5 million a year instead of $3.9 million, and look after their workers better?

Why does the main “charitable” organization have to spend more on the Regional Events than they give out on grants? It’s about double the art budget. Is the purpose of Burning Man to spread Burner culture around the world through art, or is it to expand their inefficient bureaucracy? Can’t the Regional events support themselves?


Population Summary (note: includes 2018)

The number of paid participants according to calculations in the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office report was 69,493.

I filed a FOIA request to get the 2017 vendor list: 84 companies selling things other than ice and coffee.

DS has also been filing FOIA requests for information about Burning Man. He was able to get this heavily redacted information for 2017, the calculations used to pay the Bureau of Land Management’s 3% fee.

Why the need for such secrecy?

The bulk of the $4,349,723 in Permits, Taxes and Fees appears to be the 9% Nevada Live Entertainment Tax. [* see comments – Ed.]


Decommodification

One of the interesting things in the 990 is the listing of “related entities”. It includes Decommodification LLC, but the share of end of year assets is $0.

Decommodification LLC is the organization that was created at the same time as the non-profit Burning Man Project, to hold all the intellectual property. As far as we can tell, it gets paid $75,000 per year in royalties from the Burning Man Project for use of their trademarks. We have no information on what other royalties it earns, for example from sales of the documentary “Spark” or the “lines around the block” Smithsonian exhibit. Google recently commissioned Burning Man to design a $2 million art installation for their campus: where does this money go? Five lucky artists will get a share, most likely the “big names” who appear in the grants list on a regular basis. Is there a royalty component to deals like this?

Decommodification LLC made two filings to the California Secretary of State on January 16, 2019. One was that “nothing has changed”, and another one requested that the company registration be canceled. It seems strange to me to file “no change” and “cancellation” notices on the same date, if anyone has knowledge of how this process works please leave a comment.

The current state of the company shows “cancelled” at the S.O.S. web site.

According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, the trademarks were transferred from Decommodification LLC back to the Burning Man Project on 28 April 2018 – the day Larry Harvey passed away.

The “nunc pro tunc” is a retroactive assignment to correct an earlier ruling. Was this something to do with Larry’s estate?

What happened to the rest of the intellectual property, including the rights to future royalty streams?

Were the trademarks assigned back to the Burning Man Project for free, Decommodification LLC dissolved, and the accumulated cash of 6-7 years of royalties distributed to the members? Or was some of that $12 million cash hoard used to purchase them?

These transactions occurred in 2018, so perhaps will get covered in next year’s IRS Form 990. There is no mention of them on the Burning Man web site, despite this being perhaps the most significant thing BMorg have done since spinning off their non-profit in 2012. BMorg like to claim they’re a “leader in radical transparency”, but Decommodification Inc has always been a mysterious black box.

The 2017 Form 990 values the Burning Man Project’s intangible assets at $4.23 million, but this was before the trademark transfer. This amount first appeared on the books in 2014. We believe it represents goodwill on the acquisition of Black Rock City, LLC from the Founders.

For a good read related to Intellectual Property and Burning Man, see Culture, Capital and Copycats in a Globalizing Burnerverse by Ian Rowen, which was the keynote address at the 2018 Australia and New Zealand Burner Leadership Summit.

The “Burner Look” is not trademarked, so anyone can put an art car in a desert and appropriate our culture for “cool factor” and financial gain

Flysalen

In 2016 BMorg bought a 3800 acre parcel of land known as “Fly Ranch” with big donations and paid $6.5 million. This is why the 2016 donations were more than $8 million.

Around 42:30 in the above video, they start talking about “community ownership of land”. The communist social justice component of this vision is that “living off the land is a version of Universal Basic Income”.

Five minutes into the video, they reveal that the land has been sub-divided into 53 different parcels.

Who gets a permanent Burning Man lot? Presumably the 6 5 Founders and the millionaires who put up the $6.5 million. Will the rest be auctioned off to the highest bidder, or handed out to the most favored staff, artists, and camps? I’m tipping Dancetronauts are not on the short list.

This reminds me of an earlier post, Get Your Timeshare Slot in the Sultan. There, I postulated that the “ironic timeshare sales” brochures being handed out from a booth at the Man base was actually Burning Man’s way of bringing that in as a future reality.

The Occidental Oasis “ironic” timeshare sale was going on at the same time as very real hotel sales on Billionaire’s Row

The same thing happened with hotels, where BMorg director Chris Weitz opened an “ironic hotel” at Ashram Galactica, which paved the way for the proliferation of luxury Plug-N-Play hotel camps today.

Petit Ermitage, a boutique hotel in West Hollywood, were still advertising the pop-up Burning Man hotel they created with Cirque Gitane long after the event
People now pay up to $20,000 for hotel rooms at Burning Man with flushing porcelain toilets
Photo: Lost Hotel/Facebook

Fly Vision

Some information about the original intention for Fly Ranch is available thanks to the Wayback Machine

You can see from the plan above that the property is adjacent to another playa. Hualapai Flat is land administered by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.

Image: americansouthwest.net

The Bureau of Land Management is planning to dispose of some of its lands.

Source: BLM Winnemucca District Program Overview 2017, Page 7

From the January 2018 report, it looks like this deal is close to being done:

Source: BLM Winnemucca District Program Overview 2018, Page 6

Who else would want empty desert playa?


The original vision for the Fly Ranch site was a sustainable community of one acre lots for employees and affiliates, with its own airstrip. This plan talks about 9 parcels of 5 acres, each with their own access roads; and 73 parcels of 1 acre each.

Village and Residential sites

The two communities are based on Burning Man’s Ten Principles, and this will be it’s first year-round expression. Employees and affiliates may build on a ‘Homestead’ basis, or rent or buy into the Village community at the project’s north end. For others, one acre lots may be bought for home construction in the project’s central development (and separate H.O.A). These areas will be allowed to grow incrementally, with roads and utilities phased as required. Geo- thermal electricity will serve all the lighting and cooling needs of residents (and possibly the valley’s ranchers as well), and hot water will provide all heating.

Organic vegetable farming will be developed as an economic base for the village community. Geo-thermally heated greenhouse organic farming will be operated for local needs, and for transport and sale. This can supply Reno with organic vegetables throughout the year, while creating a wholly independent economy for the community.

Source: willroger.org, via Wayback Machine

Land Conservancy

Even with limited use, the grassy banks of the vernal pools are being sloughed in by bathers, the pools gradually churned into shallow mud holes. Bathers also leave tanning lotions, insect repellants, and
other contaminants behind to ill effect. The pond waters contain a species of pupfish which are isolated by the underground source and terminal outflow.

A nature preserve requires control and enforcement, accordingly this area must be properly fenced to admit access only to indigenous animals, but excluding horses or cattle which trample wetlands. Human access must be highly regulated, with trespass, hunting and public use of existing pools and hot springs banned.

Anticipating the utter destruction of too much love, together with the projected costs of controlling and insuring against increasing liability, it is suggested that a Land Conservancy that is affiliated with Burning Man be created to manage the Geyser and wetland area.

Source: willroger.org, via Wayback Machine

Restaurant, Lodge and Conference Center

Fly Lodge and Conference Center

This will epitomize the style of Fly Ranch, and become a beacon for the greater community. A restaurant, rooms and services will be available. Fly Lodge will be available for public and corporate use, while also serving as World Headquarters for Burning Man’s Regional organizations around the globe.

Source: willroger.org, via Wayback Machine

Burning Man Board Member Chip Conley’s experience with luxury boutique hotels and AirBNB would come in handy for a plan like this.


How Much For That Oasis In The Desert?

Burning Man’s balance sheet shows land, buildings and equipment of $11.9 million; net of depreciation, $9.9 million. Schedule D, Part VI lists the value of land as $7,233,545 and buildings at $979,870. In 2015, before the Fly Ranch purchase, land was $198,000 and buildings $979,780.

According to Nevada property records, Fly Ranch only cost about $2.6M. The Washoe sales records record two transactions for $2.377M and $0.240M. The water rights came under two different transactions and appear to not have specific value attached to them. The water rights transactions gave the prior owner only about 64 acre feet of water for livestock.

There were four transactions in 2016:

1)      sale of 3,381 acres that was the majority of FR,

2)      another 276 acres that was part of the FR with the geyser

These sold the mineral rights but not the water but referred to other linked sales of water rights.

3) transfer of water rights with a carve out for the prior owner for item 1).

4) transfer of water rights with a carve out for the prior owner for item 2).

Water rights in California and Nevada are fresh on my mind after all the research I did for my last podcast episode, CryptoBeast #17 – Fire, Water, Trains, Space Lasers: California Burning. It’s an arcane subject, but if you’re interested there’s a good overview here: History of Water Rights in Nevada and the Western States. This particular statement seems to be key:

Surface water rights initiated by applying water to beneficial use prior to March 1, 1905, and which have been perpetuated or continuously used through the years are known as vested water rights

The main water rights for the hot springs, Cottonwood Creek and Little Cottonwood Creek are the rare and highly coveted “vested water rights”, granted before 1905.

My source tells me that the Burning Man event draws 12 million gallons of water per year from this property (27 acre feet).


Setting Boundaries

We recently published discussion from the Washoe County Commissioner’s meeting about the possibility of redrawing district boundaries so that Burning Man would be part of Washoe County (which gets the economic benefits from event-related tourism) instead of Pershing County (which gets a massive spike in crime rates with no economic benefits).

Fly Ranch is next to Hualapai Flat. Burning Man was held at this location once, in 1997. Hualapai Flat is where Pershing, Washoe, and Humboldt Counties meet. Fly Geyser is in Washoe County.

Is the proposed Washoe Boundary move related to long-standing plans to purchase Hualapai Flat? Is BMorg sitting on $4 million from the Fly Ranch donations to acquire this land?

I guess time will tell.


[Update Feb 7, 2019 2:11pm]

The plot thickens, with this post saying that Burning Man was under contract to purchase Fly Ranch in 2009, and real estate developer Build SF helped organize their corporate restructuring to provide “personal financial security” for the 6 Burning Man founders.

In 2009, the BUILD partners were introduced to Larry Harvey and his partners at the Burning Man Organization. Burning Man was in contract to acquire a 4,000-acre ranch in the Nevada desert on which they planned to move the annual Burning Man event as well as develop a desert art center. 

BUILD facilitated a transaction that allowed Burning Man to adjust its corporate structure, manage tax requirements, protect trademarks, establish a permanent office, and provide personal financial security for the six Burning Man partners. Real estate provided an elegant solution for these complex, multi-dimensional challenges, while preserving and honoring the basic precepts of Burning Man. We are proud of the part we played as advisors to Burning Man in establishing a clear path and solid foundation for everyone’s long-term benefit, including the event itself.

I have another trusted source who drew the “intellectual property in a separate company” structure on a napkin for CEO Maid Marian. I will ask their opinion on this.

[Update Feb 13. 2019 4:06pm]

Breedlove head of BWB has updated us with some more detail:

It’s interesting to see the difference between Part III 4c & Schedule F Part 1. I don’t quite understand how they split the difference between those two sections.

What I can provide you with is that we gave 4 grants through our Civic Ignition Process coming out at 4,900$ and 21 grants through our Annual Community Micro-Grant Program coming out at 18,800$. Between the two programs that totaled $23,700.
(https://www.burnerswithoutborders.org/projects/bwb-community-grant-winners-2017)

We also provided grants for Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief at $21,317.12

There was also a series of Fiscal Sponsor funds that were raised and given out. One of those being the $30,363 for the Camp Epic Santa Rosa Fire Relief (which is in one of your screenshots above)— but I don’t have the ability to pull up all those numbers at this time.

I’m also realizing while going through my data that it isn’t the easiest to find some of this stuff unless you know where to look. So taking a note on improving our reporting systems for the future– I appreciate the opportunity to look at how we can do better at reporting in a more transparent and better to find way.

Sheriff Asks Org To Pony Up for More Money and Officers

The Pershing County Sheriff’s office have published their Post Mission Synopsis report for 2017. It’s reproduced at the end of this article, along with a couple of appendices – one which gives an idea of where incidents occurred, which some Burners may find interesting.

Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen. Image: News4Nevada

There was some coverage of this story at the Reno Gazette Journal “Tensions rise between Burning Man and law enforcement, again”, but it’s light on details. We’ve re-blogged a more detailed story from the Lovelock Review Miner in this post. Huge thanks to our source for sending this in.

Some Highlights

Sheriff Allen agrees with me and the USPTO that it’s a festival.

I think this is the first time I’ve seen the size of the annual drug haul, something I’m sure many Burners have been curious about:

grams ounces pounds
marijuana > 639 22.82 1.43
psilocybin > 818 29.21 1.83
Ketamine > 120 4.29
Methamphetamine 13.5
Cocaine > 231 8.25
MDMA > 334 11.93
doses
LSD > 217

It’s interesting to see the population changes.

This is the essence of the Sheriff’s problems with the festival:

He brings up a specific incident where Burning Man didn’t want a particular person to attend a meeting, so they went straight to the Director in Washington DC rather than raising their objections with the Sheriff’s office.

One wonders who this objectionable individual was. Dan Love? Gene Siedlitz? CIA? DEA? FBI? CDC? Humboldt General?

The Sheriff is highly suspicious of the population numbers provided by the Org.

Later in the report he mentions that the gate count may not include all the people arriving via the airline and Burner Express bus. The numbers are key because peak population above 69,999 brings them to a higher payment level, from $240,000 to $275,000.

Reading further, we have BMorg employees wielding weapons in a car chase…

And an RV full of coke and a loaded gun in early entry:

We have already covered the arrest statistics 2017 Crime Scorecard, here is the summary:

“We continue to have negative enforcement” – is this police speak for laws are broken everywhere?

We wish Sheriff Allen luck in his quest to squeeze more money from the $45 million annual event. His requests seem pretty reasonable – the cost of one junket regional festival visit for one BMorg staffer – and his office has to deal with the consequences of Burning Man all year round, not just for a week.

Re-blogged from the Lovelock Review Miner:


Sheriff submits Burning Man budget request

Debra Reid, News4Nevada

Wednesday, July 11, 2018 1:00 AM

Sheriff Jerry Allen submitted his law enforcement budget for next month’s Burning Man while challenging county leaders to “dispose of” the agreement that restricts the budget. Allen is concerned that public safety is at risk due to inadequate county law enforcement at the event.

The 2013 Settlement Agreement between Pershing County and festival organizer Black Rock City, LLC, limits the private group’s payments to the county for law enforcement, criminal prosecution and other services impacted by the massive festival. The agreement sets the reimbursements according to festival attendance and law enforcement command status.

Allen limited his spending as required in the 10-year agreement. His budget request is based on a less desirable but lower cost “integrated” command with the BLM and this year’s expected attendance by 70,000 to 79,999 ticket-holders. The number still doesn’t include the thousands of staff, volunteers and contractors on playa for weeks before and after the nine day event.

With the population and inflation factored in, BRC’s $275,000 base payment pencils out to a total of $299,201.92 that should be paid to the county, according to Allen. Of that, $252,462.88 will cover payroll for up to 24 law enforcement officers and jail personnel plus supplies and permanent infrastructure needed during the event including CAD (Computer-Aided Dispatch) interface, body cameras, trailers and a possible air conditioning unit for off-duty personnel.

That leaves $46,738.74 left over for the county courts and administrative services needed for the event according to Allen’s budget request. Members of the county commission are reviewing the proposal and may vote to either approve or reject it at their next meeting on July 18.

Sheriff Allen also handed out his Post Mission Synopsis on the 2017 Burning Man event. The report explains why, in his opinion, the 2013 Settlement Agreement between Pershing County and BRC shortchanges county taxpayers and event participants.

“The Burning Man Festival has, for several years, far exceeded the resources of not only Pershing County, but the Law Enforcement resources of Northern Nevada as a whole. The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office has had to ‘contract’ with several different Law Enforcement Officers within the State to provide some semblance of law enforcement expected by the participants. This endeavor is becoming increasingly difficult to perform as the population of BRC continues to increase and the payment to Pershing County remains relatively stagnant.”

In 2019, the BLM may issue a ten-year Special Recreation Permit allowing the Black Rock City population to reach 100,000 including ticket-holders, staff, volunteers and contractors. As the festival grows, Allen says a sheriff’s deputy dedicated year-round to the event will be needed.

“This Festival has increased in magnitude to the extent that Pershing County should hire a Deputy to provide for planning, logistics and execution of the plan for this Festival as well as provide for continued investigations,” he said. “The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office continues to receive calls for service long after the active portion of the Festival has concluded.”
Property and personal crime reports after the event, including minor thefts and sexual assault, must be investigated even though the evidence has vanished along with the event, Allen said.

CRIME STATS

Allen’s written report was delivered long after the deadline specified in the 2013 agreement.

“The Sheriff shall, within fourteen days after the Event, provide an After-Action Report. If the information for the AAR is not yet available at that time, then the Sheriff shall provide the information as soon as it becomes available,” states the settlement agreement.

Allen said he’s been busy with important PCSO matters, such as the vacancies for two sheriff’s deputies, but he did comply with BRC’s request for crime statistics on citations, arrests and the “actual expenses incurred in connection to the event” during the 2017 Burning Man event.

Allen’s report lists 57 arrests at the 2017 festival, an increase of 11 arrests from the 2016 event. Burners were arrested for FTA (failure to appear) warrants, sexual assault, domestic battery, possession of illegal controlled substances and trespassing.

There was a total of 125 misdemeanor citations for assault, battery, reckless driving with 121 of those citations for minor illegal drug possession “not amounting to sales or trafficking.”

Drugs seized by the PCSO at the 2017 festival included more than 639 grams of marijuana, 818 grams of psilocybin mushrooms, over 120 grams of ketamine, 13.5 grams of methamphetamine, more than 231 grams of cocaine, over 334 grams of MDMA and more than 217 doses of LSD.

POPULATION IN DOUBT

Allen says he’s skeptical of Black Rock City’s daily population reports issued electronically by Ticket Fly. The number of ticket-holders is restricted by the BLM’s Special Recreation Permit.

“I am highly suspicious of these population numbers as there is no independent verification or audit system in place to perform a quality control check,” Allen says. “From previous Festivals, it appears to the naked eye, as if BRC is well beyond the reported numbers, but at this time there is no way to verify this…There is no reason for BRC to report any number above 70,000 paid participants, due to possible consequences from both PCSO and the BLM.”

Allen said the peak population reported at one point in the 2017 event was above the permitted level of 79,000 and, as a result, Pershing County should be paid more money for the event.

“It is my recommendation that the Pershing County Board of Commissioners submit a bill to BRC for the additional $35,000 plus CPI (Consumer Price Index) for the additional monies as outlined in the 2013 Settlement Agreement,” Allen said in his synopsis.

 

GUN CONTROL

Firearms are not allowed inside the festival by BRC or BLM but, in 2017, a loaded rifle was discovered during set-up and four days before the gates opened, Allen said. The weapon was found in a motorhome where a large amount of cocaine was also discovered by BLM officers. The vehicle had supposedly been searched for weapons and drugs by BRC gate personnel.

“We were contacted by BLM to assist with a traffic stop,” Allen states. “While we were on scene, a rifle was also found with a round in the chamber. This vehicle was allowed into the Festival early as a part of an agreement between BRC and BLM to allow ‘early entry’ participants to assist in setting up the city’s many amenities and large art structures.”

For Allen, the incident indicates that more county law enforcement is needed before and after the event and BRC should hire professional gatekeepers to search for weapons and drugs.

“These types of incidents could also be remedied by requiring BRC to hire an independent company to provide for proper screening of persons and vehicles,” Allen states in his report.

In 2017, a brush fire south of Gerlach created a potential crisis when it forced temporary closure of Highway 447, the primary ground emergency access into and out of the Burning Man area.

“The closing of Hwy 447 shut off the main artery to get people off the playa in the event of an emergency or evacuation,” Allen says. “It also had the potential to significantly delay or stop necessary resources from reaching the playa in case of an emergency.”

Allen said a permanent mountaintop repeater is needed for communications between the PCSO in Lovelock and sheriff’s deputies on playa and, in case of a major emergency at the event, inter-agency radio communication needs improvement between PCSO, BLM, NHP and WCSO.

Funding is needed for “a minimum of 40 Deputies per shift” according to Allen. He also suggested that Pershing County and BRC “dispose of the 2013 Settlement Agreement” and work out a new agreement or adopt a cost-recovery system such as that used by the BLM.

BEHIND THE SCENES

In his synopsis, Allen revealed some of the sources of ongoing tension between the PCSO and BRC. Planning for the event requires numerous meetings throughout the year between various agencies including the PCSO, BLM, BRC, NHP and the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. One meeting was cancelled after it started due to what BRC considered an unwelcome participant.

“Planning became very difficult however, when a scheduled meeting was cancelled at the last minute (after the meeting was to have started) by representatives of BRC due to one invitee BRC did not approve of,” Allen states. “This issue was taken by BRC to the BLM director level in Washington D.C. without first attempting to rectify this situation locally and reschedule the meeting. This action further strained the tenuous relationship between BRC and PCSO.”

Allen said local BLM and BRC officials with decision-making authority would expedite the planning process and planning meetings should take place in the county that hosts the event.

“I would offer a suggestion to have all Cooperators meetings in the Lovelock area, since Pershing County is the County in which this Festival actually takes place. This would allow for more participation from other Pershing County entities which are vital for this Festival to operate,” Allen says in his synopsis. “It would be nice to have BRC become accustomed to the area as well as the resources available within Pershing County.”


Here is Sheriff Jerry Allen’s report.

PCSO 2017 Burning Man PMS without Apendixs

Apendix B Cases PCSO 2017 PMS

Apendix D graphs PCSO 2017 PMS

Apendix D Drugs grams PCSO 2017 PMS

 

Burning Man 2015: By The Numbers Part 1

SR-71 Blackbird using Afterburner. Image: Wikimedia Commons

SR-71 Blackbird using Afterburner. Image: Wikimedia Commons

BMOrg have just released the Afterburn Report for 2015.

Some information that used to be provided, is now hidden. Here are some of the key details missing:

  • medical services visits, nature of injuries
  • arrests and citations
  • number of vehicles
  • number of aircraft at the airport
  • entry and exodus times
  • volume of ice sold
  • number of people watching live video stream

All of this was freely available in the past; it’s hard to see how BMOrg can claim to be “more transparent”, when they are sharing less information. Maybe now that they’re down one Minister of Propaganda, there will be a reduction in the Orwellian double-speak. One can only hope…

 

Here is a summary of what was released in the report.

 

POPULATION

67,564 paid participants. In 2014 this was 65,992 and in 2013 it was 69,613. The definition of “paid participant” seems to have changed between 2013 and 2014. In 2015 there were 68,000 tickets officially sold, so 436 people managed to get a ticket but didn’t show. Or, something went wrong counting them – however, the report says Ticketing and Will Call went super-smoothly last year. The Box Office line was never longer than 30 minutes.

There were 1150 placed camps, out of 1300 applications. What was wrong with those 150 camps? We’ll probably never know, which is a pity – because if we could all learn together, we could reduce the amount of mutual time wasting between camps, volunteers on the placement team, and BMOrg’s holocracy of a hundred-plus full-time busy worker bees. Assuming that some of the camps get rejected for some of the same reasons, that is.

ART

BMOrg granted $1.2 million cash to more than 100 art projects on the Playa. They also provided in-kind support in addition to this $1.2 million.
This works out to $17.76 per ticket , or about 4.5% of $390. Seems like an increase from previous years, and we should know in a year or so if it’s true – when the IRS returns for the Burning Man Project in 2015 are released.
.
The Artery handled 1139 service requests on playa from art projects, a 50% increase over the previous year.
.
There were 326 art pieces; 75 of them incorporated fire art. There were 210 self funded projects and 56 “walk in” projects. Presumably this means the remaining 60 were the ones BMOrg had any involvement in: 18.4% of the total.
.
In 2014, The Man was 105 feet tall, and took a long time to Burn. In 2015, it was reduced to 60 feet tall.
.
There were 33 regional midway projects, with participants from 16 countries.

TRANSPORTATION

The Burner express brought 3,884 people in, and took 3,334 out. 250 people camped in the Burner Express bus camp.
Screenshot 2016-02-19 11.04.38
No word yet on if there will be any price hikes on bus tickets, additional luggage fees, or bike fees for the 2016 Medici theme. But it looks like this service is bringing in close to a million bucks.
 .
There is also a Gerlach-Empire shuttle bus, though usage was modest. Total shuttle bus ridership increased 45%, from 85 passengers in 2014, to 123 in 2015.
.
17,000 Burners flew in through Reno airport.
.
88NV, the Burning Man Airport, saw a 30% increase in traffic. 2,330 Burners arrived this way – at $40 per head landing fee, that’s about a hundred grand. At its peak, the airport was handling 210 landings per day.

BIKES

Image: Phillipe Glade, burningman.org

This year there were 631 yellow bikes. Someone donated 180 huffy bikes to the total.

 .
527 came back like they were supposed to. 56 had been painted and 28 had been decorated. The bikes are supposed to be free for all Black Rock City citizens, not just free bikes for you to grab and claim as your own for the whole Burning Man. 20 of the bikes were stolen outright.
.
There were a total of 1,625 abandoned bikes. This works out to 2.4% of the population – about the same ratio as the portapotties. For each portapotty you see, there is one Burner MOOPing their bike.
.
How many of these were stolen? How many were from Burners leaving in the Burner Express, planes, or car-pools, with no room for bikes and no spare $50 for the transporation fee?
Fortunately, 200 of the retrieved bikes will be recycled back into the Yellow Bike program for next year.
.

AUTHORITIES

This year there were more than 700 rangers – a veritable army battalion.
 .
BMOrg worked closer than ever before with the Feds, achieving “Unified Tier 1 inter agency integration”:

BRC has relationships with Federal, State and County agencies including Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Highway Patrol, NDOT, Washoe and Pershing County Sheriff’s offices, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, and Nevada State Health, amongst others.

BRC works year-round with these agencies to ensure legal compliance and public safety at the event. In 2015, BRC led joint training and table-top exercises to further align operational process and interagency communication.

Also in 2015 BRC updated the Unified Command to a Tier 1 management process, joining all the bodies (both event and agency) together, ensuring safer management in the event of unplanned incidents. This system was tested thoroughly during the repeated whiteout conditions of 2015, and proved to be highly effective for event operations emergency management.

.

You may have seen the news this week about Apple fighting the Federal government over unlocking an iPhone related to the San Bernardino alleged terrorist attack – even though they were happy to hand over details at least 70 previous times. It doesn’t sound like BMOrg are going down the route of Just Saying No to the government, preferring total co-operation and integration of systems, Burner profiles, and databases.

VOLUNTEERS

The Playa Information tent had 130 volunteers, supporting 30 computer terminals.  There were 2,299 visitors to the V Spot, and 1,117 of them were connected with volunteer opportunities. 794 went to Burning Man teams, 155 to theme camps, 158 to art projects, and the rest were assigned MOOP duty.
 .
The total number of Greeters was 850. 325 were pre-scheduled general Greeters, 50 or so were “walk-up” volunteers. 18 theme camps greeted as a group(425 people).
.
210 volunteered to be Lamplighters – 130 of them camping in the Lamp Lighter Village. They report that “the interdepartmental communication and cooperation is the best it has ever been”. There were 319 lamp spires and 917 lanterns total.
.
Tips from Arctica were donated to three worthy causes: Polar Bear International, the Gerlach Senior & Community Center and the Washoe County Family Planning Clinic. No information about who got what is available.

SANITATION & INFRASTRUCTURE

50 dump trucks working 24/7 serviced 1600 porta potties. That’s one WC for every 42 people, in case you were wondering (I was!) How does that stack up against Defaultia?

Screenshot 2016-02-19 10.54.53

Source: American Restroom Association

.
We’re about the same as a nightclub in Florida, and doing better than your average stadium.
.
At the company ranch in Gerlach, they stored 300 containers, 120 vehicles, and 30 semi trucks. The property operates entirely off the grid.
.
30 yard dumpsterThe recycling camp processed 5000 lbs of aluminum cans, 2 30-yard dumpsters’ worth. This was approximately 170,000 cans. Recycling them resulted in a $1500 donation to the local school.
.
The city burned through 20,020 gallons of propane. 17,673 gallons were used for flame effects in Mutant Vehicles, theme camps, and art projects. The other 2,347 gallons were used for infrastructure, utilities, and cooking.
According to the US Department of Energy, burning a gallon of propane produces 12 lbs of CO2 emissions. So that’s 212,076 lbs, or 106 tons of greenhouse gas generated – just for the art. And that’s not even counting all the non-propane burning, especially The Man and The Temple.
.
BMOrg did bring us exciting new news just over two months ago that they had listened to the community based on a petition last year to make Burning Man greener, and were starting a new chapter. This doesn’t merit a single word in the Afterburn, perhaps it is still “coming soon”. Maybe some of that $2 million a year vehicle pass windfall could be reallocated to habitat preservation or re-forestation projects.
.
Read more at burningman.org

Over at the Reno Gazette-Journal, staff Burning Man reporter Jenny Kane reports that the Medici VIP tickets sold out in less than a day.
.
The first 500 da Vinci tickets, a new tier of tickets that are three times the cost of the main tickets, were sold out as of Thursday morning, according to Burning Man spokeswoman Megan Miller. An additional 4,900 $990 pre-sale tickets, which were $800 last year, also were sold out by Thursday morning.
.
No comments on what happened to the other 100 of the $990 pre-sale tickets.  Jenny asks the question “will any of this windfall money go to art”? The claim is made that $1.5 million was handed out in art grants in 2015, compared to $800,000 in 2014 (actually, $911,955). Corporate PR supremo Megan Miller says:
.

“There’s definitely money from those revenue streams going to art grants,” she said, noting that Burning Man distributed $1.5 million in art grants last year, compared to $800,000 the year prior.

Part of the increase in net revenue may go toward another increase in art grant spending this year, although the organization has made no final grant decisions yet, Miller said.

Continue reading at Part 2 – Census Highlights

BLM to Review Chocotacos, if BM Lifts Their Safety Game [Updates]

marty-two-bulls-pow-wow-eagle

Yesterday Burning Man bigwigs and BLM bigwigs got together to discuss Chocotacogate. According to the information leaked (by BMOrg?) to Jenny Kane at the RGJ: the BLM wanted $1 million+ in extra funding to build them the Blue Pit, an off-site VIP compound with 8 double rooms for visiting dignitaries; and this is all coming from one person, BLM special agent Dan Love.

Image: Burn.Life

Image: Burn.Life

This information – blasted widely around the world – was later quietly corrected by Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham in a radio interview on NPR, who said that actually, the BLM were just asking to increase the Infrastructure part of the budget from $600,000 to $1 million. This includes walkie talkies and other safety equipment. Part of this increase was to pay for expanded medical facilities, and only some was to provide VIP accommodation. The VIP component was coming from the highest levels of the Department of Interior, who naturally wanted to visit the event after all the media and lobbying campaigns by BMOrg. The request for food was the same as last year’s, which was met without complaint by BMOrg.

Still, the global media ran with the RGJ story, putting egg on the faces of the BLM. Some politicians were stirred to pile onto the story, including Harry Reid and Mark Amodei.

Yesterday, on the day of the meeting BLM’s Nevada Director Neil Kornze wrote a column for the RGJ, saying:

Many have read stories in recent days about a proposed lavish encampment for Bureau of Land Management employees working at the Burning Man festival that is held annually on public lands in the Nevada desert. These reports painted a troubling portrait of government employees seeking VIP accommodations and outlandish provisions. Like you, I was surprised and upset by much of what I read.

I have directed my team to take a top-to-bottom look at exactly what is needed to properly support BLM employees that have oversight responsibility for this enormous public event in a remote corner of Nevada. Our revised proposal will include only what is essential for our core operational needs for providing appropriate health, safety, and environmental safeguards on the playa. That is our commitment.

And while we undertake that review, we are also working to address critical safety and health issues at Burning Man. Over the past five years, the Burning Man event has nearly doubled in size. What was once a loosely organized gathering of a few thousand like-minded individuals is now an instant metropolis hosting 75,000 attendees, volunteers, and staff in one of the most remote corners of the American west. At its peak, Burning Man is the sixth largest city in Nevada, complete with a busy airport. Attendees come to the playa from around the world with their own ideas of what Burning Man is and ought to be.

This rapid evolution has dramatically increased the complexity of the BLM’s and Black Rock City LLC’s management responsibilities, and in recent years a series of incidents have made it clear that improvements need to be made. Last year, a total of 2,880 patients were treated for medical issues, including 71 drug overdoses, 67 trauma incidents, and 30 cases of alcohol poisoning. Tragically, a woman was killed last year when she was run over by an art car. Incidents of burglary, battery, and sexual assault have risen as the event has grown, and the BLM has also responded to flooding, aviation accidents, and out-of-control fires in recent years.

In March, the BLM raised twenty critical health, safety, and environmental issues with event organizers, including ensuring that on-site medical services are adequate to serve the vast population of Black Rock City. To date, Black Rock City LLC has only acknowledged seven of these important issues and has provided adequate plans and updates for just two.

In the coming days, the BLM will make an important course correction regarding what is needed to support our teams that are on the ground during the Burning Man event. It will also be necessary for the organizers of Burning Man to come to the table as serious partners in addressing the concerns that were identified for them months ago. We look forward to further dialogue on these issues. Our priority is to make sure that all burners come home safe and healthy.

[Source: RGJ]

Yesterday’s meeting was the first time BMOrg had met with BLM’s acting State Director John Ruhs.

From the Reno Gazette Journal:

Present at the meeting Wednesday from Burning Man were founder Larry Harvey; Marnee Benson, political affairs manager; Rosalie Barnes, agency relations and regulatory affairs manager; Ray Allen, attorney; and Goodell…For BLM, Ruhs was present along with Winnemucca district manager Gene Seidlitz, Nevada-Utah special agent in charge Dan Love and acting assistant state director Ann DeBlasi from Washington, D.C.

…the meeting centered on safety and security concerns, which have been repeatedly brought up in BLM statements to media. 

Rather than review the points of contention in documents obtained by the Reno Gazette-Journal in June, Burning Man and BLM officials discussed some of the failures and successes of working together in years past.

It sounds like the meeting ended on a positive note, but didn’t go quite the way BMorg were expecting.

“There’s a lot of heat on everyone at the moment,” Goodell said after the 90-minute meeting. “The intention of the meeting probably changed in the past 24 hours.”

“We agreed to collaborate on what we can accomplish this year, and we looked back. We looked at the present and the past,” Goodell said. “We pointed out that there’s been a 40 percent increase in the event population and a 244 percent increase in cost for the permit,”

“This was a good meeting and an opportunity to discuss our mutual interests in coming up with a plan to support Burning Man, which is a truly unique cultural event on Public Lands. We are working to come up with a plan that is cost efficient and ensures public health and safety,” Ruhs said. “We are going to do all we can to make this year’s event a success. I am confident that BLM and BRC will be able to work together to address safety and environmental concerns.”

[Source: RGJ]

The meeting discussed 20 medical and safety issues. Only 2 have been resolved, and only 7 have even been acknowledged by BMOrg. The gates open in 50 days.

From the Las Vegas Review Journal‘s Washington DC bureau:

WASHINGTON – A month and a half before the scheduled start of this year’s desert festival, organizers of the annual Burning Man in Northern Nevada have yet to resolve more than 15 health and safety issues stemming from last year’s event, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

Officials from the BLM and the Burning Man organization were meeting Wednesday in Reno to discuss outstanding issues in advance of the Aug. 30-Sept. 7 festival in the Black Rock Desert.

The federal agency has yet to issue a permit for the event. John Ruhs, the BLM acting Nevada state director, said all conditions raised in a post-event review last year must be addressed for the BLM to allow this year’s event to proceed.

Ruhs stopped short of saying the BLM might shut down Burning Man, expressing confidence an agreement could be worked out.

“We have a long ways to go yet but I’m pretty confident we will as always be able to address issues together and get to a good place with them,” Ruhs said in an interview.

But the agency took the unusual step of making public a letter listing the outstanding health and safety issues. Of 20 compiled following the 2014 festival, the BLM said 18 remain to be resolved including improvements to its medical program, transportation management and security surrounding the festival’s signature burn events.

“Last year, a total of 2,880 patients were treated for medical issues, including 71 drug overdoses, 67 trauma incidents and 30 cases of alcohol poisoning,” Ruhs said in the letter to the government affairs director of Black Rock City, LLC, the nonprofit that runs the festival. In addition, a woman from Wyoming was killed when she fell beneath a moving bus…

BLM officials on Wednesday denied they were in a tit-for-tat with Burning Man. The agency’s letter though makes a connection…

“We are now taking a top to bottom look at exactly what is needed,” Ruhs said, adding “While the BLM revises its statement of work, dialogue must also continue on a wide array of health, safety and environmental concerns raised by the BLM earlier this year.”

[Source: Las Vegas Review Journal]

Read the original letter from the BLM to BMOrg, outlining the concerns after last year’s event.

The 20 Safety, Health and Security Issues and Concerns are:

  1. BRC Medical Program
  2. BRC Fire, Rescue, Hazmat Programs
  3. Fatality Medical Response and On-Scene Management
  4. Transportation Management
  5. Art Project Management
  6. Security and Safety Plan for Scheduled Burn Events
  7. Sanitation Management
  8. Early Arrival Program
  9. D-Lot Design and Management
  10. Fuel Storage Management
  11. Deployment of Medical Resources
  12. Placement of Emergency Vehicles at the Airport
  13. Highway 34 Road Conditions
  14. Population Tracking and Reporting Program
  15. BRC Event Table of Organization
  16. BRC Event Management Program Description
  17. Participant Evacuation Contingency Plan
  18. Significant Incident Reporting
  19. Art Car operations
  20. Illicit narcotics

Time precludes me from going into much detail on this letter now, it warrants a post in itself as it reveals interesting details on a number of events last year, such as the art car fatality and Embrace burn. One thing in particular really jumped out:

Screenshot 2015-07-09 11.58.38

The letter makes frequent references to the 2014 HGH After Action Report (AAR). If anyone has a copy of that report, please send it in. It seems that HGH raised some concerns, these concerns went to the BLM who then raised them with BMOrg – who then fired HGH.

Did BMOrg try to scapegoat HGH here? Did they think that just ditching HGH would resolve the issues, since HGH are mentioned in many of them? Perhaps they didn’t like HGH giving the Feds a list of headaches problems to fix.

The number of patients being thrown around, 2,880, is very different from what has been reported in previous years. BMOrg’s own 2014 Afterburn report said there were 6,100 medical patients last year – more than double the number the government are using. The difference may be in this magic word “treated” – this year, there will be much less treatment provided on-site by CrowdRX.

This morning I have received an Anonymous tip-off, from someone with inside information about the medical discussions. Treat this as an unconfirmed rumor, but I trust the source.

It seems that, as usual, there is much more to the story than what we’re being told.

To recap, BMOrg ditched local providers Humboldt General, who have supported the event for the last 5 years; they replaced them with festival specialist CrowdRX, who have never done a remote location event except for one Phish concert in the 90’s. The official unofficial message seems to be “nothing will change, CrowdRX will just hire all the same people as last year”.

One thing the source revealed is that BMOrg have recently filed a public information request for Pat Songer’s records of HGH’s care at the previous years Burns. It doesn’t look like there’s going to be much continuity between medical services at Burning Man between 2014 and 2015, it’s a brave new world now.

The bombshell revelation from this source is to do with off-Playa medical treatment.

In previous years, your Burning Man ticket purchased you Medical Insurance at the event. If anything happened to you at Burning Man, even if you didn’t have insurance yourself, theirs would take care of your treatment.

In the past with HGH, all care was covered, on-Playa and transport off. If anything happened to you at Burning Man and you needed to be taken to a hospital, an HGH ambulance would take you to the nearest hospital (Reno). Humboldt’s plan was to treat everything they possibly could on-site at Black Rock City.

Image: American Med Flight

Image: American Med Flight

Now, if anything happens, you’ll have to be taken outside the event to a Default world hospital – most likely, still Reno/Sparks. By air. There will be no medical ground transportation for medical emergencies, the plan is air transport only. Fixed wing, no helicopters.

The price for an airlift with American Med Flight is $30,000.

The rumor is that certain members of the Org are getting a better rate if they become injured and need transport. This seems to approach the idea of “kickbacks”. There may also be issues of local county permitting, in relation to this business.

Screenshot 2015-07-09 12.24.26

This comment is from Anonymous Burner. We have no specific information on this arrangement.

Of course none of this should be a problem, since Obamacare means every person in the United States now has medical insurance. Someone else will pay! Oh, but what about the 20% of Burners from other countries? Hopefully they got travel insurance.

American Med Flight are offering a Burning Man insurance package. For only $25, if you do need their services, you won’t pay more than $7,500.

Towards the end of 2013, a former DPW manager blew the whistle on safety issues, then BMOrg lost their respected Emergency Services Director, Joseph Pred. Chaos seems to have ensued, with 18 major issues unresolved less than 2 months before the gates open. Let’s hope BMOrg can sort this out – in the circumstances, perhaps sticking with their existing partner HGH should be re-considered.


 

[Update 7/9/15 1:25pm]

Thanks to A Balanced Perspective for alerting us to the latest RGJ story, in which BMOrg say they have already responded to many of the BLMs concerns and there are a lot of falsehoods in the report. Keep reading for my comments.

[Update 7/9/15 4:47pm]

Someone Who Knows has given us this update:

HGH transported to Reno, just like REMSA did, not to Winnemucca. Careflight has been offering low cost membership that helps cover the whirly bird ride for years. That being said, fixed wing is actually a safer, more reliable option than helicopter in the black rock playa conditions and I highly doubt CrowdRX will not have ambulances

They sound like they do know. And I agree – surely there will be ambulances. Surely there will be helicopters. Coming soon.

[Update 7/9/15 5:30pm]

Francisco Ceballos from Humboldt General Hospital created a pro-active presentation last year, on what could be done to prevent injuries at Burning Man. One of their suggestions was to communicate with Burners via Burners.Me! Perhaps that may have led to their downfall…

Screenshot 2015-07-09 17.29.35

Francisco was right: we would be happy to share any information that could improve the safety and wellbeing of Burners.

[Update 7/9/15 6:30pm]

BMOrg have claimed that they sent a response to BLM addressing all 20 concerns in April. We call on them to share their documentation with all Burners, not just chosen journalists at the RGJ. Why are the “After Action Reports” not part of the “After Burn Reports”?

In April, Burning Man submitted a 40-page working document that addressed “every single point” that the BLM made, according to Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell…

Burning Man’s own assessment, which is put together in collaboration with various county, state and federal agencies, including the BLM, contradicts many of the BLM’s findings. According to the Burning Man’s series of “after action reports,” the BLM’s assessment has a number of inaccuracies, including:

All appropriate HAZMAT procedures were followed during the handling of bodily fluids following the fatal accident.

Emergency medical services vehicles were available at all times during the event, though Humboldt General Hospital did report a sustained 11 minutes during which time five of eight vehicles were dispatched and three were “idle.” Burning Man organizers are uncertain as to why the idle vehicles were not available for use during those 11 minutes.

Vehicles were not stranded during the delay, but instead were parked on the side of the road. Burning Man organizers at the time told participants that they had the option of going home, though most decided to wait until the weather and conditions improved.

Pyrotechnic effects, which usually include fireworks or explosive displays, are not allowed on art cars, though Burning Man does allow flame effects, which are automated fire features.

Burning Man also took issue with Kornze’s statement Wednesday that the San Francisco-based nonprofit had not addressed enough of the agency’s concerns, saying Burning Man staff have been working with a number of agencies to improve its operations.

Burning Man created a new emergency operations chief position, according to Graham, and hired a new medical services management provider, replacing Humboldt General Hospital.

[Source: RGJ]

Here’s what Acting Nevada State Director John Ruhs told them:

Screenshot 2015-07-09 18.28.12
13 items are still open. Item #20 is quite probably irresolvable, the BLM might as well drop it. BMOrg should cave to everything else, if they can sell 10,000 more tickets.
The BLM note in their letter that 13,545 people entered the event before it started with Early Access passes. Before the event opened, there were many people bicycling around sight-seeing and partying. Tut-tut!