The cozy relationship the extreme Far Left Progressives of San Francisco’s Burning Man Organization enjoyed with the Federal Government under Obama doesn’t seem to be playing out quite the same way under President Trump.
This year we had threats of a concrete wall being built to concentrate the Burners, the horrific idea of trash dumpsters at the exit gates, and private mercenary armies conducting drug searches – while on the other hand, Burning Man asked for a population increase from 80,000 to 100,000. See BMorg Outraged at $10m Bill For $42m New Revenues.
No extra $40 million for you! The growth has been denied, but the private security doing drug searches is still on the table – maybe for this year, maybe 2020.
The federal agency may, however, hire a private security firm this year to conduct drug screenings. Or, it might wait until 2020, according to BLM spokesman Rudy Evenson.
As for the growth of the event, the population cap will remain at 80,000 people …
“The BLM and cooperating agencies could not support the event growing. The city of Reno, Nevada Department of Transportation, Nevada Highway Patrol as well as the Bureau of Land Management could not support the growth particularly because there are other events going on during Labor Day,” said Evenson.
One third of BLM law enforcement officers nationwide are required to patrol the event at the current size, but one half would be required if it grew to 100,000. Transportation agencies also want to find ways to alleviate the congestion on area roads before the BLM allows any growth of the event, Evenson said…
In an effort to make the event safer and more secure, the BLM plans to hire a private security firm to “screen” Burners for drugs and weapons prior to entering the event, according to the report.
No statement yet at the BJ, but some more detail was posted in the comments to this post:
Alternative D has been selected: The event will occur with no population growth during the ten year period. This means that a total of 80,000 people will be allowed onsite until at least 2028.
In the final EIS the BLM has updated many facets of the mitigations. Listed below are some of the most contentious ones.
NAT-2 Dumpsters: This mitigation has been completely removed from the EIS. Yay.
PHS-1 Private Security at Gate: They are still requiring private security. However the contracting will be done through the BLM, not BRC. This security force will report “banned or illegal contraband” directly to law enforcement. Federal agency contracting out private security to conduct their unconstitutional searches.
PHS-3 The Wall Around BRC: The requirement has been shortened. It now just reads, “BRC will be required to implement physical perimeter barriers and controls to reduce the risk of unauthorized entry to the Event.”
PHS-4 Building Inspections: This one was loosened up a bit, fortunately. Now structures over 10 feet must only be inspected if they are for lodging and aren’t tents, RV’s, or motorhomes. Also, the inspection will be done by BRC staff, not “Nevada-certified building inspectors.”
VIS-1 Lighting: They’re letting us point our lights towards the sky. However, the BLM is going to monitor us to make sure we don’t spew too many photons.
Look for updates to this post as the story unfolds.
Seems like some lucrative private security contracts will be going the way of long-time BMorg personnel
Private searches offer an interesting loophole for the government to get around the Fourth Amendment, as discussed in this 2017 Yale Law journal article:
Under the private search doctrine, once a private party has conducted an initial search independent of the government, the government may repeat that search, even if doing so would otherwise violate the Fourth Amendment. The private party’s search renders the subsequent government “search” not a search in the constitutional sense.
Currently Burning Man has a peak ticketed population of 70,000 and is allowed 10,000 staff and volunteers. They have missed out on 300,000 tickets over the next ten years, which is potentially more than half a billion dollars. I predict VIP ticket prices will increase above $2000 before the end of this period – in the past I have predicted that for 2020. We’re getting very close already: with vehicle pass, handling fees and taxes, this year’s VIP ticket is $1703.50.
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:
This is a substantial increase on 2016:
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?
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.]
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
From the January 2018 report, it looks like this deal is close to being done:
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
Popular art installation The Pier is now at Fly Ranch. Image: Friends of the Black Rock Desert
Has Burning Man become rudderless without the leadership of founder Larry Harvey, who passed away earlier this year? Now that they have a $45 million budget, and a permanent year-round site gifted to them to the tune of about $7 million, are they finally able to…DO something?
Well…YMMV. Perhaps in this Brave New World of Millenials, the better part of a year spent Ideating qualifies as something profound and meaningful, an enormous and courageous action communally performed by all who participate.
A group specifically charged with coming up with a vision! How exciting.
Meanwhile in the comment section, Burners be like: close the airport. Stop selling out our culture. Charge camps for prime placement instead of allocating it through favoritism. Focus on ways to reduce the environmental footprint and waste generated. Stop making it hard for true Burners to participate while encouraging an influx of sparkle pony tourists. Don’t make us wait in line. Make it easier to get tickets.
Sadly, the same things I’ve been hearing – and saying – for many years. BMorg is BMorg, we’ll see what happens…#ComingSoon.
They expect to spend at least a year on this intensive “visioning” process. Partying it up in the solar-powered Russian steam baths at Fly Ranch is no doubt on the agenda.
Burners can donate cool stuff to the ranch like Russian steam baths and solar arrays. Image: burningman.org
Sign up for a workshop, get naked and tell us all your ideas! Even if you can’t make it to Flysalen, Burners anywhere are invited to spend their time contributing to the visioning.
Here’s how to participate:
Fill out this survey.It will take around 30 minutes to complete. We’ll ask you about city planning, camp size and culture, money and decommodification within camps, and more. If you’ve ever lived in Black Rock City, please fill out the survey. The survey deadline is Thursday November 8 at 11:59 pm PST.
Participate in a community conversation in your area. We’ve partnered with camps and regional communities all over the world to host deeper discussions around these topics and to share notes with the visioning group as qualitative data. These are all happening now until the end of November! Check out the listings by location and thank you to everyone hosting!
Host a community conversation. You can organize your own conversation, using a kit we’ve created that includes suggested discussion format, facilitator tips & tricks, questions to ask, and how to submit the input and feedback to the visioning group. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request the kit. Schedule a date, time, and location (in person or virtual) and, if you’d like, we’ll add it to the listing above so others can join you. You can also host a conversation with just your camp.
Join the Facebook group. Post the notes from your community conversation in this public Facebook group so others can see all the threads as they develop. Post your individual thoughts after taking the survey in the group or as a comment on this Burning Man Journal post.
Share the survey. Share this post and the survey link widely with your fellow Burners, campmates, and friends. We want to hear from folks who are already tuned in (like you reading this) and from folks who are less tuned in, or perhaps haven’t been to Black Rock City in a while.
Stay tuned. We have some ideas for future virtual engagement, and participation opportunities at events like the 2019 Theme Camp Symposium.
This is community-wide engagement. That means this vision won’t reflect any one individual’s feedback. The visioning group will analyze the input gathered, keep you informed, and provide feedback on how our community’s input influences the eventual vision of this project. This visioning group will meet regularly through spring 2019, and we’re excited to see how this effort evolves.
With the 10 Principles in mind and our best intentions as heart, we’re confident we can set a clear path for Black Rock City’s future.
Of course there’s a survey. Detailed profiling of all participants is a big part of Burning Man’s raison d’etre. You may want to make sure your VPN is turned on before you check it out.
I have highlighted some of the comments in response to the original post. I put JV’s first because he’s a regular here, and as in most cases I agree with him. Read them all for yourself here
Here’s an idea for you, BMorg. Throw Full Moon parties at Fly Ranch. Invite specific camps to come to each one, encourage mixing between the camps on a smaller scale than Black Rock City. Everyone gets to know each other like in the good old days (or Juplaya). Ask each camp to leave a permanent art contribution to the ranch. Offer art car storage with mechanical/electronic/paint services. Get all the art cars there, art cars bring crews who can bring crowds – or not, depending on what is needed to advance the cause. After a couple of years, you will have a enough energy there for a year-round community to thrive. Sell tickets to everyone to fund it. I mean, not that nature walks aren’t swell, but you can still offer that. We’re Burners, we don’t go all the way out there just for nature walks. Party in the hot springs? Now you’re talking…
Here’s a bonus one: spend some of that massive cash surplus you’re sitting on to purchase some trash compactors. We need to have recycling and waste management on the site, it’s not fair to the local community or environment that they should pay the price for Burner waste.
Think you’re cool for buying Leonard Da Vinci tickets for triple the price? Are you on the Burner100 list? No? Well, you might have to up your Gifting game if you want to swing with the Big Playa Players. If you kiss the right asses they might even name a Principle after you.
Halcyon with his dad, Bob Weir. Image: BJ
Pink Jesus, aka John Halcyon Styn, raised the radical idea that what used to make the art at Burning Man so magical was that people created it for free to share with each other. So paying artists could be Commodification.
He was roundly shot down by the group, but after breakaway sessions they came back with the idea that not paying artists was excellent, and they could blame it on him: aka “The Halcyon Principle”.
Gifting is the answer the everything. Or my answer, at least. Over and over at the conference, I brought the conversation back to Gifting. While there is so much magic happening in the Burning Man movement, I think the core of it is in Gifting. A) It teaches us to receive joy from giving joy.
B) It helps us to start seeing ourselves as having talents and art of our own to share.
Shifting people’s from self-identity from “consumer” to “creator” is world-changing. I spoke up on the first day and questioned a line of thought by reminding people that, while I want to get artists paid, I am more passionate about making sure the art remains a gift. I said I was transformed by that first awareness that all this amazing stuff on the playa was created — not for financial reasons — but purely to blow my mind. It created an energetic surplus in me that made me want to give back to this place and community for the rest of my life. There was a quick rebuttal to what I said and I instantly regretted speaking up. Maybe I am too naive for this conversation I thought. I shouldn’t be here.
But the next day, someone approached me and thanked me for saying something. Then another. Then a breakout group told me that they had a long conversation about what they were calling “The Halcyon Principle” based on what I had said.
A surreal highlight of the week (that was already a highlight of my life) was having Maid Marian, CEO of Burning Man, write “Halcyon Principle” on the whiteboard during the final Symposium wrap-up.
It’s not about paying artists! We can just give them hugs! Remember the Halycon Principle!
I’m not knocking Halcyon, he makes some good points and he has been kind enough to write guest posts here. Forgive me for being cynical about groupthink and congruency between words and actions, but I’ve been writing about BMorg for almost 5 years now. The ratio keeps growing, in the wrong direction. More people at the off-site symposia and invite-only conferences, more TED talks and panel discussions, lots of people being flown all around the world for words; less visible actions promoting art or making the world a better place. Who cares about which gender Burners identify with, buy some kids a skate park or a library.
This collective experiment in temporary community has owned Fly Ranch for half a year, and Burners are mobile and self-reliant even in harsh conditions. Especially the Top 100 of them. Yet somehow the future of Flysalen needed to be plotted in the acid-laced hot tubs of Esalen, rather than the oil drilling byproduct hot springs of Fly Ranch.
Being on the boards of both Esalen and the Burning Man Project, Chip Conley swings both ways. Image: Fest300
For $6.5 million They could have bought a lot, and done a lot. At Esalen it’s $900 for no accommodation or a sleeping bag and $1300 for a dormitory bunk bed; if a couple wants their own room it’s more than five grand. At these rates they might as well just have their symposium at Caravancicle or White Ocean. Was this a pay-to-plug-n-play deal, or did Halcyon and 99 others get comped? Where does your ticket money go?
The 2014 Afterburn report claims a total of 896 paid employees. Obviously at least 90% of them didn’t get invited to the Esalen symposium. There are about 100 year-round staff on the Burning Man web site, wonder what percentage of them got to attend? The last payroll figure we have for the Burning Man Project is for 2014, $7,485,059 (plus another $3,441,179 in contractors). So one week of the Burning Man Project’s time is around $150k of salaries. For $150k I will give them a vision, I’m sure it will be better and easier to implement than whatever the Burner100 came up with.
100 people had a bunch of ideas and told each other how great they were…for a whole frikking week. Were there hugsies involved? Some form of Orange cordial, perhaps?
I got in the tubs twice. Most people were in there as much as possible. I spent much more time standing on the cliffs looking out at the jagged coast