Many cities have capitol buildings or city halls at city center. In stark contrast, Black Rock City (BRC) has the Man. But, what makes it all work? Where is the administrative “center”? How is BRC linked to the default world?
From a position outside the geographic center of BRC, the Burning Man administration is what makes all the hidden essentials happen every year. After all, someone has to think about things like finances, laws, rules, regulations, management, etc., etc. Burning Man administration has several components – the San Francisco Office, First Camp, Box Office, Accounting, Ticket Process, Government Relations, and Legal.
San Francisco Office
In 2004, the Burning Man headquarters (BMHQ) in San Francisco reached maximum capacity. Fortunately, the tenants in the space below vacated, allowing BMHQ to double its space without moving! The newly acquired space means more office space and more community space for things like Spark Clubs and the 2004 garage sale. As an added bonus, we gained more wall space to hang art.
In August every year, Burning Man staff transplants operations to Nevada. Activities continue in Gerlach, at the Gate, and all over Black Rock City. First Camp serves as the nerve center for event-site operations. Home to the senior event organizers, First Camp earned its name because traditionally it was the first camp to be built in Black Rock City. In keeping with the 2004 theme, last year First Camp was called Event Horizon. More shaded areas were added in 2004 to serve as meeting areas. Light decorations were added, and a new office trailer helped staff members to conduct business both within Black Rock City and with the default world.
No longer does the Box Office staff have to unload all of its equipment from storage containers only to have to install the equipment in a temporary wooden building, and then reload it back into storage containers at the end of the event. In 2004, the Box Office crew converted two storage containers into Box Office buildings complete with walk-up windows, doors and electrical outlets. In addition to saving time unpacking and packing, the structures are more dust proof than previous Box Office buildings. The Box Office crew loves playa dust just as much as any Burner, but this year dust was a concern because the Box Office ran its operations on-playa for the first time with a computerized ticketing system.
The Accounting Office crossed a major milestone in 2004 by switching to a single payroll cycle. Hence, payroll has become a more efficient process for the entire organization. Also, the rollout of the new payroll cycle dovetailed nicely with the reclassification of many independent contractors, whose roles had changed over the years, and had become more like employees.
Getting tickets to more than 35,000 people across the globe is no small task. As much as the ticket staff love receiving decorated envelopes in the mail, the amount of snail mail ticket requests finally became too overwhelming to process in a reasonable amount of time. Alas, in 2004 the ticket staff decided to sell the majority of tickets online. The ticket team took every precaution to ensure smooth handling of online sales, but unfortunately technical problems marred the process, anyway. The problems have been rectified, and the process for the future should be much smoother than that in our inaugural year for the new system.
Fostering good government relations, from the local to the national level, has become a professional focus for several Burning Man staff members. Officially dubbed XRT – short for External Relations Team, these folks ensure compliance with all government requirements so that participants can enjoy Black Rock City to the full extent. Another milestone in government relations was when Washoe County approved Burning Man’s cleanup work on Black Rock Station.
Burning Man’s Legal team spearheaded a number of projects in 2004. One major project was drafting an agreement that would link Burning Man with the numerous Regional Representatives across the world. The contract establishes the framework for spreading ethos of Burning Man by local groups, while protecting the Burning Man trademarks and copyrights from misuse or misappropriation. Another ongoing project is policing E-Bay for trafficking of goods containing the Burning Man name and images.