Several members of the Board and Senior Staff from various departments (including Communications, Rangers and Emergency Services) interact year-round with numerous government agencies that help make Burning Man possible. On-playa they are collectively known as the External Relations Team (XRT). Each year XRT members secure necessary event permits from federal, state and local government agencies. On-playa, the XRT conducts Black Rock City infrastructure tours for government officials who help make the event happen. The goals of the XRT are to ensure the survival of the event by addressing political and legal concerns of government agencies, and maintaining long-term positive relationships with our neighbors in Nevada.
Federal Government Relations
2010 kicked off with a visit from key members of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to Burning Man Headquarters in San Francisco. Many of the issues that used to be discussed late in the Spring and into the Summer were tackled early on in the year. Negotiating the Special Recreation Permit Stipulations and terms of the Closure Order went more smoothly than ever in 2010. Also the initial bumps involved in the Cost Recovery process seem to have smoothed out over time. In December 2010 Ecologist Roger Farschon retired from BLM. From creating cleanup standards to becoming the Incident Commander of the Burning Man Special Recreation Permit, Roger was instrumental in helping the Burning Man event become the largest Leave No Trace event on public lands. We will miss him dearly. New BLM faces for 2010 include Rolando Mendez, new Black Rock Field Manager, and Cory Roegner, new Outdoor Recreation Planner. We look forward to collaborating with both of them in 2011 and beyond.
Other Agency Relations
Relations with Pershing County are really positive. Burning Man is extremely proud of the collaborative partnership that we’ve forged with our host county over the years. And we are pleased to report that relations are positive with all other agencies as well. The list of government agencies cooperating to produce the Burning Man event has grown, so it’s worth mentioning and thanking them all: Bureau of Land Management, Pershing County, Pershing County Sheriff’s Office, Washoe County, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, Nevada Highway Patrol, Nevada Department of Transportation, Freeway Service Patrol, Nevada Department of Investigations, Nevada State Health Division, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribal Reservation, Reno Emergency Medical Services Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration. And just when we thought we were already working with every government agency in the State of Nevada, we encountered another. The Manufactured Housing Division visited Black Rock City this year in order to inspect the portable office buildings that Black Rock City, LLC uses during the event. We’re happy to report that the inspections went fine.
External Relations Team
Thanks to the help of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers and staff, the Burning Man External Relations Team (XRT) had an exceptionally awesome year. We were able to accomplish and further our goals of extending our welcome to those beyond Black Rock City who directly or indirectly influence the success and impact of Burning Man beyond the trash fence, and provide a great number and variety of guests with an educational on-playa experience they will hopefully never forget. Proudly bearing our new team logo, XRT rocked the socks off Burning Man 2010.
From Reno and Beyond
Along with the efforts back at Burning Man headquarters to contact and invite people from Nevada, the Bay Area, across the US and beyond, this year’s most notable contributions to XRT tour invitees were made in Reno, by Tom Clark and Nathan Heller. Thanks to their efforts this year and in previous years, as well as many other contributions Burning Man has made in that area, the city of Reno has begun to open its eyes and ears to the many benefits Burning Man provides their local economy and culture, and expressed interest in visiting our fair city.
Guests in 2010 included a delegation from Senator Ensign’s Office; representatives from Senator Barbara Boxer’s Office; representatives from the Department of the Interior and BLM in Washington, DC; San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar; the Reno-Tahoe International Airport Authority; Reno-Sparks Visitor & Convention Authority; National Automobile Museum of Reno (we’re hoping for a mutant vehicle exhibit in 2011); the Nevada Humanities Group; Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation Tribal Council; Gerlach Senior Citizens; Pershing County Commissioners; Reno Mavericks; Kiwanis Bike Project (thank you for finding new homes for leftover bikes on the playa!); Trash Pros (thank you for opening a new recycling plant near Nixon where Burners could drop off their trash this year); and last, but certainly not least the Reno Rotary visited with no less than 100 members, friends and family. We’re happy to report that all visitors had a positive experience, and many hope to return to Black Rock City in 2011.
The BRAT Pack
One of the most notable contributions made to XRT in 2010 was that of the Black Rock Area Transit (BRAT) art car from “Time of Your Life Camp,” based out of Reno. Created for the Metropolis theme, the bus was perfect for the XRT tours. XRT ended up using the BRAT more than originally anticipated, but Time of Your Life Camp was right there to help out where we needed them, and it was greatly appreciated. It was wonderful to have such a reliable and amazing vehicle (overheard on playa: “The BRAT is the best art car this year!”) with such flexible and willing participants supporting our team.
The Rocket Bus, another of the XRT’s transportation vehicles also provided great support for our tours this year, and became a new team mascot (see above logo). When it was not shooting across playa with guests new to Burning Man staring in awe out of its silver windows, XRT was happy to lend it to the ARTery to use for art tours.
Independent Assessment of Safety & Security Practices
In 2010 the Burning Man organization commissioned an independent evaluation of the event’s safety and security with an eye for best practices in risk management and emergency preparedness. Hillard Heintze, a strategic security consulting firm, agreed to do the assessment. The project began in July when Hillard Heintze representatives began reviewing Burning Man’s safety and security procedures. Then in late August and early September two Hillard Heintze representatives from Washington, DC conducted onsite evaluations and interviews of both internal and external safety personnel in Black Rock City.
Regarding the assessment, Larry Harvey summed it up quite nicely when he said, “At the center of the Burning Man ethos and tradition … lies the concept of participation along with a passionate celebration of characters, capacities and creative ideas. But to get to this freedom—as individuals, as communities, as a single spontaneous city—you have to be safe and secure. And at Burning Man that requires coordination of all of the staff and agencies involved.” Internal departments involved in the study include the Black Rock Rangers; Perimeter, Gate & Exodus; Emergency Services; Department of Mutant Vehicles and the Airport. External agencies that collaborated in the project include the Bureau of Land Management, Pershing County, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, Nevada Highway Patrol, Nevada Department of Investigations, Nevada State Health Division and REMSA.
The final report is pending at this time of this writing. In 2011 recommendations from the report will be discussed by the Political Subcommittee and then shared with a wider audience of Senior Staff and the appropriate agencies. The next step will then be to collaborate in implementing new strategies and practices in the public safety infrastructure of Black Rock City.
Burning Man appreciates all of the hard work put in by the Hillard Heintze team to help our event be the safest possible environment in which to practice radical self-expression. Arnette Heintze, CEO of Hillard Heintze, remarked, “This is a very important undertaking—and a timely one… We are honored to be of assistance—particularly because, in many respects, Burning Man is a remarkably unique and unmatched community environment which isn’t entirely comparable to other mass-gathering events and, in its own right, needs to be ready to define and set benchmarks and best practices on its own that in some cases, may advance excellence in the field.”
Tuesday, November 2, 2010 was a big day for Nevada politics. As a result, in 2011 the Silver State will have a new Governor, Brian Sandoval. Harry Reid was victorious in the Senatorial race and will remain the Senate Majority Leader. Carol Shank won for Pershing County Commissioner, and has taken Roger Mancebo’s seat. Roger retired in Fall 2010 and Burning Man sends gratitude and best wishes for all he has done for both Pershing County and Black Rock City. Pershing County also has a new Sheriff. Lovelock Police Sergeant Richard Machado defeated incumbent Sheriff Ron Skinner by 43 votes in a hotly-contested election. Burning Man representatives have already met with Sheriff -lect Machado and are very much looking forward to a new era of collaboration between Burning Man and the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office to create a safe and enjoyable Burning Man event for everyone. Congratulations to all of our elected officials!
Ray Allen & Lily Rasel