I have been a regular attendee at City Council meetings for nearly three years and have been a consistent advocate for improved transparency and fiscal responsibility. I have been a strong proponent of process improvements in our City which is evidenced by presentations in the Citizens to be Heard portion of Council meetings and numerous emails to Councilmembers, the mayor, and the City manager.
The following extracts are from the official UC Council Minutes from Citizens to be Heard from 21 Mar 2021. Comments and/or clarification of City Clerk transcription are indicated by red text. Residents are encouraged to view unedited videos of Council meetings which are available online at City of Universal City, Texas - Meetings
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa Dr., noted for Council that the road improvement project was initially presented by a
Financial OfficerCity Bonding agent that stated they could get money for the City’s project, not during the budget process.
He further noted that streets to be addressed were not identified during the bond process. Potential streets had been identified in the Gateway Magazine, but he stated that the fine print excluded most streets listed. He moved on to ask Council to set a tax rate for the next fiscal year that would then be used by the City Manager to create a budget. He opined this would be a better process than the flawed budget workshop and tax process. He expressed frustration that extra monies are asked for annually and
the Council seems to be split every year. He asked Council to consider a tax rate below $0.500.50%.
Public works did not present infrastructure needs for $30M bond.
Below 0.50% = less than $500 per $100,000 property value.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa Dr., expressed support regarding the PUD process considering amendments to approved PUDs on this agenda and allowing residents to follow the development process. He reiterated his prior requests that Council clarify what Mrs. Turner meant in her statedstatement
in Community Impact Magazine regarding the sustainability of the golf course. He urged Council to consider further investment in the golf course specific to repairs made in the floodplain.
See Video: I state that it appears that PUD approval evolves with compromises that in general become less attractive to the City over time.
See Video: I point out that repair of Golf Course grounds should be done with earned income from the golf course and not another bailout from tax revenues. See also the 17 October presentation on this matter.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa Dr., asked Council to request clarification from Mrs. Turner regarding comments made about golf course self-sustainability considering audits and budget documents. He reiterated his desire for Council to request an $80,000 return of commercial signage revenue at the golf course to the General Fund. He requested that the floodplain be considered when funding golf course improvements. He reiterated his concern regarding the Sewer Survey.
GC improvements should come from income earned by GC operations.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa Dr., expressed his frustration with the budget and tax rate processes due to time limitations. He asked Council to start the processes earlier. He commented on advertising revenue at the golf course and advertising rights on City-owned property. He spoke on a Community Impact article about the financial state of the golf course. He moved on to express concerns about the sewer survey, citing issues in the Coronado area and older parts of Universal City.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, gave suggestions for fence permit solutions.
He also asked Council to be conservative in their spending and consider projects when deciding how much to increase taxes. He expressed concern that the City would either over- or underfund itself. He warned of “dead space” that would be created as a result of over- or underfunding.
Recommendation was for "in-kind" no permit fence repairs.
Dead space is the amount of air you breathe that does not participate in gas exchange in the body. The analogy is that Council should not add dead space tax expenditures to our tax burdened City.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, questioned the purpose of the Comprehensive Plan
 and asked Council consideration in incorporating all departments and infrastructure projects. He went on to question the finances of the golf course with specific concern for their operating costs.
Since Comprehensive plans have failed to address critical infrastructure needs of the City.
I reviewed conflicting numbers provided by City Manager at the prior venue tax work shop.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, thanked Council for all they have done. He said they all have a common goal which is moving forward. He shared that while walking between Veteran and Red Horse Park, he saw wild red poppies, referring to the National Poppy Day proclamation. He reiterated his desire that the Council address the general agreement amongst citizens to reduce permitting cost, specifically fence repair.
Bernard Rubal, 635 Balboa Drive, reported that he visited and spoke with business in Northlake Business Park which expressed positive feedback for City developments. He also reported that in speaking with residents, common concerns included speeding in neighborhoods and traffic. He believed posted radars would not help and expressed support for a dedicated traffic officer as well as addressing traffic concerns with more education on solutions.
Bernard Rubal, 635 Balboa Drive, expressed concern about Councilmembers serving both on Council and the Economic Development Corporation (EDC). He believed this created a conflict of interest where the vote in Council is unfairly weighted by those also holding positions on the EDC. He addressed the Venue Tax, stating its original promise for capital improvements. He argued that since the Venue Tax is no longer serving its original purpose, it should be put on the ballot. He asked Council to consider citizen input when making decisions on taxes.
Bernard Rubal, 635 Balboa Drive, also shared his candidacy for City Council and his inspirations for running. He stated that he was motivated by the stagnation of the Council in failing to move the City forward. He wants to change the City for the better.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, asserts that $17 million of the venue tax is being spend on the golf course. He argues that the discussion tonight is where to spend the venue tax, if at all. He contends that decreasing the venue tax would be better for the community. He also argues that the golf course is an enterprise operation and should pay for itself. He asked why golf course finances are being brought up now rather than at the budget workshop.
He argues that the current management of the golf course will lead to further debt.
Please review Council video for accuracy, the reference was to why TAB D (which I held up at the meeting) was being presented.
Bernard Rubal, 635 Balboa, expressed concerns over two main issues: First, that there may be flaws in the data used for budget cycle planning. He stressed that the true priorities of the City budget cycle need to be addressed. Second, that record retention needs to be addressed – he stated that there needs to be a list of documents the City is supposed to preserve per Section 1- 6-1 of the code regarding the retention schedule.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, said that he enjoyed the Veterans Day Parade but found two issues with it. 1) The First Baptist Church locked their parking lot gate, which kept people from leaving through that gate. He asked for better coordination with the church in the future. 2) He said that the classic 1960 Ford F100 that is labeled as the parade truck was not in the parade. He asked for it to be put in the parade.
Additionally, he congratulated the City for the passing of the street bond and asked Council to hold staff accountable to repairing the 100 streets. Also, he said that the tuition reimbursement was budgeted for $25k and that the travel line for one department was $17k, which he thought was excessive for both. Lastly, he said that he hopes that the Deputy Clerk position hiring process is completely open and the person hired has the appropriate credentials and will be the best person for the job.
My comment was from a review of the City vehicle inventory when the City was budget for new vehicles which has needs for functional vehicles. When I queried why this vehicle was on our City books, I was told it was our “parade” truck! So why was the parade truck never in a parade?
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, reiterated that a 2.5% step increase would increase City employee salaries 68% over their 20 year employment, a rate twice as high as the Federal Government. He also said that the Federal Government only gives the increase to an employee if they are considered “fully successful” at their job. Next, he said that he would support the City getting a full-time City Clerk and that the Economic Development Corporation should consider supporting their own Director. He said in the case that there is a need for a new position, the position should be part-time, not full-time, to avoid long-term accruement costs.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, said he believed that the interest rate for the $30M bond was only locked in at each of the issuances. Also, said he did not receive a response from the Finance Department when he asked for clarification regarding the audit until he submitted an official open records request, which he didn’t think he should have to do. He read an excerpt from the City’s Audit advising readers to contact the City’s Finance Department if there are any questions about the audit. He asked for clarification related to the cost of leasing the golf carts and some bank transfers reflected in the audit.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, said that a 2.5% salary increase actually equaled a 60% salary increase at the end of 20 years. He said that would result in an accumulate cost to the City of $4.7M. He said there decision tonight could be to support the 2.5% increase or to look at funding some of the critical needs mentioned at the last council meeting. Next, he said that city employees on median make $50,000 or more per year. He asked Council to determine whether residents should be paying for the tuition of City staff when staff members, on average, make more money than residents. Lastly, he said that every year the City commits $100,000 to promotion and development to protect itself from Snowfest expenses. He asked where the money goes when it isn’t used and why it can not be earmarked in a reserve.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, said that the consensus of the citizens is that the City needs to provide a plan for how they will use the $30M street bond revenue. He would like to see what streets the City will repair and when so that there is a clear demonstration of what would be done and the residents won’t feel like they are signing a blank check. He said there was nothing to be lost by postponing the bond vote. Also, he suggested that instead of proposing a tax increase, the budget should be adjusted to not need an increase.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, asked that Council really determine what their priorities are during this budget session and asked them to consider where they can make cuts or reallocate existing funding. He also said he appreciated the work that the councilmembers do.
Near the end of the meeting the City Manger said there was a need to increase funding to the golf course because of “deferred” maintenance. I loudly pointed out at that time that the City had “deferred” infrastructure needs. I left the meeting frustrated with the process of deliberation of our City budget needs. No citizen questions or input was permitted at the “Budget workshop”.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, said that he has requested in several previous City Council meetings that there be greater transparency and accountability by including the minimum guidelines recommended by the States Comptroller’s Office. No changes have been made to include those guidelines. He also said that he is still waiting to see from Council a sound business plan for the golf course that would guarantee profitability rather than long-term debt or the future need for tax revenue.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, announced that there are vendors that will do alley pick-up and said that he e-mailed the City Manager with the names of services that would continue it. He accused the City Manager of limiting the presentation so that Council cannot do a complete review of the situation. He stated that the Waste Management contract was a sole source contract for $7.8M, no other entities could bid. He said that the City failed its residents by not communicating, not considering other contracts, and not doing their due diligence. He said that Council could have asked the hard questions when the contract was originally considered, and that the City is spending to much money on development and not enough on infrastructure.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, he said that one of the root cause issues of the Waste Management complaints is that it was a sole-source contract without a statement of work for the citizens. He asked Council to consider an item that says sole-source contract should only exist in the case of emergencies. He thanked Councilmember Maxwell for giving the heart of the residents back to Council at the last meeting by asking for consensus to revisit the Waste Management contract. Also, he asked Council to have a town hall meeting to discuss the management of the golf course. Finally, he asked for improved transparency by putting the more financial documents on the City’s website and cited the Texas Comptrollers phone number to ask questions, 844-519-5676.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, said that he offered 8-10 points of consideration for council at the last meeting. Also, he stated that the value of the Waste Management contract in prior years was $7.8M and the value of the contract for the next 5 years is $7.5M. He mentioned that there are other waste service providers that will offer alley service. He then said that he had requested the Net Financial Position of the golf course and believed that he was provided an incorrect number.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, said that he would be happy to take questions about the presentation he made last meeting. He complained that he has not seen a discreet business plan from the golf course. He also asked that the amended budgets be posted online with the audit information. Additionally, he asked that the budget workshop dates be posted as well as the information on the comprehensive plan and dates for when the committee would be formed. Finally, asked why Waste Management has increased over the last 5 years but the services have been cut. He asked council to question Waste Management and possibly look at providing the service internally or look for other waste service providers.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, gave his review of golf course expenditures and revenues for the last twenty years. He pointed out that a line in the audit has been the exact same since 20022008
. He asked council to take control of the operating expenses at the golf course and noted which councilmembers that have been on the daiscouncil while the net deficit has continued to grow.
Bernard Rubal, 635 Balboa, commented that Mary Jackson is a neighbor that helps their neighbors by mowing their yards and picking up their trash. He said that he had 11 years’ worth of City audit available and gave the to the library. He asked City Council to look at the golf course financials. He asked who was in charge of the golf course operations and wanted to know why there was a $1.8M budget deficit.
Bernard Rubal, 635 Balboa, spoke regarding the budget process, the need for more transparency with noncompetitive contracts, and requested the Gateway include article on trash service for the disabled.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, said he has showed the relationship between unemployment rates in the City and tax rates. The City shows a 10% unemployment rate and the highest tax rates possible. Because we are still in COVID-19 recovery, he implored the council to do their due diligence and let residents hold onto their money so that they can recover. He said that expenses are controllable, income is not. It is up to the Council to hold the line and asked them to lower tax rates like surrounding communities.
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, ask Council to try a records request review. He believes there is an issue with the number of requests because the City is not transparent online. He said he asked for a list of sole-source contracts per year. He is told it was difficult to do and the list does not exist. He asked why it could not be posted monthly. He said the only access to financial information is FY19-20 Annual Audit. He said it was important for City Council to realize that there is an issue with transparency.
21 September 2021
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, said it was difficult to get the Agenda Packet tab information prior to the meeting. He commented that the proposed budget is the largest budget in the history of Universal City. He said that administration has increased costs by 45%,, Development Services by 76.4%, and Finance by 49%, the Police Department by 10% the Fire Department by 4%, and General Services down by 25%. He questioned how the Golf Course was budgeted this year because it looks to him like the General Fund pays $330,000 in addition to the portion of sales tax that is contributed to the golf course. He believes there is a problem with the golf course because it remains $1.82M in debt. He recommended areas of the budget that he thought could be cut and asked City Council to do their due diligence and review very carefully the expenditures that city staff is proposing.
17 August 2021
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, provided City Council with an e-mail chain of his conversation with the City Manager. He said that she was unable to a statement of work for contract services for Waste Management. He said there has not been a current effort to entertain competitive bids for waste services. He questions how staff can say with certainty when the request for proposals were done years ago, not recently. He said he spoke to Republic and Tiger waste management services, and both were eager to provide a bid for contract services that would include alley pick-up for Universal City residents. He finds it difficult to accept exclusive franchises in replacement of competitive bids. He would like the City to participate in competitive bidding.
15 June 2021
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, thanked the City for adding the graffiti option to the Fix-It Form like he requested. He also questioned whose responsibility it was to maintain the area behind the sound walls on Loop 1604. He questioned the amount of personnel time and resources are used to maintain the planters on Kitty Hawk and suggested that the plants be changed to something that requires less maintenance. He mentioned that the golf course has been a loss for the City forever and suggested that the City host an audit open house, an open meeting that would allow residents to ask questions of all the department heads.
06 April 2021
Bernard Rubal, 635 Balboa, mentioned that he asked for a “tagging/graffiti” category to be added to the City’s Fix It Form and it had not yet been added. Additionally, he requested that City Council consider keeping a record of the City’s agenda and minutes in the Universal City Library for citizens to have easy access.
02 March 2021
Bernard Rubal, 635 Balboa Dr., asked that the City change the procedure for reporting tagging and suggested that tagging be its own option to check on the Fix-It Form online. He also said that he was interested in seeing what the cost was to publish the Gateway versus what it would cost to just publish all the City’s announcements and events in the Herald. He also would like to know who maintains the area behind the sound wall by Loop 1604 because there is a lot of trash and graffiti in that area. Lastly, he would like the fence permit fees to be reevaluated. Currently, the cost of the permit is the same if you replace 5 fence posts or 200 feet of fence.