On The Record
While working full-time and teaching part-time, there were rare opportunities to participate in City government. An uptick in neighborhood graffiti, requirement for $85 City permits for homeowner fence repairs of $100, and the City’s responsibilities to maintain areas behind 1604 sound barriers got me involved in Council meetings. I have been a regular attendee for nearly two years. I also have attended Parks, EDC, and Golf Course committee meetings less frequently. I have been a consistent advocate for improved transparency and fiscal responsibility.
Council meetings two years ago were poorly attended, except for a dedicated few. One thing noted was the lack of information available to residents for understanding issues before Council. We brought this to Council and thanks to our City Clerk since 21 SEP 2021 agenda tabs are available for citizens’ review.
The following extracts are from official UC Council Minutes from Citizens to be heard from 21 Mar 2021. Additional concerns presented to or emailed to Council will be added to the website soon.
Videos of Council meeting are available at City of Universal City, Texas - Meetings
7 Mar 2023
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.
21 Feb 2023
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.
7 Feb 2023
Bernie Rubal, 635 Balboa, asserts that the venue tax is bringing in $17 million. He argues that the discussion tonight is where to spend the venue tax. 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 the venue tax is being brought up now. [BJR Comment: Please review Council video for accuracy the reference was to why TAB D (which I held up at the meeting) was being presented.]
17 Jan 2023
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.
15 Nov 2022
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. [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?] 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.
1 Nov 2022
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.
18 Oct 2022
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.
20 Sep 2022
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.
16 Aug 2022
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.
6 July 2022 Budget Workshop
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.
[BJR Comment: 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”.]
19 April 2022
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.
15 March 2022
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.
1 March 2022
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.
15 Feb 2022
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.
1 Feb 2022
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.
18 Jan 2022
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 2008. He asked council to take control of the operating expenses at the golf course and noted which councilmembers that have been on the dais (SIC Council) while the net deficit has continued to grow.
4 Jan 2022
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.
2 Nov 2021
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.
28 Sep 2021
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 Sep 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 Aug 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 Jun 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.
6 Apr 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 Present: Kim Turner, City Manager Matthew Longoria, City Attorney Jessica Moore, Incoming Finance Director Kristin Mueller, City Clerk/Economic Dev Director City Council consider keeping a record of the City’s agenda and minutes in the Universal City Library for citizens to have easy access.
2 Mar 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.