Councilman envisions more family-friendly neighborhoods.

Salinas’ Cleanup Campaign: Fix-it Man: Councilman Tony Barrera champions family-friendly parks and rec centers in East Salinas.

Standing before a mural of a fruit cyclone swirling over a blender, Councilman Tony Barrera touched on the little things he’s doing his east Salinas district. Barrera wants to make Closter Park—now a hangout for drug dealers—“the friendliest family park in Salinas” by organizing a neighborhood cleanup. To get rid of abandoned vehicles, Barrera touts a local company offering free tows for residents who want to donate a car. “Don’t be pushing your car to District 2,” Barrarera joked.

Attendants laughed as they sat in the fruit smoothie shop Natura Vida. The occasion: Barrera’s “State of the Alisal” on Aug. 9.

According to Barrera, the state of the Alisal—and that of the city—is dynamic, bouncing back from years of cutbacks. Measure V, a voter-approved tax increase, has restored the city’s library hours and funded after-school programs. Salinas’s new Economic Development Director Jeffrey Weir sat in the crowd along with Community Safety Director Trevor Iida, who is helping administer $1 million annually to gang prevention and intervention programs. Also at the event, officials unveiled designs for Hartnell College’s east campus.

Even with this positive momentum, Barrera said he won’t be satisfied with his first term until a Boys & Girls Club gets built in East Salinas. Barrera wants to see a structured program that actively involves parents. “What we want is an effective after-school program that is going to bring families together,” Barrera said, “not just a drop-off point.”

Since there is no club nearby, the organization wants to bus 200 kids from the Alisal to its North Salinas facility, said Donna Ferraro, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County. Ferraro said a survey showed East Salinas has the greatest need for a new club. But with a $7 million price tag, Barrera may have to run a second term to see this project through. 

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