Morgan Hill continued to open up for public events as the risks of the Covid-19 pandemic waned in 2022. Pictured are participants in the April 30 Doggie Costume Parade, which took place at the former site of the Second Street Popup Park during the Downtown Association Wine Stroll. File photo.

For more than two years, people have clamored for the return to “normal” after the uncertainties of a pandemic.

In 2022, we got a taste of normalcy, but it was far from being predictable.

Covid-19, which dominated the headlines in 2020 and 2021, seemingly took a backseat in 2022, despite being always present, and even spiking toward the end of the year. Still, popular annual events like the Mushroom Mardi Gras, Friday Night Music Series, Independence Day festivities and the Poppy Jasper Film Festival roared back to life with enthusiastic crowds. 

Local city-owned recreation facilities reopened with increasingly lighter restrictions. The Morgan Hill City Council even returned to in-person meetings toward the end of the year. 

The effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February was felt locally, triggering record-setting gas prices and anxiety over threats of a nuclear armageddon. The war in Eastern Europe also sparked local calls for international peace and displays of solidarity with the people of Ukraine—such as Morgan Hill’s raising of that nation’s flag over City Hall in March. 

The wet weather to close out the year, coupled with the unbearably and historically hot end to summer, was a reminder of our planet’s ever-changing climate. 

In this article, we recap some of the major stories that shaped 2022 and will continue to impact Morgan Hill and its residents.

Murder suspects arrested

Two violent incidents that occurred on heavily trafficked public streets in recent years were resolved in 2022, according to Morgan Hill Police. 

Two adult suspects in the unrelated shooting deaths of Michael Duran, Jr. (May 2020) and Humberto Cossio (July 2021) are in custody and will appear at the Morgan Hill Courthouse for criminal court hearings in the coming weeks. Two juveniles have also been arrested in connection with the death of Cossio, but the status of their case is not public due to their ages. 

Both shootings are gang-related, and the suspects are charged with carrying out the crimes to benefit or support illegal street gang activity, according to court records. 

The Morgan Hill Police Department in November announced they arrested multiple suspects in relation to the shooting deaths. Duran, 18, was shot and killed May 29, 2020 while he was driving north on Butterfield Boulevard near Fisher Avenue. 

A gunman in a passing vehicle shot Duran in relation to an ongoing violent dispute that began weeks earlier on the streets just north of Morgan Hill, according to court records. 

On Oct. 26 of this year, the Morgan Hill/Gilroy Regional SWAT team arrested the 19-year-old suspect, Luis Gomez-Guerra, for shooting and killing Duran, police said. Gomez-Guerra is charged with murder and criminal conspiracy. 

His next hearing at the Morgan Hill Courthouse is scheduled for Feb. 15. 

Also arrested on Oct. 26 by the local SWAT team were three suspects in the death of Cossio. Cossio, 33, was shot and killed while walking across the street July 19, 2021 near the intersection of Monterey Road and Spring Avenue, according to authorities. 

Morgan Hill Police increasingly asked the public for help solving the crime in the months that followed, releasing surveillance camera images of a vehicle and people that were captured in the area of the crime. 

On Oct. 26 three suspects involved in Cossio’s death were arrested—Ricardo Catalan-Murga,18, and two juveniles aged 15 and 17, police said. Catalan-Murga has pleaded not guilty to criminal conspiracy and a gang enhancement, and appeared in court on Dec. 27, according to court records. 

A group of young men shot Cossio during a verbal altercation related to the suspects’ and victim’s rival gang ties, court records indicate. The altercation escalated from words to gunshots minutes after Cossio had been helping his grandmother do laundry at a Morgan Hill laundromat. 

Election year drama

Like other cities, school districts, special districts and congressional regions in 2022, Morgan Hill had to complete its 10-year redistricting process for city council representation based on the 2020 U.S. Census. 

But unlike most other cities and districts, a majority of the local city council tried to adopt new districts that could have endangered fair representation and were ultimately struck down by the courts. 

Despite being advised by city staff and an outside attorney that they would likely face a legal challenge, then-Mayor Rich Constantine and Councilmembers Yvonne Martinez Beltran and Rene Spring voted in March to adopt a contentious new district map. Councilmembers John McKay and Gino Borgioli voted against that map, accepting City Attorney Don Larkin’s analysis that the map ran afoul of the California Fair Maps Act redistricting law. 

A threat of a lawsuit—led by former Morgan Hill Mayor Steve Tate and three other residents—turned into a lawsuit in Santa Clara County Superior Court. Judge Julie A. Emede ruled that the disputed map, known as “Map 103,” was indeed in violation of the Fair Maps Act and ordered the council to adopt a new map that complies with state and federal law. 

The council reconvened in May and voted to withdraw the disputed map, and adopted the map known as “NDC Green” that had not been challenged for its legality. 

The new district maps were approved with weeks to spare for the 2022 election campaign season, in which Council Districts B and D were on the ballot. Martinez Beltran won reelection in District B on Nov. 8; and McKay lost his District B seat to former Morgan Hill City Councilmember Marilyn Librers. 

Power outages

The steady unreliability of PG&E’s electrical infrastructure in Morgan Hill became an increasing cause of concern in 2022, especially during record-breaking heat incidents in September. 

Each day from Sept. 5-8, when temperatures climbed well over 100 degrees daily, significant portions of Morgan Hill saw prolonged power outages—sometimes affecting thousands of local customers, according to PG&E representatives and city officials. Some households found themselves without power all four days—peaking with an outage on Sept. 7 that affected about 19,000 customers in Morgan Hill.

The outages knocked out traffic signals, public water service equipment and electricity for entire neighborhoods, prompting City Hall to send alerts to residents and place more police on patrol throughout town. The city’s public works crew ran generators to keep water and sewer pumps operating, and placed barricades and temporary stop signs at unlit high-traffic intersections. 

Residents took to social media and voiced their concerns en masse to city officials and PG&E staff. City of Morgan Hill officials, noting that they do not control PG&E’s electrical system, were equally frustrated and publicly demanded an explanation for the outages from the utility company. 

The city held a public workshop with PG&E later in the summer. By late September, PG&E had made some headway by making some adjustments to its equipment in Morgan Hill that is normally set to prevent overheating on the edges of town where wildfires are an ongoing risk. 

Despite those adjustments, residents in some parts of town continued to complain on social media about frequent outages as 2022 came to a close. 

Erik Chalhoub contributed to this report.  

A big highlight for parks and recreation options in Morgan Hill in 2022 was the June 4 opening of the Magical Bridge Inclusive Playground at the Community Park. Pictured are Ron and Shirlee Locicero, who first brought the idea for such a park to city officials nearly a decade ago. File photo.
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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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