DOWNTOWN — In a sign of just how divisive Measure Y has become, even some of those who are on the same side of the issue are starting to bicker amongst themselves.

It all started when opponents of the measure, which would increase the local sales tax by a half percent, filed their official ballot arguments with the Santa Monica City Clerk in September.

In making their case against the tax hike, opponents of the measure relied on statements made in public by two prominent Santa Monicans, Mayor Bobby Shriver and Heal the Bay President Mark Gold — neither of whom had signed on to the anti-Measure Y campaign. (For the record, Shriver said he stands by his statements opposing Measure Y and plans to vote against it. Gold said he was taken out of context by the No on Y campaign and is undecided about how he’ll vote on the measure.)

In the ballot argument, Shriver was quoted as saying the city is “rich,” and not in need of additional revenue to preserve emergency services — claims contrary to those made by Measure Y proponents. Gold was also quoted urging the council not to move forward with the tax measure.

Neither was thrilled about having unwittingly become a poster boy for the campaign against the measure — understandably so, especially considering the measure has been endorsed by just about every local group with political sway, with the exception of the Chamber of Commerce, which is remaining neutral.

Gold has been particularly critical of the No on Y campaign’s tactics, calling them “disgusting” and “completely shameless.”

When he spoke about Measure Y at a council meeting earlier this year, he was advocating for a general election parcel tax ballot initiative that would exclusively benefit the schools, he said, not bashing Measure Y, which could provide up to $6 million for education, and $6 million for general services including police and fire.

The plot thickened this week, as the anti-Y campaign, led by attorney Mathew Millen, on Tuesday sent out an e-mail blast to some 9,000 voters that featured a photo of Shriver, smiling and clapping his hands, next to the words “No new sales tax. Vote no on Y.”

It came as a surprise to the mayor, who said he still isn’t backing the campaign and never gave permission for his image to be used in connection with the anti-Y cause.

But according to attorney Fredric Woocher, who specializes in election law, there’s nothing illegal about the political ad, and likely nothing Shriver can do to push back.

“The anti-Y campaign has accurately represented Shriver’s statements. And when you’re telling the truth, the First Amendment provides broad free speech protections, even if the public figure in question would prefer to be left alone,” Woocher said.

It’s probably not going to be something that’s actionable or illegal, he said, though he added the situation is on the unusual side.

“These things just don’t usually arise. When somebody’s on your side, you usually get the permission and it’s not a problem,” he said.

Millen, reached on Wednesday, said he had spoken with Shriver and was considering whether or not to include pictures of the mayor on future anti-Y communications. But he maintained his right to do so.

“[Shriver] made those public statements at a City Council meeting, so we’re free to use his public statements,” Millen said.

Gold, for his part, said he’s by no means a Measure Y opponent and should be dropped from the anti-Y campaign’s literature. He said he asked the City Attorney’s Office to look into the case but was declined. Hiring a private attorney, he said, is too pricey.

Legality aside, he said the campaign’s decision to use his name without permission reflects badly on the anti-Y backers.

“What they did is just completely in poor taste and morally and ethically wrong,” he said.

nickt@www.smdp.com

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