Only the right spot for Miller isn’t between the fences of Saratoga Race Course. Rather, Miller’s is on what happens outside the track’s gates, literally, and the race he’s pointing to is months after Saratoga 141 becomes a part of history.
Meet Eddy Miller, horse trainer and a man who would be the next Commissioner of the Department of Public Works if Saratoga voters deem it so come November.
Some townspeople already are taking Miller’s candidacy seriously, even at this early stage. He’s running on the Independent line. He could have had a second party line had he capitulated to the machine.
Sorry, no deal.
Miller has been coming to Saratoga for four decades and lives on Spring Street now, “the closest I’ll ever get to the Hall of Fame,” he said over eggs and hash at the Country Corner last Sunday morning.
Although he’s been a Spa resident since the late 90s, does he really expect that the locals will take him seriously, that he’s not just another carpetbagger from the big city trying to get over?
“I came here from New York City because I wanted a better way of life and because here people hold the door for you as you walk into Stewarts and say ‘good morning’.
Miller understands how business works. His resume says he’s groomed harness horses and has been a licensed thoroughbred trainer since 1983, but as a young man he owned and operated his own wholesale beer distributorship in Brooklyn.
“I know what it takes to organize people. I’ve been dealing with blue collar workers and truck and tractor-trailer drivers all my life. This will be fun for me.”
And hard work, of course, which starts by building and organizing a campaign staff. In this country and in this town, that takes money. And so the first step will be a major fundraiser, and not your father’s stodgy, rubber-chicken kind, either.
“It will be the party of the season,” promised Miller.
“The date we have is August 17, a Monday night, the only time racetrackers can go out and have some fun.
“The owners of the Backstretch Pub [local horse owners John Ball and Robert Lizardo] donated their place for the night. No speeches, just music and dancing, from after the races to whenever. The dress is party attire.
“We’re asking anyone who comes for a suggested donation of $25. We want to keep it affordable, a grass roots thing.
“We’ve gotten promises from James Bond, Angel Cordero Jr., Bill Mott, Angel Penna Jr., Jose Santos, Johnny Velazquez, Rick Violette and Nick Zito. More people are stepping up every day. Indian Charlie said he would talk to Calvin. It’s been great.
“We’ve got two of Saratoga Raceway’s most successful horsemen coming, Brian Cross and John Stark Jr. Everyone’s got a stake in this.
“We’re planning to offer autographed pictures taken with a racing celebrity for $10. We hope the locals come out and support us, have a meet-and-greet with track people and a great time at Saratoga’s new hot spot.”
But why this? Why now? What’s the motivation?
“I’ve learned how things work here. I’ve had a successful hot dog business in Congress Park and later on Broadway. Everybody knows me as the ‘Saratoga Hot Dog King’.
“I went to a City Council budget meeting last November and what I saw just wasn’t acceptable. I observed city employees using intimidation to harass city officials who were discussing budget cuts.
“The city employees were shouting the mayor down when he was speaking. When they were told they were out of order, they yelled back ‘do what you’ve got to do, big boy’; ‘do whatever you want’.”
Miller continued: “Their boss, Commissioner of Public Safety Ron Kim, was sitting right there, and he let them get away with it. Now he’s running for mayor himself. [City employees] want more. Only 20 percent of them live in the city, so why would they care if our taxes went up?”
“At every meeting I’ve attended, people wanted projects approved and acted as if the city wasn’t having any money problems.
“Because of the budget crisis, the state took away $3.5 million from the city. But then they had no problem asking the city’s help to put in sidewalks on both sides of the 9-P bridge over Saratoga Lake. That’s state property. If anything goes wrong, it will be the city that gets sued.
“A recent contract to install pipes on South Broadway was put out to bid. The bidding went up to $295,000. But when the job was completed, the city of Saratoga got a bill for over $500,000. And have you seen [weather challenged] Nelson Avenue?
“There was no oversight on the project from the current Commissioner of Public Works, Skip Scirocco. They call him ‘No Show Scirocco’. And it was some of his people who were shouting the mayor down at the budget meeting.”
Miller should take heart that this country has elected an actor, professional wrestler, a comedian and a couple of NFL quarterbacks to high public office. It should be possible for a horse trainer to serve the people of Saratoga.
Miller’s already gotten the support of former Saratoga Mayor Ken Klotz. Now he’s hoping his friends in the horse business will help him help the people of Saratoga.
“I came to Saratoga for a better quality of life. I’ve been here long enough now to know that’s it’s time I give something back. You empower people with smart spending and giving taxpayers value.
“It’s time for transparency. No more back-door deals. I want to help. And I don’t believe that we’re not welcome here.”
Racetrackers have been given a chance to do something good for Saratoga by helping one of their own.
If Eddy gets beat, chalk it up to a good time. But on August 17 going to the Backstretch could take on a whole new meaning for “the city in the country.”