SCHENECTADY -- Pastor James Bookhout spent time the past week touting his “Leave the Light On” initiative to a few media outlets.
The Mont Pleasant Neighborhood Association, though, claims he took their idea.
The initiative involves giving residents in the Mont Pleasant neighborhood free LED light bulbs they can install on their front porch and leave on all night. This is meant to help deter criminal activity by providing a well-lit area.
Both groups claim it could make a potential criminal think twice about either breaking into or vandalizing homes.
Bookhout, the pastor at Bridge Christian Church, said he was able to get Wolberg Electric to donate 200 LED light bulbs for the effort. His plan was, after Easter, to begin giving them to homeowners in the neighborhood on a first-come, first-serve basis, with the hopes of expanding the program in the future.
“Wouldn’t it be great for every homeowner who wants a free light bulb, we could supply it?” Bookhout said.
Pat Smith, president of the Mont Pleasant Neighborhood Association, said she does think it’s a good idea, especially because it’s one she said she came up with.
“I’ve been pushing it for several months,” Smith said. “I was courting other people.”
Smith said she had been leaving her porch light on since 2012 when she said an incident occured at her home. In the past few months, she said, she had been going to different businesses to try and see if they’d be willing to donate light bulbs for the initiative. This included Graingers Industrial Supply in Albany and Schenectady Hardware and Electric, where she asked them to help the association to combat “in the dark crimes of opportunity.”
Their program is called “Beacons of Light for Safety.”
Bookhout, though, remembers things differently. He said Smith certainly discussed leaving her porch light on during a neighborhood association meeting, but nothing else.
He said he even mentioned her name when talking about the initiative to media because he was “just trying to be nice,” but added Smith isn’t the first person to suggest leaving her light on all night.
“It’s so simple and easy,” Bookhout said. “Hundreds and hundreds have thought about it before and never acted on it. All of a sudden, here I am acting on it, and people say they thought of it.”
Adam and Rosa Rodriguez of Sunset Street backed up Bookhout on his assertion. The married couple, who are both deacons at Bridge Christian Church, claimed Smith never said anything about doing a community-wide project.
“She didn’t take initiative,” Adam Rodriguez said.
Members of the neighborhood association, though, say that isn’t the case. This includes Flora Romanoski, who said Bookhout has a habit of taking ideas from the neighborhood association and claiming them as his own.
“This was in the works for quite some time,” Romanowski said of the light-bulb initiative. “This is not an idea that has popped into his head.”
Mohamed Hafez, a former president of the neighborhood association, said it’s something Smith has been working on for the past year.
“It was the group's idea and Pat has worked on it for a number of months,” Hafez said. “For someone to come out and said they just dreamt of it yesterday, it doesn’t sit very well.”
Smith said she isn’t mad at Bookhout, but is disappointed over the fact he chose to tout the idea as his own instead of working with the group. She said this is especially so because she offered to help during a meeting earlier this month about the Community Development Block Grant Program by collecting light bulb donations, specifically mentioning Wolberg as a possible donor.
Bookhout, however, said that wasn’t true. As did the Adam and Rosa Rodriguez.
But Councilwoman Marion Porterfield, who was at that meeting, said things went down exactly as Smith explained.
“She specifically brought up that idea and talked about how she was looking for lights,” Porterfield said, adding Bookhout didn’t correct Smith. “[Bookhout] said if she wanted lights, he could help get her lights.”
All Smith said she wants to do is to help make the neighborhood more safe for the Mont Pleasant residents. Still, she doesn’t plan to turn Bookhout away if he wants to help.
“If we have an idea, come help us,” Smith said of Bookhout.
Bookhout also said he’s still open to the idea, adding he’s a “team player.”
“We want to work together,” Bookhout said. “And of course, I am a firm believer that if you raise the water in the harbor, all boats will rise with it.”
Smith said she is still looking for donations. She can be reached at 518-370-2260.