How many companies get paid for their services whether they provide them or not?
In the city of Charlotte, the answer is politically connected ones. Taxpayers are paying roughly $10 million a decade and about $1 million a year for street lights that don’t work, Pundithouse.com reports.
On any given week up to 10 percent of the city’s 80,000 streetlights are inoperable, usually the result of something as simple as a burned-out bulb. Under a long-standing agreement with Duke Energy, which installs, maintains, and provides power for Charlotte’s public streetlights, the city is responsible for paying a monthly charge of $9.90 per light, whether it works or not. That tallies up a monthly bill of about $80,000 for streetlights that don’t.
The city agreed to pay whether the streetlights work or not as part of a long-standing agreement with Duke Energy. Council member Andy Dulin wanted to rock the boat on this, as did Michael Barnes, but they got nowhere with the rest of the council. (Duke’s employee campaign fund and its executives have long histories of donating copious dollars to local politicians.) If you are a local politician, it is simply understood that you don’t question Duke.
So for now, taxpayers will go on paying to stay in the dark. And the most outrageous part? The city’s 311 call center handles the calls about non-working lights, not Duke, sparing them the need to run their own call center.