Something amazing happened on the program last week. While discussing the blacking out of fire apparatus on a rotating basis in the wake of a fire fatality on Myrtle Street, real potential solutions were proposed and debated. It was refreshing.

It all started when a guy named Tim called in to say he'd had enough of the usual rhetoric and negativity, and challenged folks to work together to come up with some real ideas to address the revenue shortfall that has resulted in the blackouts, which began more than 10 years ago during the administration of then-Mayor Scott Lang. It was as if Tim ignited a spark within some folks and the suggestions began to flow.

Former Ward Six Councilor Tom Kennedy raised two interesting proposals. The first would be to charge non-resident city employees a two percent tax. The second would establish a $25 annual fee for renters. Both revenue sources would fund an enterprise account for the fire department while providing tax relief for commercial and residential property taxpayers.

Another caller suggested a minimum $100 annual fee for churches and other non-profits that could feed the enterprise account, since the non-profits are assessed no property taxes, yet they benefit from police and fire protection and have the streets in front of their operations plowed by the DPI.

Still another caller recommended that city officials move more quickly to dispose of surplus properties, returning them to the tax rolls thereby generating additional revenue for the city.

Whether any of these ideas are feasible or would generate enough revenue to make a difference, it is certainly worth the effort to study them. People are interested in seeking answers to problems and if they believe their ideas will be seriously considered, they might be willing to offer up more of them from time to time.

Local government leaders should encourage residents to submit proposals and attend regular meetings where ideas can be discussed. Let's hope that egos wouldn't prevent something like that from happening.

Who knows what ideas folks might come up with if only they were asked?

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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